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Working from home survival guide – coronavirus edition

25 March 2020
Photo by Cassie Boca on Unsplash

If the arrival of coronavirus has meant this is your first taste of full-time working from home, here are some handy tips to keep you productive (and sane!).

Well, it looks like the coronapocalypse is here. Many of us are now working from home in an attempt to halt the spread. Computers are set up on desks, kitchen tables and laps. Some of us are also trying to balance work with looking after kids and wondering how we're going to get through the Great Toilet Paper Drought of 2020. A few have also had to abandon labs in favour of less practical work.

It can be daunting. A little worrying. Maybe even anxiety-inducing for some. But don't fret. Plenty us here at the charity have plenty of experience of working from home full-time.

And so, here's our working from home survival guide – the coronavirus edition.

Wait! Can we just give a huge shout out and an offer of support and thanks to those people who can't work from home right now? The medical staff, the teachers, the rubbish collectors, the cleaners, the shop owners and everyone else who's out there getting the work done, right on the frontline. Hats off to you folks.

Personal space – get some

You're probably used to working at a desk. Maybe you have your own, or a hot desk, a cubicle or just a designated place. At home, you probably just sit yourself down wherever – in front of the TV probably! But now you live where you work, so you need to carve out some personal space for yourself.

A section of the kitchen table. A separate desk. A complete spare room to yourself if you're lucky enough. You'll find that just having that separation between work and home life can be a big help. It stops those lines blurring and can help you focus on the work at hand.

A freelance staple has been hitting a coffee shop and using that as your office. But with COVID-19 lurking around we're going to suggest you give that a miss. Pro tip: get a cheap coffee drip machine, have it bubbling away in the background and you'll feel like you're right back at your favourite coffee shop. You can even donate £3 every hour to Kidney Research UK instead of buying expensive coffee if you really want to! Okay, perhaps not every hour, but you get the idea.

Put on some pants

Getting dressed is the worst. We all know it. Pyjamas? Pyjamas are where it's at. But, in the same way a designated space can help clarify the line between work and home, putting on some clothes and getting dressed can be important.

You don't need to put on your best outfit (unless you really want to, of course!), but slipping into something that isn't the dressing gown and slippers you got for Christmas can be a big help to get you into the right mindset.

To-do lists and priorities

Without the constant input from others around, you might drift off into a "what on earth am I supposed to be doing?" state of mind and procrastinate a bit. That's normal. We've all been there. The good news is that you can combat that with a to-do list. Nothing fancy is required; you don't need one of the million apps out there to help organise your life. Just grab a note pad at the start of your day and list the things you need to do that day. Just write them down.

It's a very mindful act and can help pin down rogue ideas and eliminate things you don't really need to do right now. And on that note, this is a chance to prioritise. Do the most urgent things first. Delegate what you can. Bin the rest. Cross off your tasks as you do them and migrate anything you don't finish to the following day. If you keep migrating the same things to the following day, they're probably not important.

Pause, breathe, eat

Don't be that person who skips lunch at work. And don't be that person at home. Schedule and take your lunch break. Do whatever you want in that break as long as it's not work. Meetings are not work! Go eat.

Take breaks throughout the day to just pause and take stock. Step away from the computer. Maybe go outside and breathe in some fresh air. Taking a five-minute break every 30 minutes to an hour is a good starting place.

You'll be more relaxed and more ready for work. You'll also be more productive if you haven't been working flat out for four hours!

Digital humans

For those with more introverted tendencies, the prospect of enforced social distancing can seem like a dream! But, for many, and for even the most die-hard introvert, contact with other humans can be nice – even beneficial. If it wasn't for those pesky COVID-19 virus particles wafting all over the place, this wouldn't be an issue. But contact with humans right now, is, off the options list.

Thankfully it's 2020, not 1920, and the digital revolution has already happened! That means there are a bunch of ways to get some face time without sharing germs!

  • If you're a Google fan, Google hangouts are great and support multi-way conversations, right in the browser and it's all totally free.
  • If Microsoft is more your bag, then Teams is going to be your best option to have video calls but you'll need to have Office 365.
  • Slack! Slack is cool. It's stable. And it's free. Get a Slack account and invite people to your workspace. You can do it in the browser or get the app.
  • Zoom is another good one that's increasingly common and has a free option as well.

Don’t forget the phone if this list of digital options is daunting and it works best for you. Whatever platform you choose, go and have a good natter with another human now and then. You might even enjoy it.

That's a good place to leave it. We could make this list go on indefinitely but we'd rather you went and did some work! How are you finding the whole working from home thing? Let us know over on social.

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