With the outbreak of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), everybody has been asked to work from home if they are able. As a veteran of full-time home working for over a year now, I feel like I am in a great position to tell you about the pitfalls of such a convenient work style. With the self-isolation measures in place and possible lock down in the coming days, we have to work extra hard on some of the points raised.
I should also point out, there is a lot of overlap in the 4 issues and it mostly revolves around health and happiness. People, sadly, underestimate the need for humans as much as we dislike too much of it working in an office.
One of the main reasons people like working in an office is due to lack of home distractions. Of course, people talk in offices which is a major office distraction, but these are mostly fleeting and welcomed breaks from short bursts of working. It's nice to have a conversation at the coffee machine or on the stairs but we all police one another to make sure we're not doing that for too long.
At home, there is no one to tell you off. No bosses. No cameras. Nothing. I have found that turning off the TV, radio or phone can go a long way. One exception to this is music; music is fine.
Set yourself time targets for this time. Every 1 hour on the hour is a good interval. Get up, stretch, check your WhatsApp messages. Then after 10-15 minutes, repeat. This will keep you from vegetating.
Staying motivated is hard when the societal structures start to break down. No human contact. No fresh air. No variety in scenery. Eating the same food (especially if lock down means being provided ration packs). I'll be very honest. Depression is a big deal when all of the above happen for too long. It's so important to try and keep your spirits up.
Work in different rooms of your house. If the sun is out and you have a garden, driveway or balcony, sit outside and soak up the vitamin D. Better yet, if you have any vitamin tablets in the cupboard then take them daily. Try not to get into a slump and change up your environment as much as you can.
On your work breaks call friends or check WhatsApp and Reddit for memes that make you laugh. Laughter and social interaction, even if not in person, will keep you motivated and happy. Exercise will also keep your mood up.
When working from home full-time, the clock ticks by extremely fast. Mornings turn into lunch time and lunch time turns into midnight. Some jobs require set hours, with my job we get semi-flexible working, so we can take extended lunch breaks if we need to within reason.
I am a big fan of switching off for at least 12 hours (including sleep). Sometimes if you take a longer break you feel obligated to work those extra hours in the evening. Which is fine, but if not careful you can lose sense of where the day begins and ends. Even worst when you're not allowed out of the house.
Try and stick to a routine if you can. Wake up at the same time, have a shower or bath every day / evening at the same time. Eat regular meals or at least keep to a pattern of eating. I intermittent fast so 12 and 6 and my meal times or 9 and 12 if I'm doing an evening fast. Try not to work after dinner and use that time to relax and... switch... off...
Here is an example of my daily routing taking into account 7-8 hours of work time.
8:00 - Wake up
8:30 - Eat breakfast or prepare your work day
9:30 - Group stand-up call (footnotes for the day)
12:00 - Gym and lunch, or just lunch (if self-isolating do some circuits)
14:00 - Start afternoon working, this is my longest work stretch so I try to get up and move around every hour
17:00-18:00 - Log off work for the day, varies based on how long my lunch was
Another really bad trap to get into is staying up late. It's currently 3:00 am and I'm writing this blog post. I have to be up in 4 or 5 hours which means I'll most likely need a nap in the afternoon. Don't be like me. Go to sleep at the same time every night. When you are at home all the time and don't keep regular sleeping patterns, time bends and there is no start and end to your day. I cannot explain how important it is for your mental health to have a routine.
I think of this is a taboo subject but a serious one. Feeling isolated is a big issue; for me especially. Even with the likes of Skype calls for work related matters you can still get cabin fever. And, I hate to say it, but the coronavirus isn't going to make things much easier. Normally, I would recommend going and working in coffee shops for half a day but with self-isolation you cannot do this.
One thing me and a work colleague talked about briefly is setting up a Discord server. Discord is almost a Skype for gamers but without the commitment. The best thing about Discord is you can set up voice channels and just sit in them (virtually). As a gamer myself, I have spent hours working or reading articles just sitting in a voice channel with my online friends. You can mute your microphone and sound within the server at any point. It's not considered rude to tell your friends in a voice channel that you need to do something and go on mute.
By sitting in Discord with your work colleagues you can feel connected to people, without being with people. We are planning on trialing this so I will be sure to update readers on how that goes but I think it will be positive.