For some weeks now, the coronavirus didn’t just impact our society as a whole but is also increasingly taking a toll on our bodies and minds to able to offer the flexibility that working from home requires. You would think that working from home would leave you with an excess of time, right? So, why does it feel like unfinished work keeps piling up?
The flexibility you are applying to your daily work impacts your brain. Imagine, you're working on an important document when suddenly your colleague calls. You finish your call and you're ready to get back to business when your partner barges in, or one of your lovely kids. Heck, maybe all of them. Now, where did we leave off in that document again? You re-read a couple sentences and before you're able to get back to it: *Bzzzt* Your phone rings again.
This is just one example of what working from home is like. Stimulus after stimulus is leaving us mentally exhausted.
Let's be clear. These are unusual times, to say the least, and definitely not the moment to hold yourself up to the highest standards. Almost everyone will recognize the example mentioned above and we hope it helps you realise that you aren't alone in this. The line between work and private life is fading rapidly. At pi life sciences, we are also noticing this.
To this purpose, we have been sharing tips with our consultants wherever they needed them most. Even in this (hopefully) final phase of the lockdown, we'll keep on sharing tips to be sure that they maintain a healthy work-life balance while working from home. Below we have listed the most helpful ones which will surely benefit working from home in the future as well .
Is your pace slowing down or you are getting tired? Don't push yourself but instead quit a little early or take some hours off so you can start the next day anew. To quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me’.
Tip 1: Start the day like you're used to - enjoy mornings
Rise and shine at your regular hours, act like you're going to the office, and stick to your routine. It will activate mental cues that let your brain know that 'this is a workday'. Because you're obviously not really going to the office you'll be saving a fair amount of time on traffic. Don't trick yourself by sleeping in little. Start and quit work a little earlier than usual and plan some quality time with your loved ones instead. And don't forget to enjoy the time morning time by sharing breakfast with your partners and/or kids.
Tip 2: Create a day and week schedule
A schedule can structure and boost your productivity. Did you ever consider a to-do list? Setting short-term goals for yourself keeps your mind on-edge and can significantly improve your ability to reach your goals.
If you have kids, it's equally important to provide them with structure and clarity. They are used to your routines and it's good for them to know what's expected of them as well.
In your schedule, be sure to include time for lunch, playing outside, homework, television, or even some good old fashioned chores in the garden.
When both your partner and you are working from home, try alternating spending time with the kids so you can share the load and they won't feel neglected. While one of you entertains them, the other can focus fully on work.
Do your kids sleep in the afternoon? Seize this moment work uninterrupted for a few hours and plan your calls during this time.
Do you lack the energy to prepare a homemade meal at the end of the day? Turn cooking into a weekend activity with your kids and prepare several meals to get you through the week. And don't hesitate to treat yourself to some good takeaway every now and then.
Tip 3: Start with the elephant, not the rabbits
When you are hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits.
In other words, learn to prioritize and don't distract yourself with small matters like calls and emails that can wait.
Most of the time, you'll find yourself starting the day in rabbit's lair; your inbox. By diving into your emails first, you are actually already spending your energy on less important topics, and along the way, you're probably thinking: "I'll get to that elephant later." From what we've learned, this way you'll keep pushing back important items, you're brain will get tired, and you'll finish the day unsatisfied. And how do you start your next day? Right, straight into the rabbit's lair again.
Remember that after a good night's sleep you're at your best. So, when do you reckon it's the best time to hunt an elephant? First thing in the morning. Skip your inbox, leave the rabbits alone for a while and finish that priority task or make that deadline. At the end of the day, finishing a big task will leave you more satisfied, so make sure to plan for these in your schedule.
Tip 4: Set the rules
Especially for the younglings, it's paramount to clarify when it 'together-time' or when it's 'alone-time'. A good way to do so is by turning your fridge into a visual schedule that will tell them what the day is going to look like. Be sure to include clear writing, visual elements and consider creating it together.
Define ‘together’ or ‘alone’-time by:
Creating the day or week schedule together including the when and where visually. On its own, this will be a creative assignment that will help your kids realise days will be different.
Include drawings of breakfast, a desk, fruit/cookie, sandwiches in the schedule.
Let your kids pick between two options during their alone-time. Do you want to draw or play with clay?
Introduce an 'activity box'. Write your kids favourite activities on pieces of paper and put them all into a box. Now you can let your kid raffle for a fun activity to put on the planning.
Another tip which works especially for younger children and toddlers in particular - Try to mimic a classroom lay-out at home by creating dedicated corners filled with toys, dolls or craftworks.
Finally, visualise clearly when you are working and thus cannot be disturbed. A bike light outside the door can already help you with that. If it burns, it means you are 'on-air'. Make your day schedule visible as well, just to prevent frequent questions.
Tip 5: Create a zen place to work for you and your kids.
Find a place in your home where you can work in peace and claim this area when you are working. Make clear appointments with your partner and/or kids to avoid distractions.
Some suggestions to make your spot into an ergonomic 'home-work' proof environment;
attain a 90° knee angle by resting your feet onto something suitable like a shoebox
use a pillow to support your lower back, if your chair doesn't align well
focus on your posture, sit up straight and comfortably.
Tip 6: Take a deep breath of fresh air.
Go outside frequently to promote creativity, to take your mind off or simply just to relax. Walk, run, jog together with your partner, kids or with a friend. Always make sure to keep your energy levels balanced!