Working from home, in theory, is great! No long commutes, tea and coffee readily available, being in for parcel deliveries; the positives are endless! For me personally, it allows me to support my partner in looking after our nearly 6 week old baby, BUT, is this the start of a slippery slope where we blur the lines of actually working from home, and are we at risk of being less productive, less responsive and more entangled in our everyday life that we can remove ourselves from when physically going into the office?
Now, more than ever, we need to think critically about what works for us; the key here is about individuality - no one person is the same and it's about making the right choices in what works for you.
So, as I sat down at 6:30am today after this mornings baby-alarm-clock-wake-up-call, I thought it might be helpful for staff and students if I wrote down my TOP TIPS on how to work from home.
1. FOLLOW YOUR USUAL MORNING PROCESS
Every morning I wake up about 6am and put on BBC News, trying desperately to wake up my weary eyes. By 6:20am I am in the shower before putting my work clothes on and going to make a coffee for the hour-long commute to work.
My first TOP TIP is about routine; follow what you usually do. For me, I can't get into "work-mode" if I grab my laptop and sit in bed. I don't feel ready for the day, and my partner says I smell... Get up and be ready to make it happen!
This doesn't mean you can't enjoy the perks of working from home; I am certainly not suited and booted and I am fully wearing my comfy joggers and an old t-shirt, but I feel clean, awake and at my "work station" for the day!
2. CREATE THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AT HOME
I like my desk at work, it is very personal to me; I keep cards from students and colleagues, pictures of my family and my desk is still covered in Christmas wrapper from 2018 when the Officers thought it would be funny to cover my entire desk in festive paper while I was away...
I think that it is important to have a small space set away from your bed where you can feel productive. I have tried to work with my laptop on my lap while in bed munching 6 million custard creams; it doesn't work, I'm not productive and I just feel fat. What I really need is a work desk; even if this is at the kitchen table; somewhere I can sit at comfortably for the day.
Make sure you have a good chair that is supportive of your back and try to get your laptop screen at eye-level if possible so you're not hunched over.
My current work desk at home has my laptop (which is probably older than many students at Newman), my headphones to cancel any baby-noises throughout the day and for work meetings, a nice full cup of coffee (two sugars please!), my glasses, a to-do list as I would at work and some personal items of my children.
3. DON'T OVER-DO IT TO PROVE A POINT
On my workstation I also have a book I recently received as a gift (shout-out to Alan and Sarah) so that I can take regular breaks. At work, no one is every 100% productive, 100% of the time, so don't try and over-compensate at home, but equally, try and give yourself real expectations of what you want to achieve in those "normal office hours".
I try at least every 90 minutes (this time is completely dependent on what breaks you need) to either change the type of work I am doing, go and make a drink or have a little read of my book - or BBC Sport. (edit: or apparently feeding a needy child)...
It is crucial to get those breaks in; in the office, we often stop what we're doing to chat to each other, or go outside for a cigarette break; try and emulate what you do in the office.
4. PLAN THE TIME, TO PLAN YOUR TIME
A handy tip to help manage your day is to start prepared; give yourself a to-do list! When I was an elected Officer at Coventry University Students' Union many moons ago, they sent me on an excellent course by Think Productive called "How to be a Productivity Ninja". This course taught me that spending up to 20 minutes planning my day/week and writing it all down on paper in front of my computer will save me hours throughout the week trying to work out what I need to do.
I also find it useful blocking out sections on my outlook calendar for what work I want to achieve - you are essentially setting a meeting up with yourself to do a piece of work within a set time frame, which helps give structure to my day.
5. STAY IN TOUCH WITH COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS
We are extremely lucky to be living in the digital world and should use the fact that we are connected at all times. Newman Students' Union have recently started using Zoom as a tool to have regular team meetings. We realised that sometimes emails and messages can come across sharp, and the way we usually discuss things is face-to-face; so WHY CHANGE IT? Staff are now just getting into the habit of video conferencing throughout working hours; it saves time and gives you a familiar face to reduce any feeling of isolation.
I highly recommend trying to meet colleagues or students you are working with at least once per week, usually at the start for a general discussion about what everyone's plans are; during this Coronavirus Pandemic, the world and rules are changing around us faster than we can keep up with, and new information is being sent by Universities and the Government every morning. It's important everyone is on the same page, as you would be in the office!
BONUS TRACK (SELF-CARE AND WELLBEING)
Look, we here this almost everyday of our lives - "remember to look after yourself!" or "make sure you're drinking plenty of water" - I don't want to patronise anyone, but now more than ever it is really important we are looking after ourselves properly.
While for some, working from home is really difficult in terms of finding that productivity, and people end up having lots of food, lots of rest and lots to drink; for people like me, I get carried away... I can sit at the desk in my house and before I know it I've missed lunch.
If you struggle with taking regular breaks, try setting alarms on your phone to make sure you take breaks, including preparing lunch. Try not to use every single break for a coffee (I am too bad at this!) and think about your daily water intake.