I’ve worked from home for the last six years or more. In that time, I’ve got better at it but it’s still a constant battle with myself to do so effectively and while looking after my own mental well being.
Here’s what I’ve learnt during that time.
Keep your routine
It’s very easy to slip into an unhelpful routine of starting work early and finishing late. When that happens the lines between work and home life gets blurred. This can lead to burnout, frustration and other negative behaviours and emotions.
Your commute offers a great buffer and decompression zone between home and work on the way in and on the way out. Do what you can to keep that in place either by going for a short work, listening to music, reading, whatever.
If you have a break at lunch in the office, then have a break at lunch at home. We are creatures of habit and most of us do better when there is some semblance of routine.
Leave the washing alone
It’s tempting to just do the washing or the laundry or make the kids beds or whatever. You’ll tell yourself you can catch up later. You won’t. What happens in the line between work and home gets blurred, see above. Then you feel guilty, frustrated that you haven’t been as productive as you think you should have been or need to be…and you work later.
Be aware of family and or friends that think because you work from home you can just…. ‘be available’ for a chat, drop this off for me at the post office/shop/bank/Aunty Mildred’s’
Treat your work time at home like you would at work. Set clear expectations and boundaries with spouses, kids, parents and friends right at the start.
That includes kids coming up and putting on the latest god-awful reality TV noisily in the background and expecting you to cook tea/make a snack etc.
Choose your distractions wisely
I’m an extrovert, which means I get my energy from being around people. Often, I’ll go and work in a coffee shop or library just be around people. Days on my own at home can feel very isolating. When I am at home, I may have the TV on low or the radio. Just loud enough to hear voices but not enough or interesting enough to distract my attention. The parliament channel or something equally inane works well!
Be wary of the TV news in the current climate. You’ll run the risk if scaring yourself silly if all you hear is 24/7 doom and gloom.
Maintain some social contact
Although that might have to be at distance of more than 1m! As above it can be isolating working from home so do what you can to speak to people. I found calling rather than emailing can make a big difference. As can using Zoom/Skype/Teams for video calls.
Fifty-five percent of communication is non-verbal, 38 percent is tone of voice. Email means you are missing out of 93 percent of your human ‘fix’. Pick up the phone. As BT used to say, ‘It’s good to talk’.
Take your breaks
Who doesn’t love a KitKat? We can all perform well under pressure and stress, provided we take regular breaks. Even just a few mins every 60/90 mins over an eight, nine, or ten-hour day can make a difference.
It’s not macho or clever to try and work flat out constantly. No elite athlete would think of training like that and you are a corporate athlete. Treat yourself accordingly.
So, there are five things you can do to stay effective and mentally balanced while working from home. It won’t be easy for some. I know for me it’s a constant battle between my drive and work ethic and my reasonable, mature self to find a balance.
I don’t always get it right, you might not either, so remember – be kind to yourself. I hope these tips are useful. Please share with anyone who may think might benefit. Stay safe
Anthony is one of our consultants. He is a MH England qualified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, qualified NLP Coach and an experienced trainer and facilitator, specialising in mental fitness.
If you would like to discuss how ARK can support your organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Jturley@arkconsultancy.co.uk