Welcome to the second in our new series of short blogs to help you stay safe, sane and supported during the current crisis.

As we move rapidly into a new era in working practice, we thought it would be useful to consider some of the challenges of working remotely and how we can overcome them.

Making space

When we are using our homes as our offices (and visa versa!), it can be difficult to find the quiet space we need to focus on work. And if we live with other people there are a whole host of potential distractions that can undermine our concentration and motivation.

It can help to create a dedicated space within the home where you plan to carry out your work. Setting a boundary and protecting this space for work will be important. So, if the space is normally a shared area of your home, make an agreement to use it undisturbed at certain times. Put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door or a notice on your desk, so other members of the household are clear that you are busy. This will be particularly important if you need to make calls or hold video meetings and you don’t want someone banging out Für Elise on the piano in the background!

Make a timetable setting out your hours of work and times for breaks. If you are sharing parenting duties with your partner create a timetable together and support one another to ensure that you both keep to it, whilst also allowing for some flexibility in the system – sometimes the needs of your family will have to come first.

Managing motivation

It will be hard to maintain motivation at times, particularly if you can hear housemates or family members enjoying some free time around you. Our motivation can also be easily undermined by uncertainty. There may be changing priorities at work and this can lead to confusion about what we need to do, or how we should be working. You might be distracted by worries about the current crisis and what it means for you and your family.

To manage your motivation, it is important to work out what helps you to gear up. Try setting yourself clear goals each day, ensuring your targets are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited. Put time frames in place for each task, ensure you take regular breaks, and reward yourself when you meet a target you have set. But try not to beat yourself up if you get side-tracked, as negative thinking can lead to anxiety and low mood which can further undermine motivation.

Scheduling work and rest time

Scheduling time for work will help you to create space for it. Knowing when you are planning to work and when you are planning to take a break will help you organise your time, keep motivation high and reduce boredom.

Remember, breaks are important to give you time for recovery from the challenges of work. So use your break time to do something you enjoy, to connect with people through social media, go for a walk, do a jigsaw puzzle, bake a cake, read a book or fix things. Take time to relax, do a mindfulness meditation or listen to music.

Working from home can cause the boundaries between the personal and the professional to become blurred. It can be hard to resist the urge to keep on working, so ensure you set a time to stop working each day.

Accessing support

Working from home is lonely. There are no ad hoc opportunities for connection with others, to have a laugh or distract you from the daily grind.

It is important to find new and creative ways of accessing support and connection by phone or social media. Try using video calls for virtual tea/coffee breaks with your colleagues during the working day. These can be opportunities to support one another and share your experiences of coping with the challenges we are all facing, as well as discussing work-related topics.

Managing distractions

When we are at work or college it can be easy to get distracted by the general hustle and bustle of the busy environment. However, at home, there are different distractions: domestic tasks, social media, gaming, television, eating, drinking alcohol or playing with the cat.

We may be distracted by worries about the pandemic, over-focusing on symptoms or welfare of friends and relatives. It is tempting to keep checking news updates for information and advice.

Keeping focused and staying on task when faced with these distractions requires effort:

  • First, it can help if you learn to notice when you are becoming distracted. What are some early signs and symptoms?
  • Try writing down your ‘go-to’ distractions and unhelpful coping behaviours so you can recognise them quickly.
  • When you notice yourself doing these things, take a break. Get up and do something else. Set a time limit and then go back and try working again.

To give yourself the best chance of making a success of home working, ensure you look after yourself during this difficult time, recognise any barriers that undermine your efforts and allow yourself some time to develop ways of managing these barriers.

Our first article in the series discussed how to manage anxiety during the crisis. If you missed it or would like to refresh your memory, you can find it here.