Working from home has become one of the most talked about topics these days. Some people have been doing it for years and for others it became a reality during COVID19 lockdown. I have been working from home some days a week (most days during pregnancy) since more than 6 years. Here are some things that I think work and I try to do most of them (if not all) on wfh days:
- Have a fix time to start work every morning. Set an alarm at least 1 hour before starting work so that you have time to freshen up and have breakfast.
- Dress appropriately for work. As tempting as it can be to stay in lounge wear you will feel more productive if you’re a bit dressed up. For me it’s smart casual or casual wear but if you feel wearing the best formal work wear and red lipstick makes you more confident and efficient then go for it. If you have a formal presentation then dress up a bit more if it helps you deliver better.
- Make sure you have a designated workspace. You should have a proper desk, chair and laptop (plus other required devices e.g. monitor, keyboard if you need them).
- Have a good posture while working and your screen and other equipment should be at the correct height/position. Slouching can be really bad for your neck and back!
- Keep a water bottle and tea/coffee at your desk when you start work. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Go through your diary and make a to do list of what you want to accomplish that day.
- Try to take few minutes break every hour. If you have any existing back and neck issues it’s important to get up and move every 20-30 minutes even for a minute. You can stand for a bit or walk around the room. Standing desks are really good too if you’re interested in working while standing.
- Do get up in your lunch break and eat at a different place other than your desk. Have a light healthy lunch to avoid the afternoon slump. Coffee by the way is best for the afternoon slump.
- Go out for a walk or exercise during your lunch break. You can do some stretching exercises throughout the day too for about a minute or so every hour. Even going up and down the stairs is good.
- Keep crossing the things out that you have accomplished during the day on your to do list. Block your weekly diary with things you cannot complete that day.
- You can tune into your radio on a low volume or some instrumental music if you’re working on some diagrams or documents if it doesn’t distract you.
- As tempting as it can be do not spend time watching telly or using your personal mobile (unless it’s urgent) during office hours.
- Try to be available on work chats and work phone so that you can work with your team members collaboratively.
- Have a set time to finish work and do not fall into the trap of working late as you’re wfh.
- Relax and unwind after work. Make a healthy dinner and watch some telly 🙂
Working from Home with toddlers during a pandemic
Now if you’re a mum and working from home during a pandemic then scrap all the tips given above!!
I had been very good with keeping a work life balance. Had a set work time while my baby was at nursery and then when she’s home completely focusing on her. She had never seen me work on my laptop. She had seen the laptop and called it ‘Mama’s book’ but never knew anything about my work life. At the start of the lockdown she was very confused why is mama spending so much time on her book and not paying full attention to me. Also the nature of my job is multiple zoom calls throughout the day and the only people she’d seen me ever talk to were friends and family. She was so surprised about this other side of me. She initially thought all my female work colleagues were her aunties and she would ask me if they’re mamas and if they are where are their babies 😀 At times I had to leave calls unannounced due to toddler tantrums in the background. More time was needed to prepare lunch and snacks. I have joined calls with ‘Baby Shark’ and ‘Mr Tumble’ on TV in the background. Thankfully my colleagues were always very understanding and supportive.
Oh the mess! That was one of the most overwhelming things of lockdown for me. As my daughter would be at nursery 4 days a week I could do with tidying up the toys 2- 3 times a week and keep the house in the reasonable tidy/clean state. But during the lockdown as I was working all day and she was free to play by herself ALL the toys would be scattered around the living room. Sometimes I could barely find a small spot that I could clear and have a call there. The cleaner couldn’t come so I had to clean over the weekend. The first few weeks were so tiring and overwhelming.
Thankfully my work announced COVID leave for the employees with caring responsibilities or those who couldn’t wfh for some reason. My manager had been very understanding and we agreed on the reduced hours that were manageable for me. I could have taken the 6 months off but I wanted to work and be as effective as I could be. Given the changes that already had to be made during lockdown I wanted to continue my work but if I couldn’t have managed it at all I would have taken complete time off. After a month into lockdown all my tasks became manageable and I started to be a more ‘sane’ ME 🙂 Here are some of the things that worked for me:
- Write down all the roles that you have taken on during lockdown. For me it was full time project manager, stay at home mum and part time cleaner. Clearly 2.5 roles cannot be done by 1 person so you have to let go of some things.
- I started with talking to my manager and reducing my work hours so that I can manage my other roles too.
- I discussed the situation with my husband and we tried to split childcare responsibilities based on who’s on a call and who’s not. If we are both on calls my daughter would prefer to stay with me and I’d like to think it’s because my project and team is more interesting 🙂
- I had not cleaned in the last 7 years (not proud of it) so I had forgotten what and how to do it and was solely dependent on my cleaner. I discussed this with few friends and the best tips were lower your standards and follow Mrs Hinch (the cleaning expert)! A friend was so kind to leave pink stuff, a scourer and Mrs Hinch’s book. This got me so interested in cleaning that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to getting a cleaner again and lose the joy I get in cleaning myself! Another friend suggested cleaning lists. I followed my project manager instincts and divided the tasks into bite size chunks. I now have daily lists, weekly lists, fortnightly lists, 3 monthly and 6 monthly cleaning lists! I can’t promise that my house will be deep cleaned from top to bottom all the time but yes it is at some days/weeks of a month. My husband looks after my daughter while I clean as I rather maintain my cleaning standards than his 😀
- Dividing all the tasks with your partner is perfect. At the start of the lockdown I assumed I’m supposed to do everything myself and it’s so difficult. I became a serial complainer which wasn’t helpful to anyone. I think mums are quicker to react to changing situations and taking control. After discussing with my husband we split the housework, cooking and childcare responsibilities as equally as possible.
- Don’t feel embarrassed of your situation. I’m always so apologetic of having my kid make noise on calls but thankfully everyone at work especially my manager is so supportive. If you can’t take a call or have to leave it’s best to be upfront about it and excuse yourself without feeling apologetic. You’re trying your best but not everything is possible especially when schools and nurseries are closed.
- Try to go out for fresh air even for a bit. Don’t be too strict to stick with your health & fitness and diet goals. Nothing is normal about 2020 so it’s okay to take a break and have some rest and biscuits/cake. That’s what I did and do not regret it. If you want to get back into your fitness and diet routine you can always do that. I’m trying to do that now after few months of much needed break.
- These are unprecedented times and everyone’s situation is different and changed from the normal routine. Doing what works best for you is the key. Talking to friends and discussing what’s bothering you is always a good idea.
Hope everyone is feeling better and the initial lockdown blues have been dealt with one way or another 🙂