A s we head back into a strict national lockdown and an inevitably harsh winter, I thought it might be best to have another go at providing a guide to help those working from home (especially since we’re now being told to work from our home offices again). I may have gotten a little carried away with the header for this post. It started out as plain text and slowly evolved into over the top SFX ridiculousness. Anyhow, below are some rules you’ll need to follow to survive your home office during the Zombie Apocalypse (COVID-19).
Yes, that dreaded word… ‘exercise’. Surviving in a home office relies heavily on making time to escape your home office and doing something that involves more than sitting in a comfortable high-back leather chair, even if it’s just going for a 20-minute walk. Modern working is often stressful enough to make you want to snack and sedentary enough to make you chubby, so exercise is essential. And if you’re avoiding going out into the zombie apocalypse, grab yourself a treadmill. Regular exercise increases your energy levels and makes you happier. It’s worth it.
Do not disturb
Kids… I have two of them. They’re wonderful and that’s the problem. They want to be in the office constantly – running in and out or grabbing various decorative items to play with or throw around… yelling… oh, the yelling… so much… so loud. It’s very hard to think when you’re delighted at the cute little monkeys playing or showing you something hilarious. It’s even harder to think when they’re driving you crazy with questions about lego or birds. Harder still when they’re trying to kill each other. Get a sign for the door (I’m planning on using a simple open/closed sign) or set boundaries by establishing a rule (if the door’s shut, I’m busy).
You need a pattern or event to let your brain know that it’s time to switch gears and go to work. In the Zombie Apocalypse, it’s far too easy to begin to slip into bad habits – late starts, longer breaks, three hour days. You need to set a routine but more importantly, you need triggers. For example, every morning after a shower, I grab a coffee, go into the office, put on some music, shut the door and work. It’s simple but it works because each part of that routine, when done in order acts as a trigger. For some, it’s dressing smart even though they’re at home. I’ve read that for those who miss their commute, a quick walk before heading into their home office is an effective way of telling yourself that free time is over and it’s time to knuckle down.
Set an agenda
Another bad habit is ‘winging it’. This is often confused with freedom but in actual fact, it wastes your free time. If you have a set agenda for the day, you can go into the office, get everything done that you have to and then go enjoy the rest of your day. If you’re winging it, you’re much more likely to take your time, forget tasks, loiter and procrastinate. What you could have finished by 2 pm will take you until 5 pm and your free time will have been cached in and wasted. Set up your day in thirty or sixty minute chunks. Plan as much of the week ahead of time and tweak it as you go.
One glorious thing about working from a home office is the freedom to watch Netflix while you work. A second screen is essential. I’ve never found it distracting or detrimental to productivity – the opposite in fact. I’ve found that having a comfort movie on or binge-watching a season of Stranger Things or Sherlock while I work helps me stay put and stops me wanting to wander off. I would advise though, that you don’t watch new content otherwise it’ll drag your attention away from the task at hand. Personally, if I’m being paid by the hour, I leave it off as it doesn’t feel right.
You need regular office hours
It’s easy to think that you have all the time in the world and that you can do a few hours in the morning and pick up the slack in the evening but in practice, it doesn’t usually work out. It also hurts rules #03 and #04. Create your work hours and try to stick to them. That includes taking regular breaks. It’s also quite likely that your clients and co-workers are working regular office hours so it’ll help with communication and availability. If you don’t have much work at the moment, it’s best to work fewer days of the week than irregular hours.
An easy one to overlook, especially as you can learn to rely quite heavily on caffeine to get by. Water (without anything added) is a great way to keep you feeling alert and can help to stop you from feeling snacky.
Indulge in nostalgia
Living in the Zombie Apocalypse can be a real drag, yet we’re often told not to ‘live in the past’ and ‘don’t look back’. This advice is mostly nonsense. When you look back on things, your reconstructive memory tends to lean towards warm and fuzzy, so there’s an immense benefit to nostalgizing. If you’re sitting at your desk with images of Boris Johnson, facemasks, Zoom meetings and empty toilet roll aisles dancing in your head, try playing some music that takes you back to ‘the old normal’. Or, going back to rule #05, watch an old favourite on Netflix or Disney+.
Follow government guidance
You must return to your place of work and you must work from home. Always do and don’t simultaneously.
I struggle with this one but it’s an important one. You need time when you’re not in work-mode. It’s a good idea to use some of the in-built tools on your devices to help with disconnecting. I have an Android phone and I find it helpful to use the ‘Digital Wellbeing’ app to switch the phone to ‘Do not disturb’ for timed periods of the day. This means that I can get through breakfast and lunch without interruption. It’s also good to switch off for the evening after a set time. I’ve just set my phone to shush after 8 pm. Having time when you’re not ‘on’ will help you to be more productive during work hours. In fact, if you’re working on screens all day, it’s a good idea to put devices on charge or out of sight when the workday is done.