My Mug

Extraordinary circumstances have led many of us to work from home in recent weeks. Indeed many here in the UK are doing so to protect the rest of society. However for those new to working from home there can be a few challenges. My aim here is to provide a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned or heard about.

How do I separate my work life and my home life when they’re all happening in the same place?

Firstly if you’ve got a separate space at home to work in then you’ve got an advantage. If you are in this group then try and keep work in that space and not when out of it. Make that room or space just for work. This is much the same as sleep experts who recommend you declutter your bedroom and make sure that the only thing you do in there is sleep. No laying around in the morning catching up on your phone, do that somewhere else. In the evening read that book on the sofa and when tired go to bed. Our brains are great at associating a space with an activity. Get your brain used to getting into work mode in one space and it’s less likely to still be spinning in work mode when you leave it.

If you do not have a separate space to work and you are using your dining room table, for example, there are still things you can do. Try putting on specific clothes that indicate you are in work mode. I initially learned this from a lecturer at University who would always wear a mortar board and gown during lectures. Quite a fashion statement and somehow paints a mental picture of a older person. However this lecturer was in their late 20’s and would often be seen at the student bar in jeans and a t-shirt. Turns out when they wanted to get into teaching mode they slipped into their gown and board. Helped focus the mind. We can do that as well. Doesn’t have to be something as out their as a mortar board. Just something that you can put on when working and take off when not.

Both of these methods are based on association. Something coaching tools use a fair bit. All based around getting your mind connected with a certain state.

Association – connect (someone or something) with something else in one’s mind.

How do I stay connected with my team mates?

Working from home can be a little lonely. Yes we can ring people or better yet video chat with them. However it can feel a little intrusive to call someone out of the blue. What if they’re busy, concentrating or helping someone else? When you are in the office you can usually pick these signs up from non-verbal communication. Just glance over, if they’re busy come back later. With remote tools this is a little more difficult. So one way to deal with this is have a couple of team check-in times a day. Do not make these status updates. People don’t want to feel micromanaged. They should be opportunities for people to ask for help or collaboration. A chance to chat and share ideas.

Create a greater sense of community by learning a little more about each other. Create a shared Spotify playlist to understand more about each others tastes. Have a daily or weekly quiz, winner sets the questions for the next quiz. Play through the keyhole by getting people to guess who’s house they are seeing photo’s or a video walk around from (as long as they can hide their voice & reflection). Or something as simple as taking a photo of an everyday item that everyone has and trying to guess what belongs to who (A shot of your favourite mug for example – Mugshots)

How do I not feel guilty about stopping for a cup of tea?

Working from home can make us feel guilty, like we’re not really working at all. Stopping for a slice of toast or cup of tea can make us feel bad. What if someone calls, messages or otherwise needs us? However we do this all the time at work. People wonder off to get a coffee or have a comfort break. Remember work isn’t about location it’s about the outcome you produce. That outcome may be even better when you are in a comfortable location taking breaks. It’s often the gaps between work when a lot of the problem solving gets done in your head.

How can I catch my breath?

At some point someone decided that meetings should be in units of 30 minutes, usually defaulting to an hour. When needed in a meeting others will check you calendar (if you are lucky) and if you’ve got a slot book it in. When you are in an office you have to physically move to that meeting. As described above this can help us disassociate with our previous space and thinking and associate with the new one. This means in reality no matter how heavily booked your calendar you do get a couple of minutes between meetings. However at home you can be left in a situation when you are straight from one meeting to the next. No gaps, no time to think, time to get your head in the right space. The best solution to this is to stop making meetings an hour long. Who says 45 minutes won’t do it, or 38 for that matter. Shorter meetings also provide some impetus to focus on the outcome of that meeting.

Conclusion

Working from home can be great. Numerous studies suggest that people are more productive working from home. However there are challenges and nothing beats face to face communication. Technology does it’s best to provide tools to connect us and allow us to collaborate. What really matters however is how we connect at a human level and how we’re feeling when we do. Look after yourself. If you can take a regular break and do something completely non work related. Simple things like going for a walk (while being a safe distance from others) can re-energise you. It’s also a great time to start some mindfullness (or should that be mindlessness) as it takes away the potential embarrassment of sitting in the middle of an office with your eyes shut focusing on your breathing.

Thanks to:

Arabela Silva – Mug offs (Mugshots)

Adam Hall – Through the keyhole

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