As I write this, it exactly six months since Boris said, you must stay at home. Yesterday, he announced new restrictions and rules. And they are likely to be in place for six more months! Across the nations, a collective sigh, tinged with frustration, was heard.
No matter whether you agree, disagree, feel anxious, angry or confused by the handling of the pandemic, there is light at the end of this long tunnel. There will be a post-pandemic time. Our future will be different from our past—but it will be much better than it is now. In the meantime, we can look at ways to not just survive but also thrive. Let’s turn the COVID lemons into lemonade!
From the stay at home, to go back to work and now, if you can, work from home, these roller-coaster messages from the government have caused a lot of stress. The work-from-home experiment that began in March will now last for a year. After this length of time, there may no longer be a reason to return to the office. This shift from what looked to be temporary to something far more permanent requires reframing how work looks and feels. We have to figure out when, where and how we manage our work time from our homes.
Tip 1. Create a proper workspace
Back in March, we positioned laptops so that the background on Zoom wasn’t too embarrassing. The kitchen counter, landing and hallway were commandeered as working hubs. Many people experimented working semi-horizontal on the sofa. At the same time, some people trialled posh tops with jimjam bottoms. These unusual ways of working were all acceptable in the short-term, but in the long term, the kitchen counter is probably not a great place to work. Besides, being that close to the fridge could easily lead to weight gain! To thrive in this time requires a designated workspace within the home.
So, where can you create a new home office space? Without a spare room to create into an office, it’s time to think out of the box. This Ideal Home article has cool ideas for finding unique workspaces at home. Some are designer whimsy—but some may inspire you too.
Is working from home going to be permanent? Is there space in your garden for a home office? Could you convert your garage? From garden sheds, to converted containers, to bespoke home offices, follow this link for ideas for every budget. A Room in the Garden.
Tip 2. Choosing your furniture and lighting
There is good evidence that standing, while you work, provides good health benefits. Yet most of us still prefer to sit. To protect your back when sitting for long periods, make sure any make-shift desk is at the right height for sitting at—too high or low will put a strain on your body. I used to have an expensive ‘back chair’ until my Neurokinetic therapist showed me a different way. She advised me to sit with my back firmly pressed against a chair back, and to have my feet flat on the floor. I believe I sit better than in my old chair.
What about filing and storage space? We’ve not yet reached the goal of the paperless society, so, can you get by with just ring binders? Or do you need a filing cabinet or bookshelf?
We often assume that the existing lighting in a room is good enough—but usually, it’s not. With good lighting in your workspace, it reduces tiredness, Winter Blues (SAD) and lethargy. What is ‘good lighting?’ It is bright, but not harsh. It doesn’t cast shadows or create glare on your screen.
The strength of light is measured in lux (or lumen). Outside, on a sunny day, the intensity of light in a square meter will be around 10,000 lux. On an overcast day, the amount of light might be between 50—1,000 lux. New, large commercial offices have lighting requirements of 500 lux, but in your home, away from the windows, it may be as low as 50 lux. To thrive while working at home, prioritise lighting.
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Tip 3. Create a new work routine
In 1990, I created a graphic design business working from home when my daughters were four and six. As a single mum, I did school hours, and then after I tucked my little ones into bed, I worked some more. Just now, for a whole host of different reasons, you too may have to rip up the working-hours- rule-book and work where and when you can. Yet in the longer term, overworking is not good for your health. Why? Because overworking leads to tiredness, increases stress and the potential for mistakes. Read my earlier article, How to reduce stress for tips and advice.
After five years of working from home, my graphic design business moved into offices. One of the best things about being in an office was locking up in the evening. With the door shut, I knew I had finished for the day. Although today most people can access work at the click of a button, going to and coming back from a workplace acts as dividing line between home and work life. Without this structure, it’s very easy to work more hours than you realise.
After twelve years, I decided to sell my graphic design business. Looking back to that time, I can see just how close I was to being burnt-out. I was typically at my desk at 7 am and often there to 7 pm. After selling my business, I promised myself I would not begin work until 10 am. I’ve kept that promise, and now early every morning I’m out walking, jogging, swimming or meditating. Most days I work: 10 am—12 pm, 2—6 pm, and 7—8 pm. The eagle-eyed of you will spot I have a long lunch-break, which allows me to cook my main meal—and, weather permitting, sit in my garden for a while.
What will your working hours be? What breaks will you have? It helps to formally decide and then stick to it. This decision may be outside of your control, especially if you work as part of a team, but none-the-less, there is usually some flexibility. Now you don’t have the commute, perhaps you can start work earlier—or like me, start later. Don’t be afraid to ask for different working hours to suit you. When you are happy, you are more productive. Most bosses recognise this and are glad to accommodate it, especially if they see the benefits.
Tip 4. Is working from home the best option for you?
Has working from home been a joyful revelation? Perhaps your productivity has risen, and you feel re-energised about working from work? Or do you hate it because you need the dynamic of working face-to-face with your team? So you miss chatting to your colleagues over a shared cup of tea and even the office gossip? Which camp you fall into tends to align your personality type. What’s yours?
One of the world’s most popular personality typing assessments is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Although there are hundreds of others around, this one is hard to beat, as it’s both simple and accurate. There is an enhanced, free, online personality typing quiz based on MBTI. Try the quiz following this link to 16 personalities. This 10-minute quiz will tell you whether your energy typing is an E (extroverted) or I (introverted). It will also tell you how strongly you align with that typing.
Those who have an ‘E’ typing are re-energised being around people. It stirs their creative juices, it motivates and inspires them in their work. People with an ‘I’ typing love to figure stuff out—mostly by themselves. The calm, peacefulness of being alone allows them to be creative, inspired, and they are more likely to be self-motivated.
One type is not better than the other—they are just different. If you score a high ‘E’ – then as soon as it’s possible, working with people face-to-face is likely to be a better option for you rather than working from home. If you are a strong ‘I’ type, then working from home beyond the pandemic may be an excellent choice for you.
Tip 5. Work-Life Balance
Working from home, it’s so easy to blur the line between work life and home life. It can, for example, be tempting to stop work to hang out the washing because it’s a beautiful day. Or do a personal errand while on a business errand. Or take a call from your mum, who perhaps doesn’t understand this is your work time. Most people, realising they have not worked as much as they should have done, overcompensate. This can quickly lead to working too many hours.
For workaholics and perfectionist, shock yourself into recording every minute you work in one week. If in a typical week, you are regularly working over 45 hours—know you’re in trouble. If it’s 50+ hours, this will lead to health problems down the line. Take care of your precious mind, body and soul and don’t overwork.
And for those who are self-employed, there is always something more than can be done. Yet what can be worked on, and what is vital to your business, are rarely the same.
To stop the blurring and overworking, stick to your chosen or agreed hours. Include your breaks that are away from your computer/laptop. Enjoy a proper lunch break.
Now without a commute to define work/home time, create a ritual to mark this time. It can be as easy as clicking ‘shut down’ on your laptop/computer instead of just ‘sleep’. Perhaps you will get up from the end of your day’s work and go for a walk, or cook, or exercise. Maybe you could take a shower and change your clothes. Try not to switch from your work screen to your TV screen as this is not truly relaxing.
Discover more ideas about how to balance life and work in an earlier article: How is your work-life balance? Are you out of kilter? Included in this article are tools, tests and quizzes to help you get your life beautifully balanced.
Feeling overwhelmed and need a helping hand? I offer life coaching and emotion healing by telephone and Zoom. Book a free, 30-minute taster session by telephone to discover how working with me can help you to improve your life.
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