Macaulay Culkin’s family didn’t foresee they would leave him alone at Christmas, just as no one could have predicted on March 23rd 2020, that the following 22 months would see so many people working from home.
The impact of the rapid move to home working has had a massive and varied effect on people. Some have found it a blessing, with no commute, flexibility to juggle other life demands and the ability to focus completely on their work. Others, not so much.
If you find yourself in the ‘not really loving it category’, what can you do to turn the situation around to your benefit? I am not suggesting outrageous exploits akin to Macaulay’s antics – but am encouraging you to take back some control of the situation.
Always keen to learn more about language, I sought out the meaning for both ‘home’ and ‘alone’. Interestingly, ‘home’ originally meant a village or estate where lots of people were (the meaning of ham – an Old English word). ‘Alone’ is defined as ‘having no one else present’. No wonder then that those who are home alone feel disconnected.
All good, I hear you say, but how do you turn this situation around? Well, here are a few pointers to set you on your way.
Get to know yourself
It’s not easy, the whole getting to know yourself thing. Just the saying alone can be confusing – what does it even mean?
In the context of working from home alone, it means having a strong sense of self-awareness, which includes knowing your strengths and weakness. Although we still need a high level of self-awareness in the workplace, we are guided by written and unwritten rules, expectations, and a rhythm for breaks and meetings. Working from home removes many of these structures that guide us; so, how do we reconstruct and adapt them to the situation many of us now find ourselves in?
First, try asking yourself lots of questions to really get to know ‘you’.
· Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
· When are you most creative and focused?
· When are you most disengaged and can’t be bothered?
· How does procrastination make you feel?
· What’s your motivation to finish the task at hand?
Develop the ability to be your best objective and most constructive critic. This skill will stand the test of time when the pandemic is a distant memory; it is a true gift to yourself.
There are lots of resources out there to help you with this journey, and I’ve listed two below that I’ve found especially useful.
The Develop Good Habits website has some useful materials and pulls together a lot of information in one place to help you work on your self-awareness.
The School of Life is another useful place to look and has a wide range of information.
Love your space
As well as focusing on the innate ‘you’, look at your environment. The separation between work and home has been eroded, so a reassessment of how your personal space affects your productivity has become even more crucial.
One of the many benefits of working from home is that you can control your environment. This means you can control the artwork on your wall, what plants you can introduce and where you can place them. It even means you can regulate the smells of the space you work in, whether they be from essential oils, room fresheners, brewing coffee, open windows, or the wet dog having just been walked in the rain. The point is, learn to love your space and make it your own.
If you need some inspiration and guidance, The Muse has a useful online piece focusing on home working and creating your optimum environment.
With less to structure our lives, the need for a self-imposed routine is never greater.
There are many tools and techniques to explore that are tried and tested to maximise output and help with time management, for example, the Pomodoro technique or the 52/17 rule. These may sound a little overwhelming, but in essence, they are both ways of having a structured, focused approach to work. They recognise that the brain works best in short, intense spells with regular breaks.
The Pomodoro (which means tomato in Italian) is a method that concentrates on staying focused and mentally fresh. Its success is founded on encouraging short work sessions alternated with brief and regular breaks.
The 52/17 rule recommends 52 minutes of working followed by 17 minutes of rest to recharge. Its success is based on this strict working-resting ratio which might suit those who become so focused and engrossed in their work that they forget to take proper breaks.
If you are interested in increasing your productivity in all areas of your life, the links below give a quick summary of the key points of both.
I work to a 40/20 rule – and achieve so much more when I am disciplined enough to do it! Once again, this is all about you and finding your best approach.
Ditch the guilt
If at any time you are struggling with working from home, talk to your friends, family, partner, boss and work colleagues about your challenges and how they are affecting you. It is more than likely that some of these individuals will also be experiencing the same or similar issues.
Mental health is as important as physical health
We wouldn’t hide a broken leg, so why do we feel the need to hide the mental aspect of our well-being?
We can all become part of the positive change needed to make it acceptable to talk about our mental and emotional well-being by opening up. The more we do this, the more we offer others the opportunity to do the same. And it’s important not to feel guilty that working from home is often a challenge; more people are struggling than you might think. It is not a fault or failing – it’s just the way it is.
Talking regularly helps to stop things from building to breaking point. If you are in a good place with things, then a weekly check-in can be a good maintenance regime. However, if the place you are in is not quite so positive, then a daily conversation can be extremely helpful in supporting you, as well as making sure that you don’t slide any further into a negative place.
If you’ve found this short blog interesting and want to explore the topic some more, you might find these two articles interesting. The first focuses on the impact of home working on the scientific community. The second is a scientific research project.
There is so much out there about this topic, I have only scratched the surface. Be curious, explore more about how you can help yourself. I can guarantee that it will only benefit you in all areas of your life – well beyond this pandemic.
From all of us here at PA EDitorial, we hope you had a fabulous Christmas and wish you all the best for 2022.