Every day I write about working from home (while working from home) for my job as content editor for a company that sells the noble dream of a workplace utopia in which every employee is super active, happy and smashing business targets like excited puppies. Business puppies.
Because I write about working from home every day (while working from home), it’s no surprise that I’ve acquired quite a lot of knowledge about how to WFH effectively…as in, how to not accidentally transform into an anxious, inactive, hunchbacked blob with aching limbs, agrophobia and a soon-to-be lifelong fear of the Teams notification sound.
I’ve occasionally worked from home all of my professional life, starting with my very first employer. Instead of letting me quit and move back home to start my journalism diploma, they offered to let me carry on working remotely for them part time, which I did – and loved, until my training got too intense to juggle both.
A few jobs after that weren’t so open to the idea of homeworking and this always bothered me – especially because at that time I couldn’t drive, so my commutes were often long and complicated (a mixture of lifts, walking, biking and bussing) JUST to set my laptop up at a desk in a stuffy open plan office and not talk to anyone all day because low and behold…I’m a writer.
I must admit, some days I would just work from home anyway and interestingly no-one ever bought me up on it – but the day would always be marred by an emotional rollercoaster of me feeling guilty and anxious that I was going to be fired, followed by a sense of cross self-righteousness. Why should I feel guilty just for doing the same work but in a different place?!
Finally, I found a company with a great outlook on work and I was given the flexibility to mix my week up with some office time and some WFH time. I loved this mix; it meant I could feel involved with company life, get to know my colleagues (I really lucked out in that arena) but retreat to my writer’s lair when I needed it. It has done wonders from my mental health and is a huge reason why I’ve now reached my fifth year with them.
But enough about me. This blog is about you. You, when you were shunted unceremoniously out of the familiar air-conditioned sanctum of your office and forced to forge some kind of workstation out of a laptop, a tray and your bed, back in March 2020.
A year of homeworking during the pandemic has taught the nation many things. Some of them good, some of them bad. The biggest good thing is that employers have now been forced to recognise that staff members don’t just slide off into the space-time continuum when they’re not being observed every second of the day. In fact, most of us thrive with a bit of autonomy and trust.
The breaking news is that homeworking works! It saves money, people don’t start the day with commuter rage, there’s more time for doing the things we like, there’s less social anxiety, and there’s a sort of war-time camaraderie of ‘look at us, all in this silly boat together’ that has probably created stronger bonds between team members.
HOWEVER…a lot of employers aren’t doing enough to make sure their staff aren’t hunching over their laptops in a dark under-stairs cupboard for 8 hours a day. They’re still responsible for our health and safety, and they should provide information and equipment to help us set up ergonomically.
But anyway, now I’m straying into work realm and it’s Sunday, so back to the point of this blog. How do you make WFH life work for you? Here are my tips:
1. Have a daily routine
Every morning, wind your spring. Get up at the same time every day, exercise, shower, make yourself look alright – even if no-one’s going to see you. It’s for you! It’s a psychological thing. Pyjamas are psychic: they will enter your soul and drain your productivity.
2. Move around loads
The number one beauty about homeworking is you can get up whenever you darn well feel like it and have a dance around to your favourite music. Try for every 30 minutes – a dance, a few starjumps, squats, yoga poses – anything to get you moving. This will shake off any inertia you might have gathered, and it’ll help shake you out of poor postures if you don’t have an ergonomic chair.
3. Don’t snack
Have a hearty, healthy lunch but don’t graze on food during the day. It’s tempting because sometimes work gets boring and when there’s no-one there to judge you getting up for yet another digestive biscuit, it’s very easy to just eat digestive biscuits all day. Be firm with yourself.
4. Get a fancy water bottle
You can get ones with in-built water filters so if you’re missing the luxury of the water cooler at the office, you can improvise by popping a bottle of water in the fridge and sipping it regularly all day.
5. Write a to-do list for the day
I do this so I always know what I want to achieve that day. Otherwise you can get lost bouncing from task to task, or just feeling aimless and distracted.
6. Head out on your lunch break
Don’t be one of those sycophants who work through their lunch breaks. If you can’t get things done within your alloted work hours, your manger is doing something wrong. Get out and see nature in your lunch break to remind yourself why you bother being alive.
7. Use a laptop stand, mouse and keyboard
I write about this ALL the time at work, but it really does make a huge difference. When I use my laptop’s scroll pad, I always feel achy and I just can’t work as fast. Set up so you can maintain good posture and you’ll feel much fresher.
Well, that’s all I have for you today. I’m sure there are loads of other WFH tricks to improve your productivity and health, but I’ll save them for Monday.
If nothing else, just keep moving. Movement breaks the spell of inertia. If you can move your body, your mind will follow. I really believe that.
Do you enjoy working from home? Tell me about it in the comments!