So the majority of the country are working from home at the moment and I don’t know about you but I have been inundated with WFH tips, tricks and ideas from online magazines, bloggers and healthcare providers to name just a few. I have found it really useful to read how different people are adjusting to the change or even how seasoned home workers have been balancing their daily routine for years. I think for most of us it’s a new and uncertain time, so it’s good to share best practice and be able to change and learn as we go.
That being said, I have found a lot of the advice only really useful in an ‘ideal world’, where we all have countless rooms in the house, a complete office set up, huge garden and nobody else around – which absolutely is not the case in these unprecedented times. After a bit of research, it seems the average UK house size is around 70 square metres, which does not warrant huge amounts of space that we can dedicate to an ‘at home office’, workout space and more.
Being able to work from home is a huge blessing and we are some of the luckier people at the moment, however that being said, it is still a difficult adjustment for most and processing everything else going on in the world at the same time makes it that bit harder to get used to. I’m definitely still adjusting to this new way of life, so I thought I would share a few of the small things I’ve been doing to stay as comfortable as I can and to keep my atmosphere as conducive to productivity as possible.
First of all, having a routine is a huge one for me. I spent the first week of working from home in loungewear and joggers and not really getting ready properly at all. By the weekend I felt absolutely awful and probably looked awful as well. So now, I’ve decided to switch it up and try to follow my normal working routine as much as possible. I get up early (although not as early as if I was going into the office admittedly), do some morning yoga or a little workout routine, have a cup of tea while watching the news and then get ready for the day.
I won’t always wear loungewear either, as I’ve found that wearing actual proper items of clothing makes me feel more productive and less likely to slob around – you just have to make sure it’s still comfortable enough to wear around the house. I do my hair and put on a light layer of makeup most days just to make myself feel better and then it also helps me differentiate from the weekend when I can go makeup-free!
In addition to the above, I also try to keep a routine in terms of timing the day and taking breaks at certain times. I think it just helps me to have a little bit of control over a situation where all other control has been taken away, even my actual job role is slightly different because our company has had to adapt to the current situation so, to be honest, I’m clutching any form of normality that I can.
I think this is where I’ve mainly seen a lot of advice that just does not and cannot apply to most working-class households in the UK. The usual WFH tips include working at a desk, keeping your posture right, having a clean and quiet space to sit….I could go on. For most people now, they have entire families at home all day, every day so that immediately puts the ‘quiet space’ idea completely out of the question. There may be two or more adults trying to WFH, as well as children being homeschooled so there is just not going to be enough desk space (if any) for you to sit and work at all at once. In our house, we have been just trying our best with what we’ve got.
Both myself and my fiancé are working from home and his work requires a lot of space, which means that we can’t both use the kitchen table at the same time. We also work very differently; I like a quiet space where I can concentrate and think, he thrives off loud music and being able to move around – which is testing, let me tell you! We have adjusted (or are still adjusting) to this by having a room each, so usually one of us will be in the kitchen whilst the other uses the living room – but what that does mean is that sometimes I will spend 7.5 hours sat on the sofa with my laptop and headset. If this is the case, I just try my best to make the atmosphere as distraction-free and comfortable as possible so I’ll keep the TV off, make sure I have enough drinks to keep me hydrated and cushions or support for my back and I’ll even leave my phone upstairs so that I can’t distract myself with that.
You might find yourself having to work from your bedroom so if this is the case, again do the best with what you have, get up and make your bed and free yourself from all distractions. I definitely work much better sat at a table but where that’s not possible the above usually help the day go by as productively and as distraction-free as it can.
I use lists most of the time, so this is nothing new to me or probably most others, but having a list (or multiple) is a great tip when you have a thousand and one things going on all at the same time. Working in an office is definitely more conducive to productivity and it’s easier to forget what you need to do when you’re at home thinking about the kids, making lunch and putting a load of clothes into the washing machine.
I like to make a list first thing in the morning and then I will usually start with either the most dreaded work task or the biggest so that it gives me a big sense of achievement once completed, early on in the day. I then make a list at the end of the day with anything that’s left to do, so that when I log back on in the morning I don’t have to remember anything from the day before – maybe a bit OTT but I’ve worked this way forever and it helps me get stuck into my list of tasks without thinking and it helps me sleep a lot better too.
Keep a good work/life balance
When working at home, I find it so easy to work through breaks, take a working lunch and stay logged onto my laptop much later than I would usually stay in the office but then the days become blurred and there’s no differentiation between daytime and evening. I find that my motivation slowly starts to decrease and work fatigue kicks in massively so it’s really important for both your work and your personal life to keep that balance.
The routine with breaks I mentioned above definitely helps, but I also love to create a complete stop on my working day by going for a run or a walk as soon as it hits 5 o’clock. I put away all of my work bits like laptop etc, get changed and get outside into the fresh air to clear my head and get out of the work mindset into a more relaxed one.
You don’t have to go outside to do this, it can even be as simple as having a shower and getting into fresh clothes but having something to signify the switch over in the day works wonders. I’m really missing my commute home from the office for this, as it’s usually the time I use to wind down but again, just working with what we’ve got!
WFH with kids
So I would have loved to have been able to give some advice and tips on working from home when you also have children in tow, but I’m definitely not qualified in this area and I could give suggestions but I absolutely guarantee you, mums and dads out there would slate me because they would probably be completely unrealistic ideas and this post is supposed to be the absolute opposite of that.
There are plenty of articles and blogs online written by working parents; Louise Pentland, a YouTuber, has some great advice to give around how she is navigating this time with her two girls and parenting influencer Anna Whitehouse (mother_pukka on Instagram) also has some great ideas and talks about what worked best in her household when she first went freelance.
This sounds like a given, but I think my final word of advice would be to communicate and keep on communicating throughout this entire period. Whether that be with your partner, your children or your boss, we are all going through this together however we all think, feel and react to situations very differently so to understand how everyone else in your household is feeling about working and living together is key.
It may be that you need to discuss flexible working hours with your boss, to be able to put in an extra hour when the kids are in bed as opposed to in the middle of the day, or that your partner is hogging the table and you want to agree on timeslots to help you both work to the best of your abilities – none of this can be done by keeping quiet and we may be in this for the long haul so the more you can open the lines of communication and keep them open, the better.
I hope this has helped you in some way, even if just a feeling of relief that you are not the only one in the world who doesn’t have a 7 bedroom house with 2 offices, a downstairs gym and a playroom!
I hope you’re all keeping safe and well, and let me know if you have any other real-life tips for WFH.