ACE’s Emerging Professionals Group are amongst millions of people newly working from home during the current Covid-19 crisis. Teddy Chadd (Amey & vice-chair for the London & South-East Emerging Professionals committee) and Emily Scoones (Ramboll) explore how to make the most of working from home.
In times like these, where a virus is taking up most of the media conversation, it can be difficult to remain calm. On top of this, you might be realising you’re going to be spending an awful lot more time with that awkward housemate you met through a friend, as well as coming to terms with Netflix buffering and the possibility of actually being able to ‘complete’ it.
So, in light of this, the London & South-East ACE Emerging Professionals have collated a list of thoughts, ideas and tips to ensure your "office away from the office" is a zen working palace, as well as advice on mental well being that may give some comfort to those of you who may be struggling in the current situation.
Please do reach out to friends, family and colleagues however far the distance may be physically if you are feeling overwhelmed, or via our LinkedIn page to start a conversation with like minded professionals in your field.
The following are not exhaustive and have been shared as potential ideas to try. Also it must be said that everyone will have their own approaches to working from home and what might work for one will not work for another.
Your working from home environment
- Try to keep to the hours you would do normally and don’t feel pressured to work for longer because you feel like you need to be seen to be more active online;
- Try getting a short walk in before you start your working day to mimic your commute;
- Recreate your work day: It doesn't have to be business attire, but people have found that it can mentally set you up for the day in the right mindset if you are ‘dressed for the day’. Or wear your best Star Wars pyjamas for video meetings – whatever suits!;
- Make the most of your daily exercise allowance and make sure to get fresh air each day;
- Maintain social interaction as much as possible. Use phone calls instead of messaging people, and video calls instead of phone calls where appropriate. Encourage others to use their video cameras too;
- Breaks (coffee or not) as they were in the office are still just as important. Try to organise calls with other colleagues over a hot drink at least a few days a week. Encourage each other to join in with these social coffees, share the love!
- When you’ve finished for the day, ensure to pack up all your work stuff. Shut down your PC and put it away, don’t just close the lid. Getting rid of your work station if in a communal area at the end of the day might take a few minutes but you'll feel much better by separating your work/life routine;
- Turn off email notifications on your phone. You're done for the day so get it out of sight and mind;
- Careful to not book back-to-back meetings in your own or other’s diaries. There are no physical breaks such as walking to meeting rooms.
- Blank out time in your diary for you to focus on your own work every day;
- Don’t lose the art of a simple chat; be strict with yourself and others does that meeting need to be a scheduled 30-minute meeting, or could it be as simple as a 5/10-minute phone call?
- Try and do some exercise every day. It could be a walk, a run, a cycle or it can be in your own home;
- If you have the option, try ensuring you sit on a proper chair at a desk or table. Your sofa or bed might look tempting, but your lower back will thank us later.
Mental health and coping with anxiety
- Keep an eye on your own mental state and make sure you take time to step back and assess how you’re feeling objectively. It’s natural to be anxious, but if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by it all, then perhaps try some of the tips below.
- Practise mindfulness. There are lots of affordable (and also free) apps such as Calm, Headspace or InsightTimer;
- Order some plants or flowers for your workspace and keep your home tidy to limit stress;
- Do some exercise – even if it’s a YouTube class in your living room, exercise will help get the adrenaline out of your system and channel the panic elsewhere.
- Treat yourself - Anything that will give you a little boost can help. It doesn’t need to involve spending money; you can also cook yourself something nice, have a hot bath, or listen to a song you love;
- Keep in contact: your colleagues, line managers and are all here for you if you are feeling overwhelmed. Reach out to someone if you need help or send someone a message to check in on them too;
- Use the time you would usually be commuting to learn a new skill or do things you usually wish you had time to do, e.g. read a book, exercise, take up Airfix, learn to knit!
- Try avoiding (health-related) rolling news coverage. We all want to keep up to date, but in periods of anxiety, the need to check and read the latest updates can become compulsive, feeding the anxiety. Try having a news detox or allocating yourself a time limit for reading or watching news.
- Create a list of things you would like to achieve. This can be daily for productivity or more long term (e.g. a bucket list of things e.g. learn how to do a handstand).
Finally, two more important points. Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family will be there for you so please reach out to your support networks and don’t isolate yourself mentally.
Secondly, we know this sounds clichéd, but this has been helpful to a lot of people. Try remembering that "this too shall pass."
Teddy Chadd (Amey) and Emily Scoones (Ramboll) are members of ACE’s London & South East Emerging Professionals.