Three steps to adapt to working from home

In March 2020 it is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population is confined to their homes in some form or other. For millions of workers this means having to adapt to working from home. In this post you will read about the 3-step approach to make that change a bit smoother and a little less painful. Even after this current crisis has ended, there may be times in the future where we need to make a radical and sudden shift in the way we work due to external circumstances. This could be anything ranging from unemployment or re-location, to geo-political events. So, we have put together the advice and approach in this post to be helpful in any situation where we need to change the way we work.

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Step 1 – Acknowledge

The first step to dealing with any big change is to acknowledge what is happening. If we don’t do this, we may get stuck in a little bit of denial, which will prevent us from dealing with the present situation effectively. Here are examples of what you can acknowledge in the current situation:

  1. For a lot of people right now, being asked to work at home full time is not voluntary. This is a decision made for us, not by us.
  2. This situation may last a long time. At the moment, authorities and businesses are talking about isolation as ‘indefinite’.
  3. ‘Working from home’ is not the same as ‘being at home’. There will be obstacles you will need to overcome, from dealing with family members to the state of your home internet connection.
  4. You will need to adapt by making changes to both home and work life. Put another way; you will need a new set of rules for both.

There will be other things you need to acknowledge – everybody’s situation is different. Spending a little time considering what is different or missing from your new home working situation is a good way to prepare to make some changes, which is our next step.

Remember that difficult periods can also be
personally rewarding. As someone once said, “the worst that
can happen is that you might learn something about yourself”.

Step 2 – Make Changes

Now that you have acknowledged the situation, you’re ready to make the changes you need in order to adapt to it. A good way to approach this is to make a list of difficulties/things you miss and then come up with counter-measures to each one. We did this exercise recently in our own team, and we discovered that although our team is made up of experienced remote/home workers, they still have challenges that they need to work on. Here are some of the things from their lists:

Difficulties I Face/Things I Miss:

  • Making a mental and physical separation of work and home life
  • Knowing how to organise my day
  • Being able to stop and tune-out from work
  • Seeing and socialising with colleagues
  • Little routines e.g. morning coffee with a croissant in the canteen!
  • Interruptions and distractions from family members
  • Feeling like I’m at work rather than at home
  • Team huddles and bouncing ideas off each other

Counter-Measures:

  • Find a dedicated space to work (can be anywhere) and put on work clothes in the morning
  • Start the day with a ‘stand up’ team meeting on Skype – hearing others’ priorities can help us shape our own priorities and organise our days
  • Set up rules for family members e.g. knock on your home office door if they want something, put a sign up ‘Can talk/In a meeting/Busy until 11.’ etc.
  • Stick to your old routines where you can e.g. schedule a coffee break to go grab a coffee somewhere local
  • Use technology to connect to colleagues and agree how to use them, e.g. WhatApp group for idea bouncing, Zoom for team meetings
  • Make time for fun with colleagues to relieve boredom and lift your mood (e.g. sharing internet memes, funny videos, doing online challenges)
  • Talk often to colleagues about feelings on working at home
  • Fix a daily schedule and stick to it (share it with family members and colleague so that they can help you)

Step 3 – Look After Yourself

Sudden changes to our lives can be traumatic. In Step 1 we advised spending time acknowledging the change. Step 3 is all about managing your mental and physical health through a period of sudden change. Here are some practical ways you can do this:

Get some exercise

Even if you don’t wear a fitness gadget on your wrist, you will soon realise that working from home means moving much less compared to being in the office. So, plan some exercise into your daily routine, even just a 30 minute walk at lunchtime can help. Research shows that lack of exercise and fresh air has a real impact on our mental capabilities.

Ask for help

From colleagues and especially your manager. This could be asking for solutions to technical problems, or for a bit of slack if the home/work balance is getting overwhelming. We are all in the same boat and asking for and giving help and support is what we need to do now. You can read our tips and advice for managers in the post How to Lead a Team that is Working from Home.

Be kind to yourself

You are not going to make this change successfully in one day or even one month. It’s ok to be frustrated, angry, impatient and it’s healthy to consider the emotions you are feeling and where they come from. It’s also important to understand the emotions of those around us – whether family or colleagues – and be kind and understanding of those people too. You can find tips and advice on dealing with the emotional side of home-working in the post Dealing with Loneliness and Isolation When Working from Home.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and please share what works for you in the comments. If you would like to know more about our experience of helping teams with remote working, feel free to contact us. We also offer training on managing your focus, energy and impact when working from home.

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