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It’s another week of adjusting to home working for many, but while ESP columnist Sarah Slack is usually out and about checking out the latest comedy acts for us, her day jobs have often involved WFH (working from home). So if you’re struggling to see the funny side, Sarah’s come up with a few tips to help you…

After BoJo’s big  government announcements that we’ll all be staying at home for quite some time, it means thousands of businesses have had to either shut up shop or utilise their digital skills to work from home, or ‘WFH’.

Whilst you may have never sampled homeworking before, as an introverted hermit who’s previously worked from home and spent the last 29 years in self-isolation whenever remotely possible, despite the dreadful circumstances this personally feels like a golden opportunity: I get to work from home, have unlimited coffee breaks and not wear a bra during the day? What an absolute result.

But if you’ve never operated from home before, or maybe are, let’s say, a little less technologically advanced, this may feel like a worst case scenario. Especially if you’re used to being around other people but now you’re sat in your living room with only a potted plant (or worse, your partner) for company.

Welcome to the introvert’s lifestyle, basically. I’ve put together this handy guide that will hopefully take the worry out of your new working from home arrangement, whilst also supporting positive attitudes, celebrating the small things, and maybe even realising that when it comes to working from home, you don’t need to settle for bearable. You might even end up… preferring it?

Streamline your PC

More and more of us will be using either our work or personal laptops to do our actual jobs, order food, use internet banking and complete general day to day tasks from now on, so it’s important to make sure whatever bit of kit you’ve got, your computer is able to run smoothly and it’s safely up to date with the latest secure software.

For work laptops, this may involve doing a complete de-clutter of your desktop and computer drives, investing in a hard drive so that your device can have more space, organising your emails into folders or sub-categories, or just finally clearing out that full-to-the-brim recycle bin.

If you are using your own laptop for work, it’s also super important to ensure your privacy settings are enabled and you have a decent maintenance programme – for example Avast’s clean-up service package only costs £30 annually. It’s therefore worth having a Google into your options in order to streamline your devices, especially as we’ll all be a lot more reliant on our electronic gadgets over the next few months.

YouTube is your friend

One of the many joys of not working in an office anymore is that you don’t have your boss or colleagues looking over your shoulder and judging you based on what tabs you have open in your browser. When it comes to YouTube many people think it’s a mere procrastination tool (which it certainly can be tbh), however, fewer people know how useful YouTube can be for providing some much-needed anxiety-reducing background ambience.

With some mental health experts understandably advising that you should check the latest coronavirus updates just once a day, whilst it may be tempting to have BBC News on in the background whilst working, it’s probably not going to be very good for your anxiety levels/overall emotional wellbeing.

This is where the joys of YouTube come in, as there are so many background music options available which are all free to listen to. One of my favourite channels in particular is the live ‘lo-fi hip hop radio’ stream (Google it) as I find instrumental music to be both instantly calming and less distracting than songs with lyrics (plus if it’s instrumental and ‘lo-fi’, there’s less chance of me dancing about in the living room).

If you don’t mind listening to music with lyrics whilst you work however, then just have a quick search on YouTube for your favourite artists or genres and you’ll often find hundreds of curated playlists to listen to which have been created by other users, making YouTube not just a great way to relax but also a way of discovering new artists that will make you feel you’ve actively gained something from your new ‘WFH’ lifestyle.

Stay focussed

Whilst working from home may have previously been seen by some as a bit of a ‘doss option’, now that it’s mandatory for so many of us it’s important to remember that productivity is key, and you should treat a day at home the same way you would treat it if you were still in the office.

As challenging as it may be, this may involve limiting the amount of time you pop out your phone to check out social media or message a friend on Facebook – if you’re ever in doubt just think, would I be responding to this text or opening this app if I was still in the office and around my colleagues?  Alongside leaving your mobile phone in another room, it may be worthwhile to mute certain group chats or notifications until 5pm or when you have finished work, especially if you know they’ll be guaranteed distractions.

It’s also important to keep a routine whilst working from home, which involves trying to get plenty of sleep and exercise. Whilst it may be tempting to turn your morning alarm off due to the time you saved not suffering the morning commute, studies have shown that having a regular sleeping routine will positively impact your health and overall wellbeing. That’s why, at the time of writing, I’ve changed my alarm from 6.45am to 7.30am, so I still have plenty of time to wake up, muck about on WhatsApp, and have something to eat before starting the day.

Enjoy the small things

Now more than ever it might be important home workers hold on to two key things – their sense of humour, and having an attitude of gratitude.

It may seem completely pointless starting a gratitude journal at the moment. Now, however, is definitely a good time to cultivate some optimism, so whether it’s the fact that it’s a sunny day, you made a decent lunch, or a co-worker has called to make sure you’re OK, write it down in a notebook and then when it all gets too much, you’ll realise that there are some benefits to this whole working from home thing, as well as maybe also helping you to appreciate how we’re all in the same boat.

One of the many benefits I’ve found when working from home is that if something really irritates you, you can react instantly in the privacy of your own home. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had to quietly contain my reaction to something in the office that’s wound me up the wrong way, however now we’re in this amazing situation where if something or someone pisses you off, you can freely shout “YOU’RE AN IDIOT MARK” without worrying about your nearby co-workers reporting you to HR (although maybe limit these instances to a few a day, or your neighbours may question your sanity).

When working from home it’s maybe also important to celebrate your achievements as you would do normally, and perhaps even have a rewards system in place if you know you need that extra motivation. Managed to clear a pile of particularly tricky tasks? Reach for a Jaffa cake. Responded to an ASAP email from Mark with tact and decorum? Have another Jaffa cake (unbranded orangey-based cake snacks are also available, it’s just I have a family pack at home right now).

Say thank you

It’s fair to say that for many people reading this at the moment, things may seem frightening due to what’s happening with Covid-19, but also because they’ve been plucked out of their comfortable, normal office routines and placed into a new working situation, quite possibly against their will.

Regardless of whether you’re OK with working from home or not, everyone’s experiencing heightened emotions at the moment due to the severe disruption to our everyday lives, which is why the importance of a thank you right now is not to be underestimated.

Thank your IT team, thank your Accounts department, and thank every colleague who you interact with for doing something that makes your life easier, because we are all working during unprecedented circumstances and now more than ever it’s important to give credit where it’s due.  There’s no manual on how to best navigate this situation we’ve been placed into, so by recognising other people’s efforts it will just make working from home that little bit easier, and especially if some of your colleagues are feeling overwhelmed.

Keep calm and carry on

I reckon this phrase is going to be more worn out than a pair of Mo Farah’s trainers by the time this whole Covid-19 situation is over, however it really is the best mantra not only for this current moment in time, but also your approach to working from home.

If you’ve never worked from home before this situation is possibly going to feel scary and at times insurmountable, however I think it’s important for people to be patient with themselves and take the weight of expectations off their shoulders a little during this initial period where there is undoubtedly going to be teething problems.

Just think back to when you first learnt to drive, rode a bike, or maybe when your parents dropped you off at your Freshers’ halls at university – it feels scary at first, but then it clicks into place and suddenly without realising it, it’s become the new normal.

Go for a walk, eat a family pack of Jaffa cakes, or have a cry if you need to, but remember this is a testing but temporary situation and it will not last forever. It’s okay to just take each day as it comes.  Before you know it when we all march back to the office you may even find yourself missing the quietness of your living room, the fact you didn’t have to be in the same room as Mark, and those days when pyjama pants were considered acceptable office attire…

Sarah Slack


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