Tuesday April 7, 2020
During this lockdown period, we at Socially Grown have endeavoured to keep morale high through regular communication and plenty of lighthearted banter.
We are all home-working, so thought we would each share our individual experiences and tips on how to keep going and what’s working for us.
Working from home can be challenging at the best of times, but these last few weeks have been on another level. Last year, before the arrival of my daughter Emilia in November I would have the house to myself. Back then my only concern was with keeping to a routine and breaking up my daily tasks into achievable targets and making sure I hit enough of those targets each day.
This year, with a wife on maternity leave and a new baby to share the house with, things were already becoming a little trickier. While I am always on hand to deal with any mid-day emergencies or baby meltdowns it has been important to set and stick to a routine so as not to become distracted. The new routine does, of course, allow for a bit of dedicated family time throughout the day – one of the perks of being a freelancer! But it does obviously result in a longer working day as a result.
When the coronavirus lockdown hit it was not a massive departure from how I usually lived my life. The only major difference is that where my wife would usually be able to leave the house for baby activities, meeting other mums from the NCT groups or visiting family, she is now on full lockdown too. So we have just made a few adjustments. Such as every day I will ensure I give her an hour or two off from looking after Emilia so she can do some yoga, go for a run or get creative in the kitchen (she is a prolific baker). It is just as important to look after the sanity of those in your household as it is your own!
To keep sane, it is important to also have some free time to yourself as well as making time to connect with those you would usually meet up with socially. For me that means going for a run, using my smart turbo trainer and going for a ride on zwift or taking the dog out for a walk. But it could equally be spending an hour or so on your Xbox or reading a book. To stay socially connected I’ve been using video calling to keep up with friends and family, even keeping to a scheduled dinner with my Uni friends where we all cracked open a bottle of wine to show that life doesn’t have to stop just because of coronavirus.
My top tips for a productive and sane time at home during this crazy time:
Before the pandemic I may have opted for a run or a ride to start the day, however I now find myself more dependent on dedicating time to my Peloton, purely due to the fact it ensures I approach each day feeling energised and motivated without needing to leave the house.
We made the decision to switch the team to remote working a little earlier than many employers, predominantly due to the fact that being a digital marketing agency we do not rely on face to face interaction. We were already equipped with tools such as Teamwork, HubSpot, Zoom and VidYard, so smoothly yet expediently, we transitioned the team to home working.
With clients in the US and Middle East, we often find ourselves compelled to work irregular hours, so I take breaks throughout the day and extra time out if I know I’ll be working particularly early or late. Whenever possible, I can be found pottering and planting in the garden as I find gardening reliably therapeutic and rewarding, so of late it is has become my “go to” activity when I want to take time out from work.
My top tips for home working are:
Having worked freelance for many years, I can understand some of the strangeness that people are experiencing. Working at home while surrounded by family and other distractions, I would usually call this the “six weeks holidays” syndrome, where the balance of home life, family and sitting outside in the sun fight for your attention every day.
But seriously, at first, it can be hard to overcome the distractions. I still make sure I don’t walk past the fridge or a biscuit barrel whilst working.
If you are new to home working then I’d like to offer a few tips, firstly to keep a pattern of waking up and starting work at the same time as when you are in the office. Keeping regularity helps keep you mentally focused, especially during this crisis time it doesn’t feel so much of a disruption. Similar to the financial crash of 2009, if you are experiencing anxiety and struggling to keep focus, don’t be too judgmental on yourself – this is natural. I’ve found that giving yourself little breaks in the day that include physical activities the best way to help with anxiety, so things like Yoga, meditation or a workout are a good way to balance work and mental health from day to day. We may only be two weeks into a long lockdown, but give yourself targets or things to look forward to in the summer.
My family and I have a large jar and we write down every day what we want to do post-lockdown and pop it into the jar, we can’t wait to open it up and do these fantastic and no doubt, surprising things – I just want to go kayaking again!
Working at home can be very fulfilling, look at the positives and how by staying at home you are protecting others from the virus, and you are keeping safe.
I have worked part-remotely for 2 years. At first the reality of not engaging in an office environment for 50 hours per week was mostly alluring yet conversely quite concerning. I am generally a committed individual and at this time in my life I wholly believed I gave 100% to most things without instruction. However having spent 15 years in a fierce corporate environment where revenue targets and KPIs fuelled the management and employees daily, I wondered whether taking this away might impact my performance (if only a little).
My concerns were realised when after only 4 weeks of home working I realised that my self-confessed workaholic “do or die” commitment was not a self-generated “Wolf from Wall Street” drive I had been blessed with at birth, but it was a result of operating in a competitive cauldron and, unfortunately you remove the cauldron you effectively remove the spell. The first 2 months of remote working represented little more than a vacation as I delivered little and achieved less, I detached from colleagues and customers, avoiding zoom calls, slack attacks and other such unwelcome distractions. I was generally in a work daze yet convincing myself I remained productive.
Thankfully it was only for the period of transition before the work fog lifted. Self-discipline and pro-active engagement were key to maintaining productivity. Detachment is the enemy for home workers – yes, occasionally it’s great to be able to remove oneself and have space to think, but I advise that you don’t stray too far or it can be rather difficult to return.
Many people cite getting dressed for work and keeping to routine as imperative to maintaining the work mind-set, however from a practical perspective this is really not sustainable. Even the most focused individual will question after just a few days if a shirt and tie is really required when the only “co-worker” is a Yorkshire terrier called Colin. Yes getting dressed is advised (as pyjama working is widely recognised as a no-no) however my advice is stay comfortable and stay flexible… More importantly use the tools available and ENGAGE. Reach-out to colleagues and customers regularly, turn on the camera, share experience and conversation – Don’t hide behind e-mail get face to face and build a work environment online.
Video conferencing and messaging is proven to work and what’s more, its sustainable and can even be fun. Video prevents detachment and promotes positive vibes and community which in turn promotes remote working success.
I work best when on my own, locked away in the studio, so the new rules on self isolation is not much of a problem in itself. The change has been that my hubby is stuck at home most of the time now, so it can be hard to work when I know he’s downstairs (especially if he is making bacon and egg sarnies!) and I’ve run out of jigsaw puzzles to keep him occupied.
The biggest distraction which has entered my life, is my four legged furbaby/ pup/ destroyer of socks, Hakuna. Since having him my “pawent” senses have been switched on, hearing any whisper of rustling. There has been innumerable cases of chasing him around after stealing something he shouldn’t have to get my attention. I’ve found it a great help to have a puppy cam, which can give you peace of mind so you can work knowing they’re not up to no good! Basically, I work when he sleeps – like having a baby!
As my studio and house is quite shaded, I take advantage of when the sun is shining and sit out in the garden to do any sketches, brainstorming, emails and even accounts. I take a break if I hit a design block, and come back to it after I have recharged my creative juices.
My biggest tip for working from home and getting in the right mindset is to pretend like you ARE going to work. Trust me, I know it can be tempting to stay in your PJ’s as you can get away with it (I’ve tried it), but your productivity will increase tenfold if you are dressed and ready physically, which affects you mentally.
My final tip, to help you get in the right frame of mind, is to put some music on. I love designing to music and find it helps my creative flow and puts me in a great mood. I have a Spotify playlist especially for designing in case I get stuck! Whatever your musical taste, find a tune that gets you motivated.