Are You Still Working 'Healthily' From Home?
As the majority of us continue to work from home for at least part of the working week it is imperative that our hybrid ways of working are supported just as much as when we are in the office. Organisations should now focus on including home working as part of their working culture and look after their employee's health, happiness and wellbeing even when working from afar.
To best look after yourself, your business, your employees and safeguard the future of your company, it is crucial that we bring employee wellbeing in our workplaces - wherever that may be - to the top of the agenda so that we are thriving not merely surviving.
In this article I'll explore the main pillars of healthy home working as well as give an insight into my own transition from 100% office based to now full time working from home. I'm still creating / building my home office so am currently camped out/in (?) the dining room - this is what so many workers are still facing and it is a struggle to do 'good' work when we are not in our natural work environments.
Creating Your healthy working foundations
This is the one I have struggled to stick to the most since going fully freelance.
Whereas before I was super strict with my start & finish times, now time seems a somewhat infinite, I don't have colleagues or a boss badgering me to stop working or asking when I will be in the office or online for catch up.
Therefore, my focus in now on creating a regular start time and, based around client calls, a regular and consistent end of day time too.
To help with this I'll be asking myself the following questions and I hope they will help you to structure your ideal working day:
When do I do my best work? I am (generally) an annoying early morning person and tend to find my brain works better in the morning & into the early afternoon rather than the evening as I know my creativity is at it's best at this time.
How does my ideal time of working fit with the business demands? Yes I work around my coaching clients' needs and requests, however, wherever possible I encourage morning or early afternoon coaching sessions. I rarely agree to evening sessions. Now this obviously depends on your role and the type of work you are doing. With so many organisations having teams globally you may find you are working some odd hours. This may be fine now & then but I knew of one IT engineer regularly waking up at 3am to help employees in Sa different country - that is not sustainable. If you are concerned then speak up and work to find solutions so no-one is having to work at the detriment of their rest, sleep and ultimately their health.
What daily, healthy routine serves you best? Humans are creatures of habit, we may not like to admit it but we love a regular routine as it means we don't have to spend precious energy on thinking and making decisions. That being said, every evening for the past month and half I have said to myself - tomorrow I will get up at 6am to work out, meditate, brain train, read some articles before breakfast. And every day I lie in bed saying - "nah"
What's stopping me? Ahh - here is where I can come up with a multitude of 'reasons', however, when I scrutinise them they are merely poor excuses. Laziness and my inner devil voice of temptation are stopping me. Here it is plain ol' grit & determination to get going or even a reward at the end of the week for sticking to those times.
What will get you back on track? I think it's really important to state here not to blame yourself or emotionally beat yourself up around this. We have set backs (like a global pandemic!) and we have off days. So firstly - accept that this is happening without guilt or shame. Then work on it. What's causing this? Do you need a proper rest with time off? If you are struggling to get up & get going like me - go for it in baby steps so try setting the alarm 15 mins earlier rather than an hour earlier. Consider rewarding yourself for a week of consistency whether that's starting or finishing work at certain times. Get accountable - a friend or colleague can really help here as can a coach. Some of my clients give me end of day and end of week 'reports' so they are held to account knowing I will chase them if it is not sent.
Here are a few more handy tools to help you create a structured daily routine:
Write down your timetable. Include your important goals for that day, daily tasks and breaks.
Take your breaks! Preferably away from your screen and not onto another screen. I got into a really bad habit of #doomscrolling whilst eating my lunch and felt terrible because of it - so down and I always had a headache. Now I either go for a walk or read a book - yup - a 'real' book!
Have a dedicated start and finish time and tell your co-workers that these are your working hours. Yes of course - be flexible but if you started at 8am then no more 8pm finishes.
Bookend your day with the following key questions to keep you on track:
What is my purpose today?
What went well today?
Enhancing Your Ideal Working Environment
Everyone is different with this one so really think about what helps you work to the best of your ability. A few elements to consider
Noise - I love music but can rarely listen to anyone singing as find them quite distracting. Therefore, I have my 'work playlists' to keep me in my work flow.
Light - I mentioned the importance of natural light in my article last week - The Great Return - wherever you are working from in your home please do ensure you have as much natural light as much as possible.
