Social media has become littered with funny pictures of cats sitting on laptops, toddlers bursting into rooms during conference calls or partners walking around in their evening wear behind the camera. While the photos are good for a giggle, it is important to set boundaries while working from home. Although this is no easy feat, especially with the uncertainties introduced by a pandemic.
1. Keep your routine in place
Although it is really tempting to spend the whole day in pyjamas or sweat pants, its important to get dressed as if you were going to work to get yourself into the right mind frame. You don't have to wear your full suit to sit and work in your study but something you would be comfortable with your coworkers seeing you in. Start and finish work at the same times you normally would, limiting your social media and social activities outside of working hours. Spend some time in the afternoon creating a schedule and going through your to-do list for the next day.
2. Create visual signs to indicate to your kids when you are busy and not to be disturbed
Having a partner who is also working from home, allowing you to alternate caretaking duties. In this case, the most important tip is to communicate with your partner about important meetings and collaborate your work schedules making sure you are both on the same page. Children respond and internalise visual information - put a red sign up on your office door indicating that you are not to be disturbed to your kids and your partner. If you have young kids, use nap time to your advantage - steal that time to focu on more difficult tasks that require your full attention. If your kids are older, use screen time or quiet play time to do more demanding tasks. Children work well with structure - create a schedule for them and put it on the fridge for them to view. Block their time into activities they enjoy, based around your work schedule (scheduling quiet play time, naps or screen time during important meetings or tasks). Don't forget to schedule some uninterrupted 1 on 1 time with your children everyday too!
3. Set aside your own space and use headphones to block out background noise
If possible, choose a space that you can close off to the rest of the household. It is preferable to work at a desk however not everyone has that luxury, however it is not advisable to work on your bed. Invest in a comfortable chair that will make it possible to sit at your work space for the regular 9 to 5. Try to ensure you have all the necessary equipment - a mouse, stable internet connection and of course, any necessary plug points. Try to position your work space near a source of natural light or make sure you have enough lighting to work comfortably.
4. Take regular, short breaks to leave your workspace and take a fresh breath of air (If you are able to)
Taking short 5 minute breaks throughout the day is imperative for productivity, however, it is just as important to take the right type of breaks. Not all breaks provide the same psychological benefits. Research shows certain types of breaks actually increase fatigue, such as drinking caffeine, mindless snacking, online shopping, and browsing social media. It is important to remove yourself from your work space when you take a break, to allow your brain to relax and do something completely different. If you sit at a desk all day - get up and walk around, stretch your legs. Make sure your breaks are scheduled and have intention to allow your mind to focus during those allocated work times. It is important to keep to your work schedule and take a lunch break around midday.
5. Be patient
It can feel as if our lives have been turned upside down- we are expected to create a new work routine, take care of our kids at the same time and deal with the on going pandemic - It will take some time to adjust.