Home working Hints

By Jackie Elliman

I’m impressed by the people on social media who are treating what could be a long stretch indoors positively. Nothing wrong with being excited about the idea of having time to read that novel, finally complete an arts/craft project, sort the sock drawer etc. But now we really are in social lockdown most of us will find it really helpful to keep a clearer distinction between “work” time(which may be the day job or personal projects) and “leisure” time.

Thanks to our wonderful NHS I’ve spent much of the last three years in and out of hospital/convalescence whilst they remove and treats odd growths that could otherwise have turned into serious illnesses. Not the most fun time of my life but I’ve learnt a lot about homeworking, so I thought it might be useful to share a few hints and tips for those that are new to it.

My approach isn’t going to be for everyone. When I freelanced for several years the first thing I did was work out how I could afford a desk-space so I went into work every day. Despite being perceived as a bit of an introvert I know I actually like to be in places where there are people, I just like to be in a corner, observing, not in the middle of the action.

If, unlike me, you love to work from your bed, work in your jimjams and revel in being able to fire off emails at 2 am, relax, you’ve sussed what works for you, you can give the rest of this a miss.

Work can be useful, really useful. If, like me, you are lucky enough to spend much of your time talking to lovely people who make lovely art then it’s almost social. Even if you don’t have that it will help you retain a sense of identity, purpose and give your day some shape. Giving your day some shape, with routine is important for most of us. For me it has turned out to be essential. You’ll find a way to work this out for yourself. It’s been forced on me by the need to be up in time for meds but it’s turned out so useful because it gets me up in the morning and means I go on automatic pilot to work time, pretty much as one does when setting out for a commute. I have a mental shape to my day and I do make lists but no more than I did at the office. At the other end of the spectrum I have a friend who diarises and checks off targets in detail. This rigidity has given her the structure to set up and grow a home-based creative business.

Follow Government advice and go for a walk once a day. I try and do this straight after breakfast so if I get over-absorbed in work (easily done) I have had a dose of fresh air, greenery (I’m lucky enough to live by a park and take conscious joy in it) and got my step count for the day at least started. Tiny targets like steps also give you a sense of achievement. Look at the sky, watch the trees change with the seasons, enjoy the sunshine when we have it. Then you are set up to get your head down for the rest of the day.

Think long and hard as to what level of dressing works for you at home. I have three levels – work, home, slob out. Those of you that know me in real life will be unsurprised to know that I really miss the chance to be a bit more formal but it doesn’t feel right at home for me. If putting on a full business suit makes you open the laptop though, go for it! Contrariwise, I would caution against getting in to your wind-down leisure clothes till early evening. The key message of this piece is if you’re not going out the distinction between work time and leisure time needs to be clearly marked.

Do take advantage of being at home to cook decent meals for yourself. Healthier than a Gregg’s vegan bake and another thing that brings a small sense of achievement.

Now that the need to really socially isolate has become a reality, I think the need to maintain a semblance of normality by keeping work time and leisure time is likely to be even more important. I’ve also realised that if you can’t go out and have fun at least we are in the age of social media and can stay connected. Video call friends and family, carry on conversations on Facebook and Twitter, indulge in Netflix etc, if you’ve worked hard in a structured, disciplined way all day you’ve earned it. Try and make time for proper conversations with family and close friends though, don’t let them vanish into a string of memes and gifs!

And don’t panic, don’t overstock, see what you are fit enough to do to help others. Go carefully in these strange times.