How to cope with working from home
The demands on our homes as an office space have never been higher. The team at Red Tiger Talent are used to working from our home offices and have an appropriate setup to ensure that we can conduct our work in comfort and with minimal distraction. Critical to our collective well-being in the months ahead will be to adapt to a new work regime (if you are used to being in an office) and new ways of working (with a de-centralised workforce).
Our ability to work from home will be impacted by the closure of schools from tomorrow. This will put an extra burden on those parents with children that require supervision and/or home schooling.
This is by no means a definitive list but, based on our experience, provides some suggestions on what you can do to ease the transition.
Further information can be found in a previous blog about the office-home balance. Read ‘The Office home Balance‘ here.
Other ideas and suggestions from our readers are welcome (please add in the comments below) as I’m sure there are plenty of other things that can be done.
Home working advice
- Find and define your space – Some people may already have a dedicated office or space but if you lack a room you need to find an area that you can regularly sit at which ‘mimics’ your traditional workspace. This can be a kitchen table or breakfast area but you need to ensure sufficient space to house a laptop and be in close proximity to appropriate power sources (for both laptop and phone). It is advisable to avoid something like the sofa (particularly with the tv remote controls close to hand). If you and your partner are working from home it is advisable to try and find separate rooms to work in if possible.
- Get dressed and feel the part – It is easy to not bother getting dressed for work when home working but there is certainly a benefit in changing out of your nightwear into acceptable daywear to conduct your day’s work. It will make you feel more professional and make you prepared for any (planned or inadvertent) video calls that may happen.
- Try to commit to specific working hours – It is good to try and commit to a routine and communicate this to your colleagues/clients/suppliers. I personally prefer to start work early (7am) in order to get some quick productive wins out of the way. It is also important to have an end time that you try to stick to if possible. The working hours may be impacted by other factors such as need to look after your children.
- Pay special attention to desk ergonomics – Good posture is important to ensure you don’t develop any physical problems and that starts with the height of the table (and the level of your workstation) and your chair. This extends to using a handsfree device or headphones when having calls – certainly avid cradling your mobile between your head and your shoulder. General advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/
- Stay engaged with work colleagues and associates – Your business is likely to have announced changes in procedure and adoption/increased use of technology (such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime, Zoom, GotoMeeting) to facilitate remote working. It is important that you take time to contact people via video or audio calls if possible. This will help with reducing any feelings of isolation and reduce the amount of emails you send. This is a great opportunity to speak to us at Red Tiger Talent if you want a careers catch-up.
- Be prepared for downturns in online connectivity – It has been reported that the infrastructure for broadband and mobile telecommunications are struggling for capacity at specific times, particularly in major areas of population. These infrastructures have been designed to service the ‘normal’ daytime populations and are often lacking bandwidth to cope with this flipped demand.
- Prepare for reduced workload – Inevitably there will be less business being done and in theory less travel means more time to do things. It is important that you plan to fill these gaps with things to give you a sense of achievement. Examples include:
- Email or hard drive housekeeping – there is always a need to ensure your inbox is clear, unnecessary emails deleted (particularly if they have attachments) and required emails are filed away. This is also the case with drive space either locally or on file servers. The spring clean can also be quite therapeutic.
- Update your CV – you may not have done this for a while but now is a good time to at least reflect on skills and achievements since you last updated your CV.
- Training – perhaps there are some online courses you wanted to do but didn’t have the time? Are there any work-related books that you could read or re-read? Think about your skills gaps and set yourself some objectives on learning new skills. This is also something that may be worth speaking to Red Tiger about.
- Build in downtime during the day – It is important to take regular breaks throughout the day. Try, if possible, to avoid distractions such as TV, games and social media. It is better to use the time to either get some exercise/fresh air (see below) and give your eyes a rest from looking at a screen.
- Keep your body healthy – This is extremely important, particularly if your previous commute involved exercise or a visit to the gym, you need to fill the gap. For anyone with a lack of ideas there are plenty of Youtube videos that give instructions on exercises you can do at home. Other activities include:
- Stretching your legs – as long as you are keeping a safe distance from other members of the public then this is permissible. Go out for a walk, run or ride a bike.
- Check in on a neighbour – particularly if you have old and vulnerable neighbours it is worth checking in on them. Of course, you will need to keep an acceptable distance (2 metres) but they may be in need of something or at least some human interaction.
- Plan/prepare meals – meal times will need extra planning, particularly with alternatives as your required ingredients may not be available. Use the time to work up a shopping list and plan meals (and alternatives) for the week ahead.
