An increasing number of companies are asking that their employees shift to remote working in the “Delay” phase of the Coronavirus. So how can we go about creating the right mental office when working remotely?
Maybe you’ve already experienced short stints of occasional windows of home working. Or perhaps with the Coronavirus the concept of remote working is completely new to you.
The bottom line is, we don’t know how long we will all be remote working for, which adds an extra level of complexity to the whole notion of home working.
Parents will face a particularly unique challenge if and when schools close, as they struggle to find time to squeeze in work and possibly home school, should they decide to go down that route. In this post, we share our remote working tips, and insights into how you can shift your mindset to make it work.
The challenges of remote working
The ability to master certain skills to successfully work from home is vital. This will all feed into our ability to be more productive, meet tight deadlines, and manage emails.
Dealing with setbacks and scheduling enough sleep when you literally take your work home with you are just some of the challenges of working in isolation.
The other thing to remember is our bodies are programmed to be cautious of change, such as a new environment.
Tune into your rhythms
When remote working, try to tune into your biological rhythms and work when you feel most energetic — whilst trying to strike a happy balance between regular clock time and personal “rhythmic time”.
Having a ticking clock on the wall is not helpful as it puts more weight on linear time. This may be helpful to make deadlines but can stifle creativity.
Give yourself permission to employ both methods of time and value each. You should also start work sessions with the big creative tasks when you’re most energised and attend to emails and finer detail later.
Carve out your space
A successful home office has a lot to do with understanding the challenges of working on your own. Creating a designated pleasant space is the easy bit; embracing the right mindset is the real challenge, along with a comfy chair.
Once it’s established that you’re home all the time, friends and family start to ask if you “could do them a favour in the middle of the day.” Which is why, if you want to successfully work from home, you need to declare war on distractions.
Setting up a home office and being disciplined enough to work from home is not as straightforward as getting an ergonomic chair and a “do not disturb” sign. It is important to set aside a specific space in your home that will serve as your office. If you are blessed enough to already have an actual home office, that is great.
Shared living spaces can get noisy, so if your workspace isn’t isolated from common areas – we recommend getting some noise-cancelling headphones to signal to others that you’re not to be disturbed and to avoid getting drawn into conversations that are going to distract you while you’re on deadline.
If not, a good home office can be as simple as the kitchen table or the flexible corner of a room as long as you can focus on the task and limit distractions, acknowledging that there’ll be plenty of them.
Not only will this help you get into the right mindset when your workday begins, but, it will help you to leave your work behind when you need to switch gears and focus on your family life or personal time.
Have the right attitude
In order to work effectively on your own, there can be no doubt that self-motivation is the key to productivity when remote working. No matter how great you think working from home is or how beautiful a space you create, to be successful in any home business you must still find a way to discuss your ideas with others.
Having clear expectations from your boss and team – and clear communication with them and knowing exactly what’s expected of you – is vital. Remember, this is still a real job – just because you can lounge around in your pjs doesn’t mean you actually should!
The psychological effects of working from home
Within the first few months of your work-to-home transition, you’ll notice to start feeling emotionally and mentally fried, since there is no physical separation between work and home. You might hold a Type A personality that just stays in go mode. You might tune out or disengage from your family because replaying in your mind a difficult client call you had that day or rehearsing the conference call you’re going to be facilitating the next day.
You might soon realize missing the psychological and emotional closure you had experienced at the office when shutting down the computer, turning off the light, and heading home for the day. By setting aside an official office space in your home, you can make it a point to shut down shop physically and psychologically once your workday is done.
Establishing your working hours
One of the biggest factors is how your perception of time may change. In the corporate world you’re expected to turn up “on time”, head off for lunch between 1pm and 2pm, then “clock off” in time to catch the right bus or train. This highly regulated scaling of time is a relatively new phenomenon. In the past we managed time according to the seasons or daylight hours. Our working days were governed by nature as opposed to trains, buses and “office hours”.
Setting a defined work schedule will help you while transitioning to home office. Because your office is so convenient and located literally a few steps away from your bedroom, you may be tempted to maximise time by popping in before everyone is awake to check a few emails, or, hopping online after dinner to finish up a quick proposal, or staying online until midnight so you could finish up etc..Before you know it you’re working 12-15 hours a day during the workweek and several hours on most weekends.
Just as conventional workplaces have basic hours of operation, it is important for you, your family, your colleagues, clients and vendors to establish when you will be working…and when you won’t. Of course this will vary greatly depending on the work you are doing, number of hours per week that you are working, the level of accessibility you need to have for your family and/or your work.
Having a work schedule and trying to stick to it helps to establish a healthier separation between work and life. Set office hours and be sure to create a time slot for each of the day’s activities. This helps with communicating to others when your work-time and play-time is. If you have small children you may need to schedule your work around their naps, homeschooling and another caregiver’s schedule, so that you can have a good chunk of time to work uninterrupted.
Getting away from your desk
It’s much harder to shut down for the day when your “office” is where you live. There’s no night-time cleaning crew that comes to empty out the trash to signal that you’ve been burning the midnight oil.
You have to decide when to call it quits for the day. Because sooner or later, trying to jam in another task at the end of the day can rob you of your sanity.
Limit the number of times you check e-mail. You might find yourself constantly checking e-mail because you’re worried about being out of the loop—but while it’s important to stay connected, spending too much time on e-mail might distract you from more important tasks.
Which is why it’s important to make stepping away from your desk a regular habit. Whether it’s a short walk, a trip to the gym, or taking an afternoon yoga class, exercise can help keep your mind sharp when you work from home. It also helps you strike the perfect work-life balance.
Remember the 3 pillars of work life balance which are:
Rest – it’s your job to shut down for the day. Set an alarm to tell you when to stop.
Exercise – take a walk in the middle of the day to clear your mind.
Social – working from home can feel isolating. If self-isolating atm from the virus then the option is to schedule a virtual weekly video call with your team or friends etc.
Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, built a healthy eating habit while working for The New York Times. His approach was unconventional in that it started with chocolate.
Chocolate triggers reward centers in your brain and makes you want to do things you normally procrastinate on. You can use the same exact principle to make exercise a habit. Watch the video below to see how you can put it into action as you work from home:
Setting proper expectations with your family
Take some time to really think about what you are going to need to be successful in your work during this period, what you are going to be able to realistically accomplish in your home, and then sit down to discuss the expectations accordingly with your family.
Are there particular times when you cannot be disturbed? What is an acceptable volume level for the house when you are working? What is off-limits while you are working?
Everyone has their assumptions about how this work at home arrangement is going to pan out, and unfortunately, they can sometimes be quite different.
Your other half may have some misguided expectations about what your home is going to look like or what sort of food would be cooking for dinner once you have started to work from home. You’ll probably have to explain to them that in this particular situation, your day hasn’t changed at all that drastically. Read: pretty much consumed with work the majority of the day and when you have a few extra moments between calls or tasks, they are usually spent reconnecting with yourself or kids.
Sit down and discuss what the expectations are, what you could realistically accomplish, and make some adjustments. Communicate your work schedule to friends and family – that you’re working and ask them not to call you unless it is urgent. Make your office hours known and clear to the family, and make sure they respect your working hours. Don’t be afraid to defend your work time. Some will think that since you work from home, you can do whatever you like.
Our nationwide shift towards remote working is going to be a great challenge as we try to juggle the needs of work, family, homeschooling and self-care. As one of the great social experiments of our times under the watch of the Coronavirus, we hope you find these remote working tips useful. We will be posting more remote working tips on our Self Love Today LinkedIn page over the period so be sure to follow us there.