I’m not and have never been an extrovert; I’d quite happily not go out for a few days. Some weeks, the only place I go is the supermarket and the gym now that I work from home. I’m not a complete hermit though. Unlike a lot of introverts, I like going outside – to the beach with my notebook or around Cornwall with my camera.
I guess I’m quite a mild introvert – someone who has no problem staying in for days but who will eventually succumb to cabin fever – just a lot later than most people. Going out is something I need to make myself do especially in winter where SAD is a very real threat.
This pandemic, unprecedented in my lifetime, and probably several more too, is foisting work from home on a lot of people. I confess I’ve watched the reactions and friends and family confined to working from home with a sense of confusion. Cabin fever seems to be a thing after a matter of days in some cases. So I guess this is me doing my bit – helping people not used to being cooped up inside adjust to this necessary step to protect their loved ones.
Create an Office Space
The distance between your place of work and your home is a mental as well as a physical state. It’s why those who work in certain shops often choose to shop somewhere other than where they work. People who always work from home like freelancers find disconnecting one of the hardest adjustments to make. This is because the office is the home space. You can combat this by creating a “work zone”. Clear a desk to turn into a home office, somewhere you don’t have to look at while not working. We have an office room, but it could be a remote corner of your living room or the spare bedroom. Just make sure to use it only for work.
If you are in a country currently under lockdown (and many already are with those currently not likely to do so any time soon) they need to understand that despite being at home, you are working. That’s why it’s important to have your home office in a separate and quiet space.
Stick To Your Office Routine
The major benefit of working from home is adjusting your routine. Work hours that suit your body clock, work around your parental/caring commitments etc. If you’re not used to this and don’t expect this current state to be permanent, there is little point trying to make yourself adjust. It’ll just throw you out of whack when the pandemic is over and it’s safe for you to go to work again. Stick to your routine including hours and breaks, with a definite cut off time when you stop work.
Check in With Colleagues
For years, your boss has told you that there is no infrastructure, technology, budget or whatever, to let people work from home large-scale. Sorry, this is bullshit. I have clients in California, Sweden, Eastern Europe, and Saudi Arabia as well as the four corners of the UK. In the past I’ve had clients in China, Malaysia, and Australia, Russia, Brazil, and even South Africa. I have no met a single one of these clients in person and we have managed to keep in touch just fine through email, internet direct messaging, Slack communities and video conferencing. That technology exists so use it to talk to your boss, not just for formal catch-up, but office chitchat too during your breaks. This will break the monotony, create a sense of continuity, and break the isolation.
Do Something Fun after Normal Cut-off Time
I have to keep repeating this because it’ll be the most difficult thing for you to do. Whatever time you normally finish (and I’m assuming it’s 5pm), switch your work devices off and walk away. This is your time now so go and do something fun. Read a book, watch early evening TV, play with the kids or switch on the X-Box/Playstation. You need that mental disconnect to do something for yourself.
This also includes your coffee breaks and lunch break. You need this downtime to recharge and come back refreshed. Take your breaks; your body and your brain will thank you later.
Go Outside – No, Not Like That!
In the UK, theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants were ordered to close 20th March. We were also strongly recommended not to go outside to social gatherings. Despite that, this weekend just gone, media reported large groups of people congregating on beaches and in national parks.
There are ways you can go outside during lockdown; you are not confined inside. If you have a garden, use it. If you don’t have a garden but have a balcony, use it. See the spontaneous concerts happening in Italy of people on balconies congregating in the mornings on their individual balconies to sing together. You need Vitamin D and the best (free!) source is sunlight. Even countries on complete lockdown do not confine people to their homes 24/7. In Italy and Greece, one person is allowed out for vital errands only.
I know this is a hard time for a lot of people and the signs suggest it won’t get better any time soon. Follow these tips and feel free to reach out!