How To Not Lose the Plot Flying Solo WFH During COVID-19
Three tips to make it easier WFH by yourself
Are you living alone and suddenly finding yourself talking to the toaster (then making a snack, then giving the toaster a quick clean, then checking memes on whether it’s OK to be talking to the toaster?)
Suddenly everyone is in an extreme situation in their Working From Home (WFH) bubble: there are either too many people in it or not enough! If there is one main bonus to living alone right now it’s not having to be annoyed by people in your home slash office slash entertainment slash house party space. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Because we’re not actually working from home, we are at home during a pandemic trying to get some stuff done (and not go insane). Here are three tips for you.
Forget about mornings
Kidding! We want to tell you to forget about mornings and sleep them away but routine is super important, especially in the morning, even when it feels like Ground Hound Dog day. Psychologist Margie Donlon recommends getting dressed for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Right now, it’s dressing for a party of one in trackies but imagine you are working around others and dress for them, it helps you to feel good about the start of your day, even if they can’t see you. Also, go ‘to work’ at the same regular spot so that work and home life become so entwined you get nothing done in either department. If you don’t have a room or desk you can work from, then split up the dining room table into a working half and eating/reading/relaxing half so that you still have a place to do one and not the other. If you used to commute then use that time as a bonus and do something for you: exercise, make a kickass breakfast, play with the cat, get some reading in, or call someone and chat about something other than work, then try to start your workday at the same time every day.
Become a slacker
But not really! Slack’s always been good for sharing details about projects or workstreams but, right now, remote work teams all over the world are using Slack to also stay connected on a different level - the not-going-mad-at-home level. It’s an easy way to keep conversations going amongst teams and also have some laughs, which we all need more of, so get slacking if you’re not already. It’s vital to crank up the comms and Zoom and Skype have never been so popular for meetings. Some remote teams are also finding coworking helps, where two of you work independently on your own stuff but keep Zoom or Messenger or Skype or Facetime up for an hour or two so it feels like you're working side by side. You can make comments to each other, share frustration, throw ideas around but also get on with what you’re doing. Alone, but together. Plus it reduces the number of emails you send as you solve things on the spot.
Focus like a tomato
Focus is hard during any kind of crisis because it’s easy to let thoughts wander off into WTF is happening to the world! Then you’re back talking to the toaster. It’s completely normal to find it hard to stay focused on what you’re doing or meant to be doing in anxious and uncertain times, so cut yourself some slack. Try using the Pomodoro (tomato) technique, where you break down any chunk of work into 25-minute slots then have a five-minute break. You can find apps here that help you do it, including Focus Keeper on Apple, or just use your watch.
And during those five-minute breaks, Margie Donlon suggests doing a repetitive task with left-to-right movements (knitting, colouring-in, painting on an iPad, jump roping, running, drumming, hopping, hand-writing yourself a note for later). Moving left to right can help you self soothe and keep on top of distress.
Mental health is just as important as washing hands to stay safe. Clearhead is an app to help with wellbeing and they have put together an option for anxiety for COVID-19 too.
If you are really struggling, please reach out to a trusted family member or friend. The Mental Health Foundation has some great tips for looking after mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 here
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