- Focus on maintaining a healthy mind – Try to reduce stress and anxiety which will be heightened in this current state of isolation:
- Practice some mindfulness – even if it is a 5 minute meditation – more advice can be found in our previous blog, ‘Practice Mindfulness – it really does work’ here.
- Write a journal – this can be a very good way to ‘share’ your anxieties
- Read a book – any form of escapism can help with mindfulness
How to cope with young kids at home
We now have to be prepared for an extended period of isolation in our homes with our partners and children. Think of the challenges of a rainy weekend but for a longer period of time! It is going to be a stressful time – parents tasked with keeping kids occupied during the 6 week summer holiday will know this. We mustn’t underestimate the stress and anxiety that our kids will feel and we can certainly support them through the most restrictive and uncertain times they have ever been through.
The challenge will vary depending on how old your children are and their boredom thresholds. This is also a once in a lifetime opportunity to regain some of the old traditional family values that many of us will remember from our childhoods. Most parents with teenage kids will know that the days of the whole family sitting around the single household tv (or if you are really old, wireless) are long gone but this may be an opportunity to encourage proper family time. It may be worth giving it a week or two before implementing some of the recommendations, when the boredom really starts to kick in!
This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it serves as a good starting point:
- Get your kids to timetable what they want to do (or at least what they want to achieve from this extended break).Dust down the board games – most households have board games of some description. If not, there is usually at least a pack of cards. My advice is to try and avoid playing Monopoly as I don’t know of any family that hasn’t witnessed a game descending into a world war!
- Teach your kids some key life skills – it is likely there will still be a need for home teaching via online resources as per instructions from the school, but this could be an opportunity for your kids to help with the housework and gaining other skills. This ranges from household tasks such as cooking (give them responsibility to choose what to cook/bake), cleaning and laundry, through to other skills such as growing plants, mowing the lawn, doing the recycling, cleaning shoes etc.
- Encourage them to write a journal of their experiences during these times – this is hopefully something that we will not witness again for generations. This is an opportunity for them to capture their thoughts and feelings for the benefit of future generations.
- Spring clean and get rid of unnecessary clutter – Do you have a cupboard that needs to be cleaned out and sorted? Perhaps it’s the garage? Do you hoard electronic gadgets that are just decaying in a drawer? This is a good opportunity to get things ready for the tip, car boot or ebay.
- Ensure you have a good selection of books – It may take a while but it might be worth creating a mini family book club where all of you take turns to read a book (or you could take turns in reading it aloud to each other) and then chat about it at the end?
- Catch up on box sets – With on demand and streaming services we’ve never had more content at our fingertips. It might also be an opportune time to dust down some of the old box sets you have on DVD/Bluray. Try to get a consensus on what to watch to ensure that the whole family watches it together, ensure everyone has a say as there will be plenty of time to watch multiple series. This could be a challenge as we are all so used to using our own personal devices to watch what we as individuals want to watch.
- Allocate some time for children’s self study / practice or home tutoring – It is likely that the schools will be making available some online resources or homework for the kids to do. Whilst I think it will be unreasonable to allocate the hours usually spent at school to home study it may be a good idea to dedicate a small proportion of the day for focused study and learning.
- Facetime/Skype/call the family – Over the next few months this will be a great way of keeping in touch with loved ones in different households, make sure you include any elderly relatives or friends. One idea is to give it more of a purpose than just a chat- perhaps ask a relative to relay a story to the whole family?
- Have a break from social media – Social media has been very useful in helping distribute official advice relating to the virus but it has certainly contributed to heightened panic due to mis-information. It might be worth you committing to removal of some or all of your social media channels. Let’s face it, our timelines are going to be pretty boring for the foreseeable future.
- Embrace the Playstation/Switch/Xbox – Many parents show a passing interest to their kids’ obsession with gaming (mainly driven by a desire to ensure their online safety). Now is our chance as parents to get involved, particularly with multi-player games such as Minecraft, Fortnite or Super Mario Kart. This could be our time to shine and demonstrate that years of practice on a ZX Spectrum, C64 or Sega Megadrive has not all been in vain. Getting to an acceptable level of skill on one of these games will gain kudos with your kids and you can also use it at bargaining power when you want them to watch the Office boxset or Karate Kid movies.
- Exercise – As of writing this we are still permitted to go outside as long as we keep an appropriate distance from other people. Kids will need to go out at least once a day for some fresh air and some exercise. It is also possible to exercise inside with plenty of online instruction videos and even dusting down the wii fits can help.
I am certainly open to any other suggestions that people may have on activities for the kids – what works, what hasn’t. The coming weeks and months will be a learning curve for both parents and children.
Author: Steve Halsall