Six simple steps to overcome the working from home slump
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Six simple steps to overcome the working from home slump

It’s a month since the UK went into lockdown and staffers had to embrace working from home (WFH). The adjustment period is over – now it’s about staying the course. This is where newbies can learn from long-time home workers, whose years of experience have taught them how to cope with the ups and downs of operating remotely…

At the end of March, the government put the UK into lockdown. In a move echoed around the world, businesses across the country scrambled to get remote operations up and running. If it was feasible for their workers to continue doing their jobs from home, companies pivoted quickly, planning and implementing new processes in days. For individual members of staff, those early days were most likely a flurry of calls: managers had to check everyone knew what they were doing and learn all about a new kind of trust; team members had to step up to a new level of self-sufficiency.

Last week, the government confirmed we’re staying in lockdown until at least 7 May. The business response to Dominic Raab’s news will not be as frantic as it was to Boris Johnson’s original announcement, but professionals still have some softer issues to consider around this new prolonged state of WFH. This is where they might pick up a useful tip or two from more seasoned remote operators.

1. Take the time to be social

Now the processes have been bedded in, those (panicky) team calls of the early days of lockdown may have been replaced by… silence? Long-time freelancers will tell you the longer the silence goes on, the louder it rings.

As well as taking care of the formalities of remote office life, leaders can keep their team on track by booking in the odd social call or virtual coffee. Office-based workers spend a third of their weekday hours with colleagues. The void those colleagues leave behind when everyone disperse to their own homes might not be immediately apparent, but it will be significant. To fill it, make time to incorporate social interactions into your new routine.

2. Be sympathetic with scheduling

Scheduling is key, however. Anything out of office hours can feel like an imposition. Particularly now the Easter school holidays are over, and parents have been dropped into home-schooling on the hoof, managers can make a difference with a flexible, sympathetic approach to scheduling.

Find a time that suits all parties and be clear about the sort of meet-up you want to arrange. A colleague may want to discuss something one on one, or they may be missing the interaction of the weekly team chat.

3. Mix up your routine

Individual workers, too, should not be afraid to experiment. We’ve already explored how setting a schedule is important in the early days of working from home but, one month in, routine may well have switched from comforting to deadening. If days are starting to merge and motivation is beginning to flag, there are a few ways you can change things up.

Sure, you’ve only got one trip outdoors a day, but it’s a moveable feast. For example, try taking your exercise first thing: it’s a great way to create separation and mark the start of the working day.

4. Separate work and home

As ever, that separation of work and life is crucial. As well as demarcating the beginning of the day, it’s good to find a shutdown ritual for the end of the day too. It could be that walk, if you’ve still got it in reserve, or an at-home workout. Equally, it could be a virtual after-work pint with colleagues, or even just changing out of your Zoom clothes.

5. Change up your space

Throughout the day, it’s the little things that can add up to a big difference. Starting to feel you’re a little too closely tuned into the news cycle through the day? Try tuning out with some background music. Starting to feel a little cramped? If you can, move rooms so that your day feels a little less claustrophobic. A change can be as reinvigorating as a rest.

6. Take regular breaks

Without the office-based attractions of the water cooler and the coffee station, it’s also easy to forget to take another kind of break. Screen breaks are best taken for five or 10 minutes every hour. Not only will these help to reduce the physical impact of rickety at-home workstations, regular movement – however small – is important to stave off feelings of tiredness.

Finally, and fundamentally, remember that these are all ideas, not instructions. You will know best what works best for you. The only thing to be said with certainty here is: if you don’t yet feel you’ve found your optimal approach to WFH, try new things.

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Tobias Gourlay Journalist
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