My first post about working from home was done in 2016. Back then I was a freelancer working from my kitchen table. I could go out and meet the many, many people I was working for face to face and video meetings weren’t a thing. But oh, how things have changed… You can see that post here.
I changed careers a few years ago so when lockdown came into force I was (and thankfully still am) in full-time employment. My company moved swifly to have everyone work from home a couple of days before lockdown came into full effect in March 2020 and at time of writing I have spent almost a year working from home.
I don’t have kids so there’s an aspect there that I don’t have to deal with during my working day – no home schooling or tantrums. This post is just about my own experiences adapting to a Covid world.
- Create a dedicated work space
When I was a freelancer I worked from the kitchen table and cleared my workstuff away every evening. When lockdown came into force I went right back to that but it took a few months to realise it wasn’t going to work. For a start I have more kit than last time – it’s not just a laptop anymore. I have a landline phone and a couple of other things that aren’t quite so easy to clear away each day. And when i finished work it was all still sitting there in a room I use a lot.
Obviously not everyone is going to be able to do this but if you’re working from home create a space in a room you don’t use very much. My partner and I now both have works spaces in the bedrooms upstairs as they are not used much during the day or evening. It means when we finish work for the day we get to move away from our desks into another part of the house. It makes all the difference.
Another point is, have a workspace where you can sit upright in a chair. Don’t get me wrong, the temptation to work from bed or on the sofa with the telly in the background is a strong one and one I succumbed to many times as a freelancer but now you should get up and get into a chair.
2. Think about how and where you sit.
Rule number one – if you can, don’t place your screen against a wall. Your eyes should be able to change your focus when you look away from your computer screen – most offices follow this rule so most computers sit in the middle of the room instead of against a wall. I always try to place myself by a window to get a little sunlight and keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighbourhood.
Your furniture is also something you need to pay attention to. Most tables will be fine to use as a desk but there’s a reason office have adjustable chairs on wheels. for the first couple of weeks I had a few back aches until I had the idea of picking up my office chair from work. That made all the difference. They may be clunky and not the most attractive pieces of furniture but they make sitting in once place much easier for many hours in a day.
If you’re short like me, use a footrest. It’s recommended for anyone under 5″4 and honestly makes all the difference. I started off using a box full of wine but recently graduated to a proper one. You can either get one from work or spend around £12-£20 for one and it will be worth every penny.
3. When work is over, step away
I’m so guilty of this. It’s 10pm and you find yourself walking past your desk on the way to bed. Yor computer is sitting there and you think, ‘why don’t I just check if that email has arrived’ and so you log on. Or you’re working after hours and you forget what time it is and then next thing you know it’s 90 minutes later and you have a crick in your neck.
I know. It’s really easy to work on and let’s face it, when we’re deep in lockdown there’s not much else to do. But making sure you don’t spend ALL your time working is important at the moment. you need downtime, you need to step away from the computer screen and you need to move your body. I’m terrible for this late at night which often leads to lying in bed, thinking about work and not sleeping. It’s important to give yourself a chance to reset away from the office, no matter where that might be.
4. Keep your workspace tidy
This one comes from my other half who has never worked from home before. He’s not a fan but says if your work area is ordered it will make life that little bit easier. It’s up to you if you tidy all of your work things away at the end of the day. Back when it looked like we were going into lockdown we actually got himself a folding desk so he could clear everything away if he wanted. It’s never been put away but it’s nice to have the option.
This bit of advice goes for just about anything, not just those living and working in lockdown. We live in a Very Very Small House so getting out of it and stretching the legs is a very important part of the day for us. Of course, we live in Northern Ireland and the weather doesn’t always permit. And sometimes we don’t make it outside during daylight hours for days on end. But going for a walk, day or night has become a real coping mechanism for both of us. If either of us are struggling in any way, a walk around the block to get some air and the blood flowing is remedy number one.
Mostly importantly a routine that works for you. You don’t need to get up at 6am and do yoga. You don’t need to put a full face of make up on every day. Do what you’re comfortable with and what works for you. A friend of mine is an early riser. She gets up two hours before her working days starts, has a bath, does hair and make up, gets dressed eats a proper breakfast before loggoing on.
I’m totally different. I roll out of bed at the last minute, throw on cloths and coffee and breakfast hopefully happens throughout the morning. I try to do a walk or workout most working days and it works best during my lunch hour – 30 minutes for exercise, 15 for a shower and 15 for food. I know many people enjoy the TV or cooking during lunch at home, but for me this is the best way to make the day go quicker. When it’s dry outside I often shake the day off with a walk after work too. I know people who still dress for the office and I know people who have been wearing nothing but pyjamas for the best part of a year. Find what works for you and stick to that.
7. Work together
This time round working from home has been something of an adjustment for me because there’s two of us. We’ve had to learn how to balance our jobs in a small space – although we’re technically in seperate rooms we can both hear what’s going on next door. We’ve had to reach some compromises – I like listening to music while I work but have had to resort to headphones. We’ve had some major issues with both being on video calls at the same time – but upgrading our broadband has mostly solved that.
The worst incident was when I walked into our bedroom after a shower wearing only a towel to discover a full video conference happening and they all got a good look at me. Once the mortification wore off (any day now!) we started having conversations the night before about what our diaries entailed and how to plan accordingly. I would say that one is a must…
These points are from my own experience. Everyone works their own way and our jobs are all different. I’ve included a few articles below for further reading too.