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National news

Working at Home

23rd Mar 2020

Over the coming days and weeks, many of us will be working remotely in isolation for the first time. And although a laptop and phone might help you get tasks done, we know that there may be other challenges.

So, as we find ourselves adjusting to new ways of working, it’s important we look after ourselves and always prioritise our health and wellbeing.

Keep reading for some useful and practical tips from one of our own home-based staff members, to help you adjust to your new environment and keep you connected, motivated and comfortable.

Stay connected

You may not be in the same room as your colleagues but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch with them.

  • Make a phone call instead of sending an email. If you can, pick up the phone and speak to whomever you need to contact. Hearing another voice can be mutually invaluable and you may find you’re able to resolve issues much quicker and easier.
  • Keep in touch, just for a chat. Everyone has social chat at work, so that shouldn’t stop now.  Pick up the phone to a work friend and check up on them, joke with them and share the latest updates and gossip.
  • Use any channel you can. There are dozens of different ways to reach out to friends and colleagues, such as WhatsApp, Skype or social media. Much like a call is better than an email, a video call can be much better still, especially for sharing presentations or ideas. 
  • Set up regular catch-ups. By setting up a regular or periodic time to talk with individuals or teams, either by video Skype or phone call, it will help structure your working week. It can give you something to look forward to or focus on during long periods of isolation.
  • Check-in with everyone. Make sure everyone in your team has had some contact every day. It can be easy to miss or forget colleagues who naturally tend to just get on with their work. Consider a buddy system where everyone is responsible for talking to one other person. 
  • Separate your work and personal life. It’s important to recognise the distinction between your work and social life. Whatever hours you work, try to stick to those and don’t let it encroach on your personal time. Home time is home time. You’ll feel much fresher the next day if you’ve been able to switch off.
Take breaks

Without the usual buzz of a workplace environment, it can be easy to get lost in your own thoughts and workload and forget to take breaks.

  • Set a reminder to take a break. It can be a calendar invite to yourself or just an egg timer every 90 minutes. Block some regular intervals out of your diary throughout the day and turn your phone on silent. 15 minutes every few hours can be enough to recharge the batteries and refocus the mind. 
  • Always keep hydrated. Use a smaller cup/bottle rather than a large one, this encourages you to get up and refill it.
  • Snack sensibly. Although tempting, try not to fill up on chocolate and biscuits. Eat fruit and healthy snacks as much as possible.
  • Get some fresh air. When working at home it’s more important than ever to take a proper lunch break. If possible, try to get outside in your garden for some fresh air and exercise. Or if that’s not possible, simply open a window and watch the world go by to rest your eyes.
Exercise

Stay mobile and active as much as possible. Without the usual office distractions like photocopying and meetings, it can be easy to stay in your chair for hours.

  • Don’t stay stuck at your desk. If possible, try walking around while on a phone call. Try and visit every room in the house at least once.
  • Do some stretching or bending. Check out our Chairobics video for a simple workout to help you stay active whether you’re in the office or at home. 
  • Go for a walk or jog. If possible, take a stroll at lunchtime, or before you start in the morning, to make use of the Government’s daily exercise allowance. If you would normally walk to the train station or cycle to the office, try to cover the same distance to maintain your routine. It may help you to sleep much better.
  • Do some physical exercise. Because you can’t get to the gym or your exercise classes, try downloading some online classes instead. Invest in your own yoga mat or gym equipment and let the gym come to you. See here.
Workstation

Comfort is key. Most modern offices now provide large, height-adjustable screens and ergonomic chairs. But when you have to suddenly make do with a laptop on your dining table, issues may start to creep in.

  • Make sure you’re comfortable. If you don’t have a designated office space, try to create one. That could be as simple as finding a quiet place in your home or borrowing a separate keyboard and mouse from the office to make sure your wrists are correctly positioned.
  • Try not to sit on the couch. As one of the most comfortable seats in the home, a couch may seem the obvious place to work, but with little support and adjustment, you will soon start to ache. Try a dining chair and add cushions for comfort and to raise the height.
  • If possible, connect to a monitor. If you don’t have a monitor, many modern TVs can be used as a screen. Whilst this may feel unusual it can not only improve your posture, as smaller ones can be height adjustable, but can also remove a potential distraction.
  • Make sure you have the right light. Try to reduce glare by using lamps and blinds to find the right balance for you. Access to natural light will not only help you see and concentrate but also make work a much more pleasant experience, with a good reason to look away from your screen, from time to time.
  • Tidy up before you start work. Make sure you don’t work in a mess. Clear away any clutter and start each day fresh. The clear desk policy at work is not just for security, it also helps simplify your working area, creating a much calmer environment.
  • Use the right technology. Unless you have a completely dedicated home office and you are the only occupant; get a headset with mic. You’ll hear better and background noise will be less distracting.
  • Don’t work in your pajamas. However tempting it might be, try to follow your normal routine, as if you were going into the office. Get up at the same time and eat the same breakfast.

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