A few ideas to help you tackle working from home for the first time

my open laptop with my white ‘flying bunny in goggles and a cape’ mug

So, a bit of background first. I was made redundant quite suddenly from a twenty-three-year-long career. It was startling and unsettling and alarming, to say the least! However, over a few months I pulled together a freelance business idea to offer staff training in easy, everyday access solutions for arts and leisure venues, as this had been my area since the early 90’s.

I created all the workshops and training materials first, before I forgot what I knew! Then started the marketing. Now: this is where the insights start…

1. Learning new things can be fun even if they come under the terrifying banner of ‘technology’

I had to learn about techie things and ways of using the internet that I had actively avoided and always asked my team or other colleagues to do for me! But, once I had a go I discovered that actually learning something new was quite fun. I discovered there are videos on YouTube showing you how to do pretty much ANYTHING. And, as there were no distractions, no phones ringing, emails popping up, colleagues to talk to etc. it was quite easy to concentrate too! In the current situation, I’m having to learn about video calls and online meetings.

2. Pick your own routine

Your usual schedule doesn’t have to apply at home (unless your company have insisted you stick to the usual hours, of course). If you are not a morning/afternoon person then own your truth and structure your day accordingly! I found that mornings were pretty much useless for me in this new world order. As I was no longer working ‘unconsciously’ i.e. I now had to think about every single thing I was doing as it was all new, I discovered that this bit of my brain didn’t really switch on till after 11am at least, and I got clearer as the day went on and could work much more efficiently later in the day. Well, so be it. I only do admin and easy things in the morning, and more ‘thinky’ things in the afternoon.

which leads neatly onto…

3. Don’t burn out!

At the start, I felt I should work a solid 8/9 hours+ otherwise I was just not trying hard enough. This may be especially true for people who are freelancers or on casual hours and are suddenly now without guaranteed paid work. But – there a few key things that are different about working from home rather than in an office that might impact on this:

  • you have no commute so you might be tempted to start working earlier and finish later to match the time you used to leave the house and arrive home. This will add a lot to your day.
  • you may be tempted to eat lunch as you work, or not stop for lunch, or cut it short, or do other household things which are not relaxing.
  • trips to the shops are less likely (especially in the current circumstances).
  • no meetings to go to.
  • no chats with colleagues in the kitchen/corridors/loos.
  • no pauses to go and sing happy birthday to someone, or eat cake to celebrate or commiserate.
  • no legitimate lieu time or days off to take.
  • and potentially no weekend as you feel the call back to the laptop in the spare room/on the dining table/on the bed or the sofa, ALL the time.

All of this adds up to a lot of breaks from work that you are no longer getting. So, don’t feel bad about pulling it back a bit. You have to control how much work you are doing, and when. Give yourself some actual lieu time off, or take a ‘holiday day’. Throughout the day take small breaks too : go for a walk or stare out of the window, watch cat videos, contact friends and family…

which leads us finally to…

4. Your mental health

Again, this is especially key if you find yourself having to generate income out of nowhere. Unfortunately, you are inevitably going to feel like you are failing if the money doesn’t come in, or you can’t find a way to make it work. In these weird, weird times that is entirely out of your hands, but you might feel it nonetheless. It might make it hard to concentrate as you’re going to be worrying. And that’s fine. Be kind to, and understanding of, yourself. Give yourself some time to get used to it all.

Even if you’re going to carry on getting paid, you’re still going to be dealing with an entirely alien situation for a while, and it will affect you in one way or another.

So, don’t let it build up. Check in with yourself about how you’re feeling. And, if you’re getting a bit down, immediately stop staring at the screen: phone, message, video-call a mate, or your family, go on a social media binge and check in with lots of people or make new connections with people you don’t know. Or do all of it to maximise the chance of contact. Reach out to others and ask for their advice or suggestions.

And be HONEST if you’re feeling low as people will immediately make you feel better. They’ll remind you that this won’t last forever, and you’ve got this, or if you haven’t they have and you’ll get there together.