Don't work in your bedroom. I know for so many people this is a necessary evil as they have no-where else to work from. But it can be incredibly detrimental on your sleep and therefore your health. Our bedrooms are for sleep and sexy times only, if we start working or watching things or even reading our brains begin to associate our beds and bedrooms with other activities making it incredibly hard to fully switch off and get a solid night's sleep. If you are struggling to sleep then have a read of my article to Switch off to Sleep.
Desk set up and posture - it's worth investing in an office chair which offers you the best support as well as taking a DSE test to make sure you are sat or stood correctly. Your neck, shoulders, back, hips - basically your entire body will thank you.
How hot are you? Now don't get any ideas! (I'm sure you look fabulous) However, this is about your room temperature - too hot and you will begin to lose concentration and feel somnolent, too cold and you may find muscles tightening up, your wonderfully corrected posture going to pot and suffering all sorts of aches & pains.
Get some nature involved. Preferably a scene you can look out on out of the window, or plants on and around your desk. I'm not the best at keeping house plants alive but I have one gorgeous cactus that is refusing to die and cheers me up. He's called Charlie by the way. Get more tips on how to Bring Nature Into Your Work.
What distracts you? This can range from your children, your pets your house mates, your family members, social media, instant messenger, incoming emails, outside noise such as next door's builders - whatever is within your control try to minimise these as much as possible. Whether it's a 'do not disturb' hour or two, closing down email and Slack, muting all pings etc. These all disrupt our working flow as they are our avoidance strategies. Want to learn more about these and procrastination? Look no further: Prevent Procrastination in 6 Easy Steps.
Establishing your Working Rhythm & flow
If you are still struggling to get into a work flow then these following techniques may well be the 'way in'
Do the least enjoyable or hardest of your tasks first. This is the classic 'eat the frog' analogy - take on your worst task on your to do list and just do it. It frees up your day for more enjoyable things, you will feel a huge sense of achievement or at least relief once you have done it and ticked it off your list.
If you feel that you have far too much on or that you are drowning in tasks and 'to do' lists then try the 1-3-5 rule. Select 1 major task, 3 medium tasks and 5 small chores to do in one day. Start with the beast then move down the list with the three middling to do's ending with the 5 simple tasks.
I've written about the Pomodoro Technique before and most people have heard of it - but have you given a proper try? I hadn't for ages until I was really stuck with a project involving multiple spreadsheets (literally my living hell) The Pomodoro Technique was my saviour as the short 20 minute bursts of work focused my mind to get on with it. Learn how here.
Take 2 mins to celebrate a win or commiserate about a mistake. But that's it. Not more than 2 minutes of self-congratulations and no more than 120 seconds of beating yourself up.
Your Wind Down
The biggest issue and concern clients who work form home come to me with is the difficulty they have in switching off from work at the end of the day or week.
We've all been there and often our colleagues and bosses are not helpful as they seem to be constantly 'on'. If you are a boss sending emails in the evenings or over the weekends or even at stupid o'clock in the morning - stop. Think about the effect this is having on your employees.
To help you switch off try the following tips to see which works for you - take at least a few weeks with each one to see how it embeds into the end of your working day:
USB at the end of your day by unplugging - literally unplug your laptop/computer and close it down. Switch off all other devices - yes I mean your phone and tablet - no more annoying pings. Pack everything away. Breathe - either through meditation or some breathing exercises such as inhaling for 4 counts, holding your breath for 4 counts and exhaling for 4 counts. Do this 3 times and then increase the counts to 5 and 6 if you feel you can.
Reflect on your day by asking yourself a few questions - pick 3 per day:
What was one success you had today - small or large?
What is one learning you have taken from today?
What one kind thing did you do for someone today?
What kind thing that was done for you?
What is one thing you are grateful for today?
Identify one goal for tomorrow.
There's also the classic 3 Good Things exercise where you write down in detail all about 3 good things that happened during your day and why they were good.
Create an evening wind down routine - a walk, stretch, exercise class, reading, cooking - whatever it may be do it consistently and preferably not involving a screen.
Now this last one may sound a bit odd but to truly get of work mode consider changing your clothes, the music you had on, move to a different area of your home. You are telling your brain that work is over so everything associated with work needs to disappear until the next working day. Several of my clients now do a 'pretend' commute to and from work - a walk or bike ride to help getting in and out of work mode.
Be patient and take this one step at a time. If you want to establish a healthy working at home life then consider your lifestyle in conjunction with your work and if you are craving life-work balance then don't hesitate to get in touch to see how I can help.