Written by Hannah Cork, 24.
Working from home has come with its benefits, such as spending more time with loved ones, no longer commuting, being able to customize my working environment, and wear comfy clothes. But there have also been challenges, such as struggling to remain motivated and having a routine, as well as Wi-Fi issues and a lack of equipment. However, it is important to remember that we are not simply ‘working from home’ but are in actual fact trying to work from home during a crisis, and therefore we must remember to be kind to ourselves and others, who are equally trying to make the best out of this situation.
This article is my way of sharing with you, the nine biggest lessons that I have learnt whilst working from home during lockdown.
#1 Don't underestimate the power of taking regular breaks
I have learnt that taking regular breaks, whether it is to put the washing on, or make a cup of tea, it is so important for your mental but also physical wellbeing, as our bodies are not designed to be glued to our chairs working relentlessly. It can be easy to get into the habit of working through your breaks, to finish earlier, however I know that my productivity and motivation deteriorates if I do not rest. Why not try a yoga or HIIT workout class with ClassPass?
It is important to remember that working additional hours most days is not necessarily sustainable and will not contribute to a good work-life balance. It is important that we do not compensate for lost productivity, by working longer hours. We are working in unprecedented and challenging times and therefore this is a learning curve for many.
#2 An improved work-life balance is key
As mentioned previously there have been various benefits of working from home, including being able to walk my beloved German Shepherd (pictured right) more frequently. This has definitely helped me remain positive and allowed me to switch off from work at the end of the day. Now that a lot of us are no longer commuting, it is much harder to separate personal and corporate life, so I find tidying my work station away at night and turning off work devices, going for some exercise, or baking after work enables me to switch off properly.
#3 Communication between you and your line manager is important
I have also found that regular and honest communication with my manager has been beneficial, such as being transparent about my workload and whether any additional support is required. Last week, I was honest with my manager, as there were various disagreements in my household about me requiring a quiet place to work and make confidential calls, therefore I explained the situation to my manager. I resolved the situation by using a headset, organising my diary so I schedule phone calls at certain times of the day and I have also varied my working hours to accommodate, but I appreciate this is not possible for everyone. Don’t hesitate to request reasonable adjustments to enable you to complete your job more fully or contribute to your wellbeing. You might have already received an employee survey, requesting you to voice any concerns about working from home or necessary adjustments, so use this opportunity to be honest about what you require or might require in the near future.
#4 Be honest with yourself
Most of us will feel many mixed-emotions at the moment, whether this is due to being separated from loved ones, worried about loved ones, not feeling secure within your job or concerned about the latest headlines. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away due to COVID-19 and my work have been very supportive, but I chose not to take time off for bereavement, due to wanting to keep myself occupied. However, after being furloughed temporarily soon after, I realised that I should have allowed myself that time to grieve.
#5 Socialising with colleagues does not have to stop
A big part of going to work is catching up with colleagues, whether this is during team meetings, whilst making a coffee, or standing by the printer. So why not pick up the phone in-between emails and speak to your colleagues? It is really good to check in with colleagues regularly to see how their weekend was, whether this consisted of a virtual pub quiz, virtual cocktail making class or watching the latest Netflix series. Where I work we schedule two daily catch up calls as a team, one of which is optional, but allows myself and colleagues to catch up about anything which is non work-related. Why not organise virtual pub quizzes with your work colleagues or enjoy a film together using Netflix Party?
#6 Dress to impress, even if you are only seeing your courier driver that day
We all love a pyjama day every so often, however I certainly do feel how I dress and by making the effort to switch from pyjamas to my joggers or even my workwear, it really does set my mood for the day and helps me feel more confident within myself, but also more confident in the decisions I make throughout the day.
#7 Maintain your wellbeing whilst working from home
There are simple adjustments you can make, such as ensuring there is sufficient lighting within your workspace, adjusting your screen brightness, adjusting your chair so you are sitting comfortably and your back feels supported, maintaining a good posture, arranging your workspace to ensure hazards are removed and taking regular breaks.
Furthermore, your workplace might also have a mental health champion or mental health first aider, who are a point of contact within your workplace if you are experiencing emotional distress or mental health issues. If possible, please do speak with the HR department within your workplace, so they can outline what support is available.
There is also the employee assistance programme, which many employers offer and is available to help employees manage personal problems, which could have adverse effects on employee’s performance, but more importantly their health and wellbeing.
For more guidance on how to look after your mental health, please visit the acas website.
#8 Seek opportunities to learn and develop
I personally really enjoy learning whether this in the workplace, whilst studying, or participating in extracurricular activities. Whilst some of you might be furloughed, might be working still or looking for your next job opportunity, there are various learning opportunities available. The Open University, offers a variety of free courses online, allowing you to study flexibly, upskill and even discover new career opportunities. Also, why not attend virtual seminars or even networking events, some of which will be organised by a professional body.
#9 Basic needs must be fulfilled before we can be productive
Lastly, I wanted to mention Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which illustrates how we have fundamental needs which need to be fulfilled, before we can be productive and successful within the workplace. More importantly, if our basic needs are not fulfilled this will adversely impact our wellbeing.
Firstly, we require shelter, food and water and once these physiological needs are met then our need for security becomes apparent, whether this is financial security, job security or feeling safe within our workplace. Then, there is the need for a sense of belonging and ensuring we do not feel lonely or disconnected from our organisation, which highlights the need to regularly interact with our colleagues. If these needs are not met, it will make us feel less motivated and potentially less productive. Furthermore, we need to feel valued, which will improve our self-esteem and equally you can improve your colleagues’ self-esteem by recognising their achievements. Finally, once the other needs are met, we reach the stage of self-actualization and the desire to achieve our full potential at work.
There is no one size fits all and we will all manage working from home in a way which works for us, but it’s about trial and error and learning which way works. I hope you find my tips useful and please do look after yourselves and those around you.