The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic effect on all our lives. We’ve spent months in lockdown, and now, as restrictions ebb and flow, we tentatively live our lives waiting for the next government announcement.
But perhaps the most drastic change for millions of people is the shift from everyday office life to working from home. At first, losing the rush hour commute, daily meetings and coffee break catch-ups was a novelty. Many of my friends saw it as a strange but welcome change to their routine – an adventure that wouldn’t last. But as the weeks – and indeed months – rolled on, the novelty wore off and reality hit…
It’s clear that even though the virus will one day subside, or even be eradicated, life will not simply return to the way it was. For all those who’ve been thrown into working from home, it’s obvious that using the ironing board as a desk, or sitting cross-legged at the coffee table, just isn’t going to cut it in the long-term. And, quite understandably, many people are struggling with this new reality. They miss the comradery of the office, they miss the face-to-face meetings, and they miss getting out the house.
As a seasoned consultant, I’ve worked from home for over 10 years, so the changes to my life have been far less dramatic. I have, alongside thousands of freelancers across the country, had a head start in terms of flexible working and striking a healthy work/life balance. And my garden studio office is already set-up comfortably and creatively.
But it wasn’t a quick evolution – it took time to get it right. And although I’m always learning and adjusting, there are a few tips that I live by…
- Routine will keep you sane! Decide on your working hours and get yourself ready for work every day. This means resisting staying in your PJs and actually showering and looking good!
- Plan your week with lunch meetings, coffee catch-ups and, most importantly, make time to meet up with your colleagues safely to stimulate creativity and motivate one another.
- Try not to spend too much time at your desk. Plan a lunchtime walk, early morning run or just a walk to your local coffee shop.
- Vary your communication. Don’t resort to email to communicate to the wider world – Zoom, is a great alternative to face-to-face meetings, or just pick up the phone and have a chat.
- Create a good space that’s yours – preferably away from the home. Views out onto the garden is the dream, but if that’s not possible then surround yourself with plants, inspirational artwork and fond keepsakes.
- Find your tribe – in my case a group of talented creative freelancers. We work together on projects and it feels like I’m still part of a team with a common goal.
- Make the most of your new work/life balance. Less time commuting means you get more time for self-care, whether that’s morning yoga, meditation, preparing a home cooked lunch or dinner, or more leisure time to enjoy not only the place we live but the people we love.
- Be firm with the other half, family and friends – just because you’re now working from home doesn’t mean you become a slave to housework or their personal assistant. Make it clear that this is your work time and your place of work…DO NOT DISTURB!
- Mix it up – find a safe and well-managed co-working space and hot desk a couple of times a week. Or simply decamp to a café to spend a couple of hours working amongst the hubbub of fellow coffee drinkers.
- Make sure you down your tools – just because you now work from home, it doesn’t mean you’re always available. You have your set working hours, and you should stick to them.
There’s obviously one major advantage to the new normal – more people are in more control of their working day. The opportunity to create your own work/life balance should be an exciting one. You have the space, time and flexibility to work how you want to work. Which means your life commitments, such as children, pets, aging parents etc., don’t have to be pushed to the side lines. The secret is to see it as a permanent thing, rather than a temporary one. Once you commit yourself to the long-term reality of working from home, you’ll take positive steps to ensure your environment and routine work for you, not against you.