Well, here we are again. At 12:01 this morning England entered a second period of national lockdown in an attempt to put the brakes on the escalating coronavirus cases and to relieve the stress that the virus is putting on the NHS.
As a result of the new legislation, which is currently only in effect in England not the rest of the UK who have their own government-led lockdown regulations, businesses are encouraged to work from home where they can or – if they are unable to do so – they should close their doors until 2nd December at the earliest. The furlough scheme has been extended meaning that the government will pay up to 80 percent of individual salaries to relieve the strain on already-stretched businesses, enabling them to keep people in their jobs and doors open (so to speak).
What this means is that we’re back to Zoom meetings and regular calls to stay in touch with colleagues and on top of current tasks. For some this brings about a range of challenges from childcare issues to dodgy Internet connections and, of course, finding the motivation to crack on with their task list rather than having another coffee or watching another episode of Homes Under The Hammer or Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals (we know who you are).
In order to help you not only find the motivation to get into a working from home routine over the course of the next four weeks, but also to combat the effects of this global pandemic, we’ve put together this handy graphic with top tips to help you work from home:
Creating a routine
Routine is vitally important, as many of us found during the first UK-wide lockdown in the spring. For those who were working and were not on furlough, getting up at a usual work time and operating in as close to a typical working day format made all the difference. Routines enable you to keep your mind and body productive, taking breaks from your screen when you need to and forcing yourself to get into the state of mind where you’re sat at your desk in the office trying to complete each task before you head over to the kettle or go off on your lunch hour.
You might not be able to take 10 minutes out for a chat with co-workers as you make yourself a drink or grab a snack from the fridge, but you could still arrange to have a Skype call with them to check-in on them (when they’ve completed their jobs too, of course), or even arrange to take your lunch breaks together and get back to work at a certain time – all helping you to stick to the usual routine before you finish for the day.
If you would normally get up around 6:30, start work at 8:00, take your lunch at 12:30 and finish at 4 – keep to that plan as best you can. Sure, you might set your alarm a little closer to start time as you don’t need to plan for your commute, but if you stay in your routine you can find a healthy work-life balance as well as staying on top of your workload.
Stay in touch
Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial in order to check-in with colleagues and bosses, making sure that you are clear on what needs to be done, on-track to hit your deadlines and that everyone is happy and healthy.
Working from home brings about a range of mental health challenges for some people who need the social interaction, so regular check-ups with the team are vitally important from this perspective as well as a business standpoint. Many will see daily catch-up calls as an inconvenience, with nothing much to say or update on from the day before, but for some people this can help them to stay in their working routine and give them the clarity they need to know that they are still being thought of and that help is there if they need it.
Creating a comfortable working environment
Where you choose to set up work is also important. You might have a desk in your bedroom that you wish to work from, you may set up camp on the dining room table or you might choose to convert your spare room into a makeshift office for the next four weeks. Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you decide to work, make sure that you are comfortable and that the lighting is helpful so that you can clearly see what you’re doing and get plenty of natural light.
Focus on your daily task list
Making a list of your daily duties will also help you to stay focussed on the task at hand, and make sure that you hit all of your deadlines. Rather than finding yourself working over the course of the weekend or at 10pm at night because you’ve forgotten a task or found your mind wandering with kids running around and other distractions, make up a daily task list and tick items off as you go.
The list might include all of the professional tasks you have to do that day – or over the course of the week – or you could allocate time blocks to each job, estimating how long each will take to keep you on track before you have your next tea break.
Take a break
Finally, make sure that you take regular breaks. It’s very easy to get distracted when you’re working from home, and it’s also very easy to fall into the trap of getting so bogged down in your work that you forget to take a lunch break or stop for a few minutes every hour like you would if you were in the office.
There is nothing wrong with taking 5 to 10 minutes out of each hour, or two hours, to get away from your screen and speak with your family; and you should absolutely take your lunch break like you would if you were at work. Get away from your makeshift desk, get outside if you can, perhaps take the dog for a walk or play with your children if they’re too young to be at school. You’ll find that it clears your mind, allows you to refocus on the tasks at hand and helps your mental health.