While working from home – or WFH – is second nature to the well-initiated, it may seem a little overwhelming to those who haven’t done it before – or those whose homes are filled with distractions (kids, roommates, building work).
Lee Chambers, a workplace well-being trainer and environmental psychologist, has got some tips for you.
- Find a space – and claim it. Choose a designated work space and stick to it, says Chambers. And no, that doesn’t mean your bed. “Design it in a way that feels like a nicely flowing working environment for you,” he says. For some people, being able to go into a different room and close the door is important as it enables them to feel “psychologically closed off from home”, he adds.
- Commute, but not as you know it. For those new to working from home, Chambers advises getting outside for a breath of fresh air in the morning to simulate a commute – even if it’s just a walk around the block for five minutes. It helps get light into the eyes, fresh air in your lungs and awakens your senses. It’s also a big mood booster.
- Stick to a routine and schedule. Routine is key to getting your day off the ground, says Sam Akbar, a psychologist who works from home: “You must have a routine. This is crucial for your productivity and mental health. Get up at the same time everyday and find yourself a place to work. Then tell your family to leave you alone.”
- Take regular breaks. A way to squeeze in breaks is to work in 90-minute cycles, so working on a task for 60-90 minutes and then taking 15 minutes to disconnect – this doesn’t mean going on social media or switching on the news, though. Instead, stand up, go for a walk, stretch, have a healthy snack or make a tea. All the time, you should be mindful of the activity you’re doing, giving your brain a bit of breathing space.
- Communicate with your housemates or partner. Communication with those you’re sharing the space with is key when you’re working from home. If you’ve got an important conference call during the day, make sure everyone is aware what room you’ll be in and that you’ll need everyone to be quiet.
- Carve out time for social interaction at lunch. Don’t be tempted to work through your lunch break, because you’ll take a hit mid-afternoon. Likewise, don’t just sit indoors and watch TV. “By watching it you’re still stimulating your mind and you don’t get that disconnection from work,” says Chambers.
- Nap if you want, but set an alarm. “It’s a very personalized thing, there are people out there who can’t nap,” says Chambers. That said, there are people who can nap and, if you want to, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t! Take 10-20 minutes only, and set an alarm.
- Know you’ll get distracted – and that’s okay. You will get distracted throughout the day, especially if you’re a parent. How on earth can you deal with that? It depends on how old your kids are, says Chambers. The key is to set boundaries. Older children can be educated, so you let them know: “When the door’s shut, I’m working.” If you have young children, make sure they’re in your eye-line – you might want to sit them in front of the TV or in a play pen if they’re really young – and then get your head down. Other times it might be your phone providing the distraction. If this is the case, download an app that controls when you use the phone throughout the day. You could also try using focus music. Grab a pair of headphones and be prepared to drown out the noise of the house around you.
- And stop. Just as you have a set time that you start working, you also need to stop at a designated time – otherwise it’s all too easy to work into the evening. Walk to a different room or walk around the block as another makeshift “commute” back from work – and get your head out of the game completely. He adds: “If you don’t disconnect, it’s harder to reconnect the next day.”
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