As Team OCCA enter week three of the Covid-19 lockdown, we find ourselves moving from the practicalities of setting up & maintaining business as usual at home, to the reality that working from home in this situation is definitely not business as usual!
Workers throughout the UK are all challenged with new routines. They’re overstimulated by the constant news and overwhelmed as they try to be as productive & connected as possible – all the while, focusing on keeping families & the NHS safe.
In no time at all, we’ve gone from the familiar life as we knew it, to being thrust into working from home without a choice, having only our closest family around us. As the reality of the lockdown is starting to hit, we’re all looking to work out the best routines & schedules, while wondering wistfully “when will life be normal again?”
The New Normal
In the second of our series on WFH, [read part one here] our team share their experiences and what they’ve discovered over the past three weeks of working from home in a lockdown.
This week we’re discussing the pros & cons of the current situation along with our thoughts and strategies for making it work. As with many of you, we’re all adjusting differently to being at home 24/7, and doing what we can to get into a healthy & productive routine.
We’ve discovered that we’re enjoying:
- The lack of commute
- A more flexible working day
- Our virtual catch-ups each morning
- Being at home with our family
However, we’re not such big fans of:
- The lack of personal contact at the studio and with colleagues
- Juggling school children, housework & work-work at home
- Not having full access to all our physical resources & sample library
- Being at home with family 😊
Sticking to a Routine
We’ve found that being disciplined and sticking to a routine really helps add structure to our days, making us more productive. For most of us, getting up, having lunch and switching off from work at the same time as normal is preferable to having no fixed routine.
Exercising or going for a walk during the day or after work has become more important to most of us too. It’s not only helping us stay physically healthy, but we’re also feeling the mental health benefits.
In the evenings we’re cooking up a storm, playing with the children and going for walks. We’re also tuning into a mix of movies & TV shows, or catching up with family & friends for some fun activities on Facetime or Zoom.
If your adjusting to the new realities of working from home too, hopefully, some of our musings are just what you need to navigate your own way through the lockdown:
Q. How have you found working from home so far?
Jessica: working from home has its benefits – I can sit and work wearing my slippers and it’s fab not having to commute. It is a bit of a struggle not seeing other people all day. However, it’s great that we have Microsoft Team’s and we’re set up for a virtual catch up every morning to start the day.
Lauren: At first, I found it really strange as I’m used to getting up every morning & heading out on my daily commute. I’ve found the key is to keep my morning routine intact in terms of timing. I didn’t do this on the first day & by lunchtime, I felt like I hadn’t achieved what I’d planned which was frustrating. I find that lots of coffee always helps too!
Discovering personal ways to stay productive, creative and energised is key to thriving in the current working from home situation
Jim: I have school-age children at home and I’m finding the distractions challenging. I miss going to work, my train journey and the structure of the day in the studio – and I miss my lovely colleagues!
Karen: It’s a challenge working at home with the kids, especially as they have a lot of schoolwork to do. Each day, I’m managing their workload, keeping them on track whilst getting through my own work too.
My personal 3 top tips for working at home in this situation are:
- Keep as much structure in the day as possible – start at the usual time, break for lunch as normal
- Limit distractions – no loud TV or music!
- Use your lunch hour in a more productive way than when in the office. Eat lunch, then do a few of the household chores, hang washing out, vacuum - wash up the wine glasses from the night before!
Q. How’s your new WFH set up working for you?
Rob: I have a dedicated office/study upstairs. I am, however, planning to extend my desk to provide more layout space and improve the ergonomics of my workstation.
Zoe: I’m set up in my living room in front of the window. I have my work computer & chair home with me – and as always, a cup of tea close by. We’re currently renovating our house, so I am also surrounded by tools and building materials.
Jessica: It is quite cosy and compact but I’m making it work. I re-organised my spare room to position my desk at the window. There’s nothing better than daylight to keep me focussed – and I enjoy seeing that there is still life outside of these 4 walls!
Emma: I’ve taken over my husband’s study/our spare bedroom as I needed a proper desk for my work computer… Josh is now gallantly working with one of our garden chairs & table and his laptop in the living room.
Jennifer: Initially I worked from my kitchen table while I waited for a new desk to arrive. Being in the same room for 12hrs a day through breakfast, lunch and dinner, it was difficult to switch off. However, I’m now settled at a new desk set up in our spare bedroom looking out on to the garden.
Jim: I’ve taken over my children’s playroom and am surrounded
Q. Karen, you’re at home with school children – how are you finding it?
Karen: It is really challenging as there are many demands on my time. I think the best advice I can give is to be as organised as possible. Plan the children’s day, as well as your own as best you can. Keep them informed of the format of the day – this prevents them from asking every 5 mins “what’s next Mummy”.
Let them know when snack time is and try to stick to healthy snacks. Make sure you add in some fun activities too eg build a den or make origami boats to race in the bath. This weekend, instead of our usual Easter glamping away, we’re camping in the garden!
One key piece of advice is to make sure the school day ends at 3pm on the dot!!!
Q. Jennifer, you previously worked freelance from home - how are you finding it?
Jennifer: It’s been tough. After working freelance from home for many years I love being in an office environment and working with a team. Being at home reminds me of all the things I didn’t enjoy about working independently due to the lack of structure, limited contact and support.
The Teams app has been great for keeping up with everyone virtually – it also really makes me appreciate how well the office flows when we’re all in the same space and are able to quickly ask for another opinion – even if that is non-work related, we’re still part of a team that looks to help and support each other.
Q. Lauren, you're at home with your husband - how are you finding it?
Lauren: It’s working now, however, day one was a challenge! My husband generally works internationally 3 days a week and when he’s not working away, he works from home. He normally has the house to himself and then suddenly, I’m working from home too! Despite working in separate rooms, there was a bit of an adjustment required.
However, we’ve now figured out a simple structure that works for us :
- Quick coffee break together at 11am providing neither of us has calls scheduled
- Lunch together at 1pm
- Keeping our doors closed – this is key as Gary prefers to work in silence and I prefer to work with background music, so we found this really helps. He’s also on Skype calls all day & apparently, I’m very loud when I'm on the phone 😉
9 Top Tips for Thriving During Lockdown
Team OCCA know just how challenging the current situation is. If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration around adjusting to working from home at this time, we’ve taken our personal experiences, along with key resources and guidance on the topic, to share with you our Top 9 Tips on how to thrive – not just survive – during this lockdown.
Set up a dedicated workspace you can use every day – one that works for you and your family. Try to separate workspace from home space as much as you can to avoid feeling imprisoned in one room all day.
For physical & mental health, try and get some exercise most days. Why not get into the routine of taking a morning walk at the same time each day as though you’re walking to work?
This is a great opportunity to use your normal commute time to be more productive around your home. Think about using it to plan & prep meals, sort out the children's activities or do some housework.
Enjoy the option of flexible working from time to time, but where possible, stick to your normal workday timetable / routine. You'll feel more in control of your day and it’s better for your productivity.
Set goals and plan your day with a virtual white board or a traditional to do list. Keep it achievable & realistic and check it off each evening as you plan what you'll be working on the next day.
Stay personal & connected with your team, clients, friends & family with frequent video calls on apps such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. It's a great way to stay positive and lift your spirits.
Working with children at home is tough. Set structure & boundaries with the family that give you time and space to concentrate as required, while also being accessible as needed.
Take regular short breaks during the day to refresh & catch up with friends & family and don’t forget to take your lunch hour to eat healthy and get out the house for some fresh air.
Avoid the overwhelm of the relentless news cycle during the day. It's too distracting and affects your productivity. Set a time to catch up on what's happening once a day.