With lockdown 2.0 now underway, Sarah Jones, Founder and Director of Wilderness PR spoke to Locate East Sussex about ways to deal with the technical and emotional challenges that come with another spell where we have to work from our homes
For many of us, working from home (WFH) is becoming a normal way of life as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a dramatic shift in work-life patterns.
2020 has seen the days of commuting and office hot-desking (temporarily) becoming things of the past, with the current crisis forcing us all to reimagine the ways we work and live.
With all the negatives C-19 has presented us, the pandemic has also opened our eyes to many positives, including the benefits of working from home; being able to step off the hamster-wheel commute, working away from the demanding pressures that working in offices can bring.
But is the excitement and the positives of working from the hybrid ‘home office’ now fading? Eight months on, is the desire to define workspace from home space more alluring than ever?
Future of Working
One of the biggest issues presenting itself is that UK workers are working MORE at home then they would if they were in the office.
With the second national lockdown, we need to be more mindful than ever of our mental health and how to make the most of WFH life, installing back the positives, benefits and happiness office/home life initially brought us to get us through the long, arduous winter ahead.
We need to avoid becoming overwhelmed, minimalise burn-out as well as other work-related mental health issues, realising the importance of work/life balance and re-defining the boundaries between our work and home lives without ever having to walk out of the front door.
Having run my public relations business Wilderness PR, from my home for nearly five years, I have compiled a list of top tips and advice which I hope can support the happiness and fruitfulness WFH can bring.
I left the corporate world of PR 13 years ago when I moved out of London to East Sussex. The birth of three children quickly followed and a life of a freelance PR commenced. It has had its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t dream of doing it any other way now. Whether you are a solo WFH freelancer or part of a team forced to work from home, I hope you find the following tips split into the mindset and tech helpful.
NB: This is by no means a definitive list, but one drawn from my own personal experiences, as well as those from my online and offline working community.
How mindset can help
1. Take a ‘Time Out’: Force yourself to have a tea or coffee break away from your desk as well as a lunch break. Get outside to clear the head and go for a walk, even if it is just around your garden or a walk down the road. Stretch, do some exercise, anything that takes you out of your ‘work mind’ and gives you a sense of reality and perspective.
2. Work your schedule around your most productive time. I always thought staying up late working was the way forward, but over the years I have evolved to a ‘6am-er’ when needed. My productivity is way better after a good night’s sleep than before.
3. Where possible, try to keep work and home life separate. Don’t ever work in bed - however tempting it may be - wear ‘work clothes’ during office hours if this helps you (I must admit though I am a sucker for my baggy dungarees if I don’t have Zoom meetings) and if you can, have a separate area in your home that is purely dedicated to your work hours.
4. Make time to call colleagues or peers rather than email, and be mobile and walk around on calls if you don’t need to be tied to your desk whilst chatting. A colleague told me once to make friends with the Postman as this could sometimes be the only person you get to speak to during the day. Loneliness is proving to be a big issue with the WFH concept at the moment so keep connected and keep making those calls.
5. Set physical boundaries around the hours and times you’ll work. Where possible, establish a routine and let your co-workers know about it. Ring-fence set working hours in the day. Be mindful that some colleagues have children they need to take to school or childminders and collect. Communicate your working hours with your colleagues and most importantly let them know that you are not available all hours of the day. Not responding to those evening emails will help with this.
6. Get in a daily routine of ending your workday with an activity like walking, helping to mark the end of the working day and the start of your evening. Without the visual cues provided by people around you packing up and leaving for the day, it can be easy to get absorbed in your work for far longer than you would have in the office.
7. Make the most of your down-time. Turn lap-top and phone off if you need to.
8. Use different tech to mix-up the way you communicate. Use video calls if you are up for it. Schedule team meetings same time and day every week so it is the dead cert, compulsory weekly meeting in everyone’s work schedule.
9. SPACE – not only space to work but space to be yourself, space to think, space to escape. Anything to keep you sane.
How tech can help
1. Slack – A brilliant text-based communications tool for team conversations to happen in real-time than emails that get lost and buried in inboxes. Slack allows you to dedicate a channel to different projects so all comms on the matter can be easily accessed, tracked and followed.
2. Shared drives like Google Drive – a godsend to remote working. A place where all work files can be saved and accessed by all members of the team.
3. ASANA– A fab tool which can be integrated into your Google Suite that helps organise and assign tasks. Allowing access to lists, teams see immediately what they need to do, which tasks are a priority, as well as deadlines for those tasks and projects. ToDoList is an alternative platform that is brilliant for this.
4. Zoom – This is just one of a number of video conference platforms out there. My ‘Zoom Room’ has been working in overtime over the past few months. A brilliant tool for team and client meetings and also pitches. You can experiment with changing your background if you want to inject a little fun.
No right or wrong
Working from home was once an incentive and usually part of a company's flexible working policy, now it is keeping businesses alive. Online task lists and team meetings allow us to work efficiently and productively, however personal routine and frame of mind is fundamentally the most important aspect of working from home.
Everyone will have a different way to tackle home working successfully. There is no right or wrong, just do what works for you.