Those who pay attention to the ‘coming next week’ trailer at the bottom of our blog posts will be expecting a post about the excellent CharityComms conference, Changing Hearts and Minds: social science insights for communicators. That post was half written last week at the point at which our diary for the next month or so became a bit of a moving feast and we went into crisis management mode.
Right now, a post about behaviour change with reflections on what I learnt about liberal thinkers being more dogmatic and less flexible feels a bit tone deaf. I may still come back to that post at some point because the sessions were fascinating and eye-opening, but for now I am changing gear.
Many of you are likely to be switching to working at home in the next couple of weeks with no real indication of how long that situation will last for. Of course, many people follow flexible working patterns already with an increasing number of organisations expecting people to work from home one or two days a week due to office capacity. When I was still working at VSO I used to work from home every other Wednesday. When I switched to self-employment in January 2011 I quickly learnt that a very different mind-set is needed when working from home is a full time thing rather than an occasional ‘treat’. Both Ben and I and all of the Mile 91 associates are home-based so here are our top tips for successful homeworking:
1. Get dressed!
The most annoying thing in the world is when people make lame jokes about it must be great to be able to work in your PJs all day because you work at home. This is not what homeworkers do! They get up, they shower and get dressed and then they go to work. If I have a video conference with a client I’ll put on a decent outfit and a bit of make-up the same way I would if I was meeting face to face. Do the same. Trust me, it gets you in the right headspace.
Working from home and self-isolating are two different things. If you can still go out then getting fresh air and exercise will do you the world of good. Maybe stay away from your gym or regular indoor classes but taking a stroll round your park or going for a jog will do you good. If you are self-isolating or if they put stricter measures on movement in place then look into home workouts – my friend has recommended the FitOn app. I also have a small inexpensive foldable exercise bike next to my desk which if you’re a regular gym goer could be purchased with a couple of month’s gym membership fee if you do have to put memberships on hold.
Ben and I Skype at least twice a day – usually around 11 and 3 – just the time of day where you’d want to have a coffee break and some chat if you were in the same workspace. We’ll talk more frequently if we have a big project on or need to chat things through. This morning as I made my coffee I had a WhatsApp video call with a friend who has just had to start two weeks compulsory homeworking. Making the most of tech to actually see people’s faces will be a really important way to stay connected to colleagues (and friends and family), especially if, like me, you also live alone.
4. Make the most of the extra time
For my first week of working at home in January 2011 I carefully mapped out my plan for the week. I was horrified and had a crisis of confidence in my planning skills when I had finished everything on my work plan by the end of Wednesday. How would I ever know how to charge clients properly if I got the basics wrong from the start? I had not realised how much more efficient we are when we work at home. You get back so much time – no commuting, no unnecessary internal meetings, no endless negotiating for overbooked rooms. Make the most of this by doing things like making a proper lunch. Give yourself some downtime between tasks just as you would in the office. Swap the five minutes chat with a colleague for shoving some washing in the machine. Weekends are much longer and more relaxing when you’ve got your life admin done during the week.
5. Separate work and home
At Mile 91 we are all set up to work from home so have offices in spare rooms (and garden cabins!). Converting spare space into offices may not be possible for a lot of you, or indeed necessary if this is a reasonably short term measure. But if you can keep work and home life separate by working in a different space to the one you relax in that will help keep some separation. Even if your living arrangements mean you need to work in your bedroom or lounge area then at the very least pack away your work stuff at the end of the day and put it in a cupboard or under the bed.
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