Updated: Mar 23, 2020
With many, if not all, office workers now being asked to work from home indefinitely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all entering uncharted territory, making us feel unsettled.
New norms are being established as our daily lives kaleidoscope in response to the need to reduce interaction and thereby the spread of the virus COVID-19. For many this means juggling working from home whilst having the children at home, and needing to keep up their school work simultaneously without it compromising our own wellbeing.
Everyone will now need to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to create boundaries between work and personal life.
Here we speak to Wayne Keble, OBE and Operations lead at GE Aviation, who shares his advice on how to get organised in your new environment, stay focused and keep your bosses and family happy when working from home.
Create The Right Operating Rhythm - Daily Routine
Routine is vital; the most successful remote employees are those that maintain a schedule discipline. It takes serious focus to get a full-time office job done from an unconventional space, and everyone lets their attention drift sometimes. If you find yourself working one minute and daydreaming the next, be realistic, take a short break and then get back to work.
Working remotely can sometime mean extending your day or starting early to accommodate differing time zones. If you do, make sure to manage the total time worked in each day carefully and adjust hours accordingly. Using time stamping and daily time recording tools ensures you keep a check on whether you are sticking to your schedule.
Deciding that you will sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that sets you up to achieve this is another. What in your morning routine delineates the start of work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be getting dressed (staying in your pajamas to work might seem a perk to some, but is almost always a flawed long term strategy for most). Create a morning routine that ends with you starting work.
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign-off on business messaging apps, or a 6.00p.m. online yoga class. You might have a simple routine such as shutting down your computer and turning on a favourite podcast. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
Top Tip: Set a schedule, and stick to it as much of the time as you can. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day, helps you maintain a reasonable work-life balance.
Creating The Right Atmosphere - Soundscaping
The word ‘soundscape’ was coined by composer R. Murray Schafer to identify sounds that;“describe a place, a sonic identity, a sonic memory, but always a sound that is pertinent to a place.”
Why are soundscapes so conducive to working from home?
Cognitive behavioural researchers have discovered that soundscapes – particularly those which include sounds of nature – enhance our cognitive functioning, optimise our ability to concentrate, and increase overall work satisfaction. It is important to ensure that there is enough randomness in the soundscape to ensure that it does not distract.
According to research from Cambridge Sound Management, intelligible words force us to shift focus from our work to analysing what someone is saying. In fact, speech distracts about 48% of us, so why not skip the lyrics and opt for a cheering jazz soundscape instead.
Top Tip: Set yourself a calming playlist on your music app to play while you work. Make sure there are enough tracks you don't repeat it throughout your working day.
It's important to get your environment right for work. Whether it is relocating the office space at home as part of social distancing, or setting up the children to continue schooling, you need to set space and boundaries for work and family. We appreciate that very rarely do we have a dedicated room or space that can be repurposed for a dedicated work space, so clever use of space is key. Perhaps set up a home-office in the corner of your kitchen whilst the kids are set up in the living room or playroom.
Top Tip: If you don't have much space, set up key areas for work and family time and timetable when they are used so everyone is clear when those times are and when not to be disturbed.
Set Ground Rules With the People In Your Space
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. If you have children who are off school while you are working, they need clear rules about what they can and cannot do during the working day. It is important for them too, as both groups need to be able to be productive and cohabit harmoniously. Additionally, just because you are working at home and can take care of pets should not mean other family members then assume you will always do it.
Equally, make sure you take breaks, especially your lunch hour.
Top Tip: You can use an app, such as TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows, to lock yourself out of your computer for 60 minutes. Or you can just launch a simple clock or timer on the screen when you take a break. If you return to your desk after only 40 minutes, walk away for another 20.
We're In This for The Long Haul
Of course this new norm is going to take some getting used to, but all indications are that we are in this for the long haul. So we must try hard to make working from home, work. If all else fails you could, as Joanne Harris, the author of the best selling book Chocolat suggested, consider visiting Narnia, Hogwarts, Middle Earth or even Westeros.