COVID-19. So, you think you can work from home?

By Parisa Namazi, Director of Talent, Cicero/AMO

Some people love the idea of working from home, for others it is a total nightmare.

One thing we are sure of is that our working preferences are very diverse. There are many factors that can influence our eagerness to embrace the ‘work from home life’ including; our personality, relationship with change and routine, how we like to learn and work, the distractions we have at home, our accommodation set up, as well as, quite frankly, if we’re in a ‘chatty’ or ‘head down, noise cancelling headphones and ignore the world’ kind of mood!

Nevertheless, for our health and safety, COVID-19 has forced us all into it adopting it, whether we’re happy about it or not.

For those who quite fancied the idea of working from home more, at first, it may feel like a bit of a novelty… you can sit and work in your PJs all day, surrounded by as many snacks as you like without any judgement. This may feel great for a day or two but quite often the novelty wears off and people start to miss having a routine, organisation and people, with common interests and experiences, to talk to. After all, although living and working in London may make us sick of the sight of people at times, we are social beings and we need this human interaction. 

Aside from the aforementioned working in your PJs (although as you scroll down you’ll see this isn’t advisable long-term), there are several positives to come from home working such as; saving on commute time and replacing it with a spot of morning yoga, better work-life balance opportunities, optimising productivity, creating your own work space, financial savings on travel and food and of course, above all else right now, protecting the health and wellbeing of yourself and your loved ones, by minimising your daily contact with others.

However, as we know, not everyone enjoys the prospect of working from home all the time and the truth is, most of us would probably opt for a balance of home and office work. The problem with a pandemic like this is that unlike any other large-scale changes to working practices, we didn’t get a lot of warning or much of a choice. We will all have our individual challenges, but we need to find a way of swiftly recalibrating and making it work for now.

Key to our understanding during COVID-19 times is that whilst widespread working from home has been implemented, in many workplaces, to protect physical wellbeing, employees and employers need to be more proactive than ever to ensure that poor psychological wellbeing doesn’t creep in and that productivity remains high to support our businesses that are undoubtedly going to face new economic challenges.

As a HR professional, believe it or not, I quite like researching new ways of working so when the probability of the workplace changing, literally overnight, came about, I had a dig around to see what the experts have been telling us. You can find some of the themes below.

Routine

Sure, rolling out of bed straight onto your emails is possible, but the general consensus is that it is not a good idea. Keeping to a routine will help you stay productive and importantly help to separate work and home life. Getting up and approaching the day as though you are going into the office is a good approach. Wake up at your typical time and stick to your morning routine. Shower, get ready for the day, have breakfast and fire up your laptop at the time you’d usually be getting in to the office. Knowing when to stop is also crucial, make sure you put your laptop and notepads away in the evening to reduce the temptation to continue working whilst catching up on Netflix or cooking your evening meal – this is your time to wind-down away from work. 

Create space and separation

If you live in London space can be an issue, but if you’re able to, set up a dedicated workstation at a desk or table – avoid working from your bed. Experts tell us that this physical separation can really help us to psychologically separate home and work life which is imperative to reducing burnout when you’re working from home. Take rest breaks in another room, or outside if you are able to, to create some distance and space. Again, put your laptop away in the evening to create the physical reminder that work has finished.

Take regular breaks and move!

It is surprising how much work you can get done at home without office distractions. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break after a productive stint! If you were in the office, every now and then you would stop to talk to a colleague, make a cup of tea or take a walk to get lunch; try to build these kinds of breaks in to your work from home schedule.

Without the commute or going to and from meetings, it is quite easy to get to the end of a day having barely moved – we know this isn’t good for our physical or mental health. Getting up, taking a break and being active is also great for our productivity and creativity when we get back to the desk, so take a moment to move. Why not use breaks to build new ways of being active into your daily routine – go for a walk if you’re able to, do a home workout at lunch time, or roll the yoga mat out for 10 minutes – whatever works for you, but do your best to keep moving!

Keep talking

To each other, not to yourself…

Spontaneous chats don’t just happen when everyone is working from home. We must be far more proactive to make conversation happen and use the technology and tools we have available. Overcommunicate, ask more questions, use ‘Teams’ for informal chats and more emails to ensure everyone is in the loop. Join all the calls, even if you think you don’t have anything to say. It is important you don’t hide behind the keyboard. Using phone and video conferencing won’t replace face to face conversations but these options offer a more meaningful interaction and way of building relationships remotely. 

Be mindful

For many people, regular working from home is new and we will all need to adapt. This requires you to reflect on, and by mindful of, your own mood, ways of working and patterns of distraction. Meditation and mindfulness practice can be very helpful at focusing the mind and remaining calm particularly during this uncertain time. Try downloading an App such as Headspace and using it when you’re feeling distracted. As well as being mindful of yourself, please be mindful of your colleagues. If you haven’t heard from someone in a few days – give them a call to check-in.

Get in Touch

Parisa Namazi

Director of Talent