With many many more people working from home due to the pandemic but also as a general trend towards more flexible working, it’s important to take stock of this new lifestyle and to adjust your habits to suit.
When lockdown first hit, everyone set up camp at their respective kitchen tables, children’s computer desks, sofas with laptops balancing on cushions and got on with the necessary task of surviving and trying to stay sane.
Now that we’re a good few months in to what has become a long-lasting lifestyle change, it’s time to have a proper think about your set up and how you can carve out your own healthy ‘new normal’ and get the most out of the flexibility that comes with working from home
We know there are thousands of people out there harping on about this, to the point where it’s largely lost all meaning. But it’s an important subject and should be thought through thoroughly to make sure you’re looking after yourself, the responsibilities of your role and your other commitments including family, friends and hobbies etc.
Now that the commute is (hopefully) a distant memory, you have more time in the morning; no outfit to choose, no bag to pack or lunch to make and no hour long trip on a train- so use that time wisely.
For those with children this time will most-likely be soaked up by their needs which may suit you perfectly as you can have breakfast together, you can make sure they’ve washed behind their ears and you can really get to grips with how they’re feeling as they face another school day.
Of course, a morning getting kids ready for the day can also be pretty dam stressful so try to set up a structured routine for everyone to minimise the drama.
For those without children, this time could become treasured self-care time involving exercise, long baths, time to read, time for hobbies or it could be utilised for early morning working. Option number 2 has it’s benefits- you can clear your inbox before responses come flying back at you, work on solitary projects without the interruption of zoom calls and WhatsApp messages or practise that upcoming presentation without being overheard or squeezed for time. You can also (depending on how well your boss is keeping up with the times) finish early so your self-care time can fit nicely into your evening. Option number 1 offers a gentler start to the day and alleviates that sense of being robbed of your time when darkness falls at the ungodly hour of 4pm.
With less managerial input re your schedule and with more focus on productivity and outcomes than minute-counting it can be difficult to keep yourself on track.
Some will over-work themselves into burnout either trying to prove that they’re not slacking off or through a lack of awareness that their work time is blending dangerously into their personal time. Set alarms for the start of the day, your lunch break (please actually leave your workspace and eat something!) and the end of the day so that a) you’re not clock-watching and making time stand still and b) you’re not accidentally spending more time on work than you should.
Staring at a screen for a whole day, regardless of location is not great for human bodies and minds- try setting a recurring 20 minute alarm on your phone and apply the “20/20/20” rule:
- Look away from your screen every 20 minutes
- Look at something around 20 feet away
- For 20 seconds
For those with the opposite problem of being easily distracted by other household members, pets, TV and social media there is only one solution- self discipline. Yep, I’m afraid so.
The best starting point for you is to structure each working day with prioritised projects and built in breaks (one before and one after lunch) so you can indulge the dog, scroll on your phone for ten mins or just have a move about. Trying to work for 8 hours solidly is not good for you and the long stretch of time ahead will just make you want to put your head in the sand and stick Netflix on…
For some happy campers, the pandemic forced a LOT of close family time.
Some are sitting opposite their partner all day touching toes and trying not to murder each other over the sound of the other’s loud typing while some are working in separate areas and taking it in turns to work while also parenting isolating kids. Not fun for anyone.
There’s no quick fix for solving the problem of needing personal space and alone time in these situations but a frank conversation about how best to make it work will take some of the annoyance and resentment out of the equation.
Making boundaries clear to older kids is vital and sharing the load of parenting younger kids while holding onto a job should be shared entirely equally between partners.
Living and Working Alone
On the other side of the coin you have those that live alone, work alone and have only the odd zoom call for ‘comfort’.
The pandemic has been rough for most but living and working in complete isolation can be debilitatingly lonely. Humans are social creatures and contact with others is pretty vital to our wellbeing.
The obvious things like keeping in touch with family, friends and co-workers in whatever ways suit you best, getting outside at least once a day to see other faces and get fresh air and meeting up with groups of 5 others in outdoor settings as much as possible are vital.
The less obvious and a little ‘out there’ to some are things like mindfulness training, audio books to keep a sense of company on the go, and practising genuine self care and reflection can really help stave off any truly depressive moments.
Home Office Allowance
Just a little note to those who are self employed and working from home- don’t forget to claim what you can for your Home Office Allowance.
The easiest way to claim is to use the flat rate method so you don’t have to work out what proportion of your water and gas/electricity bill can be allocated to the running of your business. Instead, this method allows you to claim a monthly amount based on your average hours spent working from home per month:
25 to 50 hours per month: £10 per month can be claimed
51 to 100 hours per month: £18 per month can be claimed
101 or more hours paper month: £26 per month can be claimed
It may not sound like much but if you’re working from home full time you can claim £312 off your tax bill, just for working from home.
You can also claim the business proportion of your internet and phone bills but that obviously takes a little more brainpower… why not hand that overt to us?!