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Working from home – Keeping the balance guest blog

By Annika Ramsing, Chief HR Officer

For many weeks now we have been working from home and it can be very tiring, frustrating, invigorating, draining, isolating, stressful, challenging, liberating – the words describing the situation varies depending on who you are, what your situation in life is, what mood you are in and what your preference is and level of self-discipline. My personal perspective is that the emotions described above varies from day to day and hour to hour.

So, what can we do to help ourselves from a work perspective when your home has now become your place of work and the border has been even more blurred? In another words – what does “out of office” mean?

Get dressed 😊

It might seem like a simple tip – but it is a crucial one. It can be tempting to keep your pyjamas on all day – I don’t know about you but it feels like you get a slower start and less productive whilst still in your night gown or in your sweats.

Designated work place or home office

I’ll be the first to admit that I do not practise as I preach – I do not have a designated work place but I so long for one! If you’re used to going into an office each day, the separation between work and home is physical, and you want to try to recreate that as much as possible with a designated physical workspace at home. You may scoff at the idea of a separate room for a home office if you live in a small apartment or if you are sharing the space with family members. I’m writing this in the room that sometimes is my office, kitchen and dining room – all in one. Your workspace doesn’t have to be its own room – but it should feel separate from the rest of your home as possible.
Entering our workspace will help you turn “on” at the beginning of the day and get down to work. On the flipside, leaving your workspace will also help you turn “off” at the end of the day and fully disengage (Oh Lord I really do not practise as I preach!!). That’s why it’s also important not to spread yourself across your home – while it might seem great to be able to move from desk to couch to bed, if you let your laptop creep into your downtime space, it makes it harder to keep your work separate from your home life.

Keep clearly defined work hours

Just as you designate and separate your physical workspace, you should be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not. You’ll get your best work done and be most ready to transition back to the office if you stick with your regular hours. Plus, if your role is collaborative, being on the same schedule as your co-workers makes everything much easier.

The biggest difference between working from home and working in the office is that you are in charge of your environment and have to treat yourself like an employee. This means holding yourself accountable, but also recognizing when enough is enough, just as a good manager might. If you feel yourself extending your work hours because you aren’t doing anything in the evening…tell yourself it’s time to put work away, recharge, and start tomorrow with a fresh mind. Trust me, the work will be there in the morning. If you live with other people, this separation is even more critical. Communicate with the people you live with to establish boundaries so you can cut down on distractions during the workday—and then disconnect and give the people you care about your full attention. Having a separate time and space to work will allow you to be more present in your home life.

Transitions into work and out of work

Your morning (or evening) commute not only gets you to work – from one physical location to another – but it also gives your brain time to prepare for work. Just because you are not traveling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carve out equivalent routines to help you ease into your workday. Could be listening to music that you normally listen to in the car, train or on your bike. It could be doing a training routine in your home or outside at a certain time signalling “just before work starts”. Same routine needs to be defined when it is time to stop working. Walk the dog, walk yourself or start cooking. When this activity has been initiated it is time to stop.

Don’t get too sucked into the news

Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. And if you’re working remotely because of coronavirus, checking in on COVID-19 updates is going to be at the front of our mind. It is good to stay informed, of course, but it is also easy to scroll yourself into an anxious mess. Maybe decide set times for any breaks you take and stick to them. Also a downside to working in front of your computer all day with no natural face to face breaks and the smartphone giving you news updates is that your eyes can get so tired that you get what is called “eye tiredness” or “eye migraine”.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

If you usually don’t work from home, chances are there will be some bumps in the road if you have to suddenly go fully remote. The key to steering through these bumps is communication – especially with your manager and direct reports. You’ll also encounter unique challenges as you try to do your job remotely, which can vary greatly depending on the type of work you do. Do not hesitate to reach out to the same people you would usually turn to for help – even if you are not in the same building as them.

Don’t forget to socialize

When the whole office suddenly starts working from home, you’re cutting off a lot of the casual social interactions you’re used to having throughout the day that helps you feel less lonely and break up the monotony of work. We tend to forget to reflect upon that we need to be around others because it is the small talk and random fire alarms that keep your days feeling unique and prevent that hamster-wheel feeling. When you work from home, you don’t have that. You might have concerns or worries that you usually vent with your co-workers or friends face to face. This needs to be done even though we are not meeting each other in person. We are all facing the same challenges, the same worries since we are sitting in the exact same boat regardless of restrictions imposed by our home country. The virus is present in all countries.

Don’t forget to reflect

Sometimes we worry about things we actually cannot affect or resolve. We seek answers to questions that cannot be answered with a yes/no or a date. None of us know when we will be able to get back to the office – but we can make plans to make it as safe as possible when it is time for a step by step return. None of us know if we will get infected. Many of us wonder if we’ve already had the Corona virus. Trying to find answers to questions that are unanswerable is very energy draining and creates frustration. It is what it is and we are all doing our very best within our frame of influence.

In conclusion, let us help each other by reaching out, try to give good tips on how to cope and stay sane no matter if you live in France, Norway, Sweden, Uk, Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Austria or Hong Kong.

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