We all face a long period of working from home, so are there any tips to help keep us sane and safe?

If you are not in an essential service, then you should be reading this at home and if you are trying to work from home, then you might be struggling to get used to a new way of working.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone as we are living in exceptional times with this global pandemic. 

Although your circumstances will be unique to you, everyone is trying to get used to a different way of doing things at the moment.

A daily skype call helps boost team spirits and reminds us that we are not alone

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

Working from home

There are already plenty of tips available for working from home but most of these were written before these strange and unprecedented times, so a lot of the normal ‘rules’ may have to go out the window.

If much of your job depends on gaining access to your company’s internal systems and you can’t access these whilst the rest of the world is online because it slows the internet or the whole process down too much, then you might have to think of switching your timing to earlier or later in the day (whichever suits you).

Just remember that this doesn’t mean extending your working day, just switching the times you work, but it’s always worth discussing this with colleagues and your boss first.

When you do work out the routine that will suit you and the business best, it is worth also laying out some ground rules for the rest of the house if you live with other people. 

Remember, you’re all sharing the same space but there’s nothing worse than trying to take part in a conference call while the rest of your family are busily doing other things in the same room.

See if you can find a quiet space in the house, but also remember to share it equally.

I’m lucky enough to have an extension but part of it is also the kitchen, so I can’t expect people to starve or go thirsty just because I’m working.

And my wife also needs time to work quietly, so at times, I also need to find other things to do away from the dining table, but this is when I can read and research and so I bookmark things to look at during this quieter period.

Squirrels!

I don’t know about you but so far my experience has been that it is very easy to get distracted or interrupted during a ‘working from home’ day. 

Not only will email keep ‘pinging’ every few minutes, most of the ‘WhatsApp’ groups are ridiculously active so that you have 37 messages to be read every time you turn round.

For me, the answer is to either ignore them for a specified period or, even better, turn them off.  This especially applies to social media – unless you actually need it as part of your work role.

Whatever the core task in front of you is, you will be able to complete it better and more quickly if you are not distracted every 2 minutes.

If part of the ‘joy’ of your day is catching up on social media or news sites, then use this as a reward once you’ve completed that task.

Do leave a channel open though, should anyone need to get hold of you urgently such as the phone or text, and don’t stay completely ‘offline’ for too long – I recommend checking emails once every hour or two.

Working with children

Another distraction will be any children in the house who can’t or won’t leave you alone to get on with whatever you need to.

They will be struggling to come to terms with the change in all our lifestyles at the moment and will probably need even more attention and reassurance from you than usual.

This is where it is worth looking for professional help. 

Check with their school and see what work programmes have been set.  Work out a routine and agree it with them – They need to understand why all this is happening and ‘buy into it’ otherwise it simply will not work.

Book supplier Peters Ltd has also put together a really useful website listing of books to read with children based on age and school year, along with downloadable activity sheets for each book.

Try and add as much element of ‘fun’ as you can.  Yes, this is a very, very serious situation but we’re talking here about keeping yourself and your family safe and sane for the next several weeks, at least.  Getting children to ‘play along’ is easier if they are on board, especially the younger ones.

Celebrities are also trying to do what they can, with Carol Voderman (@carolvorders) offering her maths school for free for children 4-11 until schools open.  

Extreme survivalist, Bear Grylls has also turned his attention to surviving the home by looking at 100 activities that children can do in what he is calling the 'great indoors'

And author David Walliams (@davidwalliams) has announced that he will be releasing free audio stories every day at 11 am for the next 30 days which should provide at least 20 minutes respite for and from the little ones!   

Regular breaks

Remember to keep yourself as fit and healthy as possible during this period of lockdown.

My colleagues with children seem to start each day with Body Coach, Joe Wicks, which is certainly one way to get the blood pumping first thing in the morning – although you can of course choose to watch and exercise later!

If you do have children, this could also become a way of combining time with them by looking at some of the other videos available on Youtube, such as the Just Dance/Dance Central videos, which will definitely get the heart racing – just remember to warm up first!

Try and eat as healthily as possible and avoid constant snacking rather than regular planned meals.

Make sure you also take regular short breaks away from your computer and go somewhere where you can see sunlight, whether that is your own garden or in isolation outside – practising the essentials of social distancing of course and keeping 2 metres away from anyone.

Keep social

Also make sure you check in with colleagues regularly.  Like you, they will be getting used to the new ways of working and, like you, they will notice the absence of the people they spend the majority of their time with – their fellow workmates!

My team are having a 15-30 minute skype call each day, which helps boost spirits and keeps us all focused on that fact that we are not alone.

If you’re more used to working in smaller groups of even alone, then make sure you keep in touch with friends, family and neighbours. 

Remember, this is new to all of us and we’re all working in our own isolation, so above all, keep safe, keep sane and keep in touch.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager