Working through Lockdown
Working from home – keep your worlds separate
Is the coronavirus crisis forcing you to work from home for the first time? Are you struggling to separate home life from work life now they’re in the same setting? Is it difficult to shut down your laptop and acknowledge the end of your working day? Is home and work life blurring into one?
The team at Broxtowe Women’s Project are all facing these challenges, some of the issues have been mentioned in our reflective blogs. We all feel grateful that we can still work, still support the women and children who need us most. But because of the sometimes-stressful nature of our work, we have become mindful of the need to separate work and home life.
There are various ways that our two different worlds can be separated. But these are all suggestions, trial and error will help you to establish what works best for you.
Dress for work – You probably don’t need to dress as formally as you might for office work, but the simple act of changing clothes serves as a signal that it’s time to wake up and get things done. Clothes can make us feel human and signal to us a separation from home life. Feeling human might seem like an odd thing to have to actively think of, but it’s especially important at a time like this, when the breakdown of your everyday routines might make you feel cut off from your normal life and the real world. Changing clothes also helps us to change state. Getting dressed also applies to other appearance-based tasks which include having a shower and brushing hair. They all indicate a separation from one role to another, from wife to colleague or mother to manager. Waking up and taking care of your appearance can go a long way towards helping you feel like you’re taking care of yourself.
Designate a workspace or home office – If you’re used to going into an office each day, the separation between work and home is physical. It can be helpful to try to create this physical separation as far as possible at home too. You might not have a home office but this is not essential. You can create a home office in a kitchen (sometimes the only place with a table), dining room or even living room. Your workspace doesn’t have to be its own room, but it should feel as separate from the rest of your home as possible. Entering your workspace will help you turn change into work mode. Conversely, leaving your workspace will help you turn off from work at the end of the day and fully disengage. It’s so important not to spread your work stuff across your home—while it might seem nice to be able to move from desk to sofa to bed, if you let your laptop creep into your downtime space, it makes it harder to keep your work separate from your home life. Also, at the end of your working day, take time to clear all your work things away to reinforce the end of your working day.
Keep clearly defined working hours – Designating regular work hours and having clear boundaries between work and home life is as important and separating your physical environment. It’s often best to stick with the hours you kept before, your internal clock will understand this better and it’s generally helpful to be working at the same time as your co-workers. As our team have discovered, home teaching will often throw a spanner in the works of this routine. So, it might be that keeping to the same is a luxury we can’t afford, time may need to be made up very early in the morning or in the early evening. This is not ideal, but what is still important is having a clear end time without the urge to check on your emails late into the evening. If you have a family, this end of day separation is even more important and will allow you to be more present in your home life.
Build in transitions – Whether you normally walk, drive or take public transport to work, this travel time will generally help you to transition into work by giving your brain time to prepare. You’ll be eased in more gently when driving and listening to music for example. Home working can come with an abrupt jump between home and work life with no time for adjustment. This can cause a bit of a shock to the system, but even at home, it’s possible to build in transitions. You might prepare yourself by listening to music as you might have done when commuting. You might make a coffee and drink it while reading the news, or else your transition time might entail a workout, possibly replacing your normal walk to work. Don’t forget the end of the day – our drive home is often a valuable time to wind down after a hectic and stressful day. It can help to mentally prepare us for our evening routine. If homeworking, the ritual of taking your dog for a walk can help you physically change between your work and home state. And just as putting on work clothes can help you to prepare for work, changing clothes at the end of the day can also help to signal the end of your working day.
Remember to communicate – In your attempts to recreate your office in your home, remember to include the good bits too. Whether you’re home alone, or have rowdy children around you that you’re also attempting to home teach, working from home can feel lonely as it cuts you off from a lot of social interactions. Conversations with co-workers are important so don’t feel that all communication should be by text or email because you’re not sharing the same space, pick up the phone and have a conversation with your colleagues. Similarly, check into zoom for those team meetings to see your colleagues face to face, it will help you to feel more included and part of the same team effort. The prospect of a zoom meeting might also spur you on to raking a comb through your hair! Also, starting your working day by checking in with your colleagues in whatever way is best for you, sharing social exchanges can help alleviate the stress of launching straight into work. We often have a short chat and make drinks for each other before sitting down to work, this can be done remotely too (not the drinks). Again, finishing your working day with a final conversation with colleagues, telling them what you have planned for the evening, what you’ll be cooking for dinner etc will help smooth your transition back to home life.
Anyone working from home in the current climate is likely to feel lucky, I know I do. It means that we’re not on the front line with the emergency services or supermarket staff who open themselves to the increased risk of contracting coronavirus. It means we still have a job that hasn’t collapsed with this crisis. It also means that despite working from home, we are still working, and work as we know provides meaning to our lives and a structure to our day. Another bit of good news is that studies of home working suggest that people are 13% more productive at home than in the office. Just remember to keep those boundaries between work and home firmly in place!