Those who advocate working from home as part of a freelance lifestyle are quick to list the benefits of doing so. After all, who wouldn’t want to cut out the commute and be able to include a quick cat nap in their lunch hour?
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust working from home upon millions of people who were neither practically nor mentally prepared for it. Lockdown meant that many of those individuals also had to balance working at home with having children at home fulltime – and including being responsible for educating them, in many cases. This is hardly an ideal setup, even for experienced home workers who haven’t set foot in an office for years.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can make it easier to work from home during lockdown. Whether you’re a freelancer, a remote worker or an employee who’s usually office-based but is stuck at home due to the pandemic, the tips below will help you to survive the perils of working from home during lockdown.
Tips to balance working from home with looking after children
Close your eyes and picture the ideal working environment. Are you imagining your children there, asking for snacks every eight minutes and expecting to be entertained? No? But that’s the reality of working from home during lockdown for many people. It can be difficult to pull off but there are ways that you can make it easier to manage.
1. Communicate like never before with your partner
Even the strongest of relationships will be tested by being confined to home for weeks on end, particularly if you’re trying to juggle work with entertaining and educating your children. Talk to your partner openly and daily like never before, including about work, and listen to them just as intently as you talk.
2. Use a schedule to divide up responsibilities
There will be times when you have to work and times when you can be more flexible. Map these out and compare them with your partner’s commitments. Then agree who will be working when and who will be parenting when. That way, everyone knows where they stand.
3. Make arrangements for calls
If you have to attend meetings or other video calls when working from home, make appropriate arrangements. Sit in a quiet room, wear headphones and ensure the children understand why it’s important to be quiet and how long for.
4. Theme your weeks
If you need peace and quiet to work, then you’ll need to get creative with finding things for the children to do. Themed weeks work well here. Anything from kindness week to French week will work – fire up their imaginations with games, activities and learning experiences and you should be able to carve out more time to work.
5. Rope in the grandparents
Being physically isolated from your parents doesn’t mean they can’t still pitch in and help. Rope in grandparents, other relatives or friends to help free up more time for you to work. Even an hour a day of them reading, chatting to and playing with your kids over Zoom can make a notable difference to your working life.
6. Negotiate more flexible working hours with your employer
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to some innovative approaches to home working. Just because you worked set hours in the office, doesn’t mean you have to now. If flexible hours could make you more productive, for example by working after the children go to bed, arrange things accordingly with your employer.
Practical home working tips to help you survive lockdown
There are plenty of practical ways that you can make home working easier to survive during lockdown. If you haven’t already implemented these tips, try them out today. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much difference they make!
7. Make sure you have the right tools for home working
Having to work from home at incredibly short notice meant that many people didn’t have the tools they needed to do so effectively. But the right tools can make all the difference. From hardware such as laptops and headphones, to software such as Slack and Zoom, ensure you have the right tools.
8. Create a beautiful workspace
Having your own space to work – one that’s appealing – can be a great motivator and can thus enhance your productivity. Rearrange things at home to create a beautiful workspace that will have you eager to open your laptop at the start of every day.
9. Set realistic goals
If you’re working from home while looking after children, you’re unlikely to be able to achieve as much each day as you did pre-lockdown. If it’s just you at home, with no distractions, you might be able to achieve way more. Accept the difference and set realistic goals to manage your workload accordingly.
10. Reward yourself regularly
If you’re missing out on team lunches, birthday cupcakes and other office perks, introduce these into your home working life. Regularly rewarding yourself for a job well done will help keep you motivated and productive.
11. Structure your day
If you want to be at your best during the working day, define when that day starts and ends. Differentiating between work and leisure time will allow you to engage with both more effectively. Not blurring the boundary between the two is particularly important when you work from home.
Tips to keep you fit and healthy when working from home during lockdown
Surviving working from home is easier when you’re in the best of health. As such, focusing on keeping in shape can be beneficial to your working life, as well as your physical and mental health. That means adhering to a couple of golden rules:
12. Exercise often
Stay healthy by exercising regularly. Combine indoor and outdoor exercise to keep things varied and to allow for changes in the weather. Build exercise into your working day and you should find you have more energy to tackle your work as a result.
13. Eat healthily
Use family time to bake healthy treats that you can eat throughout the working day. Healthy snacks packed with vitamins will keep you at the top of your game, while cooking together as a family will deliver its own rewards.
14. Take regular screen breaks
Without colleagues to chat to at the water cooler, it’s easy to spend hours at a time in front of your screen. That’s not great for your health or for your concentration levels. Take regular screen breaks routinely and you should find you’re more focused and efficient.
Tips to maintain your mental wellbeing
Staying mentally healthy as well as physically healthy is key to surviving working from home during lockdown. The global health pandemic is giving rise to a huge increase in mental health complaints but also mental health awareness. Try supporting your own mental good health, as well as being considerate of that of your colleagues with these tips.
15. Grow something on your desk
There’s nothing like helping something to live and flourish to give you a boost, plus a plant on your desk will improve the air quality – all of which will help you to be at your best mentally to face the working day.
16. Cut everyone some slack, yourself included
We’re living through bizarre and stressful times. If you’re not at your best mentally, cut yourself some slack – and do the same for your colleagues. The kinder you are to yourself, the easier you should find it to tackle your work with less stress.
17. Socialise over video calls
You’ll perform better at work when you have an active support network that you engage with regularly, so make sure you do just that. Whether you chat with friends, colleagues or relatives, reach out and engage to give your mental health – and thus your working life – a boost.
18. Take a mental health day
It’s ok to not be ok. If you’re really struggling with your mental health, speak to your boss or your clients and take a mental health day. Whether you stay in bed, create a home spa experience, get outside to exercise or anything else, put work aside for a day; you should hopefully feel better about tackling it the next day.
19. Open up the conversation about mental health
Speak with your boss about how to open up the conversation about mental health when you work from home. Doing so might just mean that you and your colleagues perform better thanks to feeling supported and understood.
Surviving lockdown when working from home
Working from home at short notice during a pandemic is not the same as planning to do so as a proactive lifestyle choice. It can be difficult and stressful, particularly for extroverts who thrive on the social connections that come with working in an office.
That’s why tips such as these on how to survive working from home during lockdown are so important. We are in the midst of an unprecedented situation and all trying to find our own way through it. Learn from others’ experiences and find the combination of methods that work for you when it comes to surviving lockdown as a home worker.