Who could have predicted that in 2020 our lives, our workplaces and our communities would have been subject to Lockdown? Who could have foreseen the changes an invidious virus could have brought to our everyday existence? It has been a rollercoaster year and in many ways the lives we had known up until COVID-19 emerged, have been utterly transformed. Many of us are now working from home and at this juncture it is unclear how many of us will continue to work remotely into the future.
For some marketers, working from home has been a tough experience. Particularly for those who are parents and who are trying to juggle care of their children with holding down a full-time job, all from within the confines of the home. For others, who are living on their own, without the comforting contact of a second person to talk to, working from home has been equally challenging.
To make the most of working from home, there are a few things I have discovered from my own experience, that could potentially help other marketers out there, which I would like to share with you.
Getting your desk set up right
Firstly, the importance of getting your desk set up correct, cannot be underestimated. I had experimented with a standing desk laptop converter, thinking that it would help my back. However, because my laptop screen was not at eye level, I started to experience a strain in my neck and upper thoracic area, which became quite painful over time.
The solution? I dispensed with the standing desk laptop converter and I used a standalone monitor and wireless keyboard instead. Once my screen was at the correct eye level, the pain in my back and neck disappeared. It could be worth the investment in a separate monitor, wireless keyboard and mouse, if you intend working remotely long term. Your back and neck will thank you for it.
Online ergonomic assessment
If you intend working remotely long term, it could be worth requesting an online ergonomic assessment, to get a personalised assessment of your own desk set up at home. This could prove very beneficial in terms of highlight the ‘hacks’ you need to be aware of, to function at your best from your home office.
We are lucky in that we can use our dining room as our home office. We use our dining room table; my husband is at one end and I am at the other. If we need to go on video conference or take a call, one of us moves to a separate room and then returns after the video conference/call is over. It helps being able to close the dining room door at the end of the day and know that work is over for that day.
Start your day with Mindfulness
The fear of COVID-19 and how it could potentially impact us and our loved ones, is something all of us have been wrestling with since March. One of the things I have found which has really helped me to move past this fear and to function at my best at work, is Mindfulness. Every morning after my shower, I do a 3 minute ‘Early mornings’ meditation on the Headspace app. It is the perfect way to start the day and get me in the ‘zone’ for work.
I have also found using the ‘Loving Kindness’ meditation on the Calm app is a beautiful way to refresh the mind and heart and wish health and happiness for yourself, your loved ones and your colleagues at work. A big shout out to Ellen Shilling of www.xhale.ie who offers superb guided meditations and whose 3 week course tailored specifically for people working from home, I completed and found to be of tremendous value.
Ensure you have what you need
Working from home while the country is in lockdown, means that you are relying on online deliveries for office supplies. We set up a parcel motel account as there is local parcel motel pick up point within a twenty minute walk for us and we get our deliveries sent there. This means we are not restricted to the times the post office sorting office is open in order to collect a delivery, as all we have to do is present the QR code on our phone and we have instant access to our delivery box.
Plan ahead when purchasing office supplies
While working from home, you also need to anticipate when you will need office supplies like reams of paper, notebooks, pens and printer ink and order these in time. If you run out of printer ink at a critical juncture, it could severely hamper your ability to work from home. It’s a good idea to have a few spare items in reserve just in case. Our printer is six years old and Harvey Norman doesn’t stock ink cartridges for our model anymore, so we order our ink on www.amazon.co.uk
Working from Home Tax credit
Bear in mind that while working from home, you are also entitled to claim the working from home tax credit. This can be claimed for 2020 retrospectively, next year, in your income tax return.
Structure your day
When it comes to structuring your day, start your day with mindfulness as mentioned previously, always have your water bottle at the ready throughout the day to rehydrate and replenish it at regular intervals. Some commentators have advocated the Pomodoro technique for doing focused work. This involves concentrating on the task at hand for twenty-five minutes at a time and then taking a five-minute break, before you start the next ‘sprint.’ This method could work quite effectively while working from home and may even enhance your productivity, as your mind stays fresher and better able to concentrate during shorter blocks of time.
Take regular exercise
Taking regular breaks and ensuring that you take a proper lunchbreak, incorporating some form of exercise where possible, will ensure that you can sustain your concentration throughout the day and optimise your productivity. A lunchtime walk can be a simple, but effective way of getting your exercise quota in. Lifehack.org suggests these simple stretching exercises for office workers which can easily be done at home. For maximum benefit, try doing them between tasks at regular intervals throughout the day.
Five minutes is all you need
Dr Rangan Chatterjee also has a great five minute kitchen workout for strengthening your muscles via lunges, press ups against the wall, calf raises, squats and triceps dips. He suggests trying to build the workout into your everyday routine, when you are boiling the kettle or waiting for your dinner to cook. According to Dr Chatterjee ‘movement snacking’ can be a powerful way of building fitness through the incremental effect of doing five minutes a day, rather than doing one single intense session for an hour. Build movement snacking into your daily routine and you will feel the better for it, mentally as well as physically.
Build flexibility with Yoga/Pilates
Exercise can be a great outlet in times like these and I have found Yoga to be extremely beneficial. The Yoga with Adrienne YouTube channel offers excellent free Yoga sessions online from beginner to advanced. A little closer to home Yoga Dublin offers a varied and high quality programme of live Pilates and Yoga classes online, all of which can be done from the comfort of your own home.
If you are working at your best you may even experience a ‘flow state.’ I first came across the concept of Flow when I undertook a psychology course with Clinical Psychologist Shane Martin. Shane’s course provided fascinating insights into the working of the mind, including Flow and I would highly recommend it. Flow states’ are states of optimal experience where you are so absorbed in the task you are dealing with that you forget the passage of time and are completely caught up in what you are doing to the exclusion of everything else.
In order to achieve a flow state, you need to set goals, which is why they can often happen at work and are sometimes harder to achieve in leisure time. Watching television rarely generates a flow state, but cooking a nice meal, or playing a musical instrument can, because these are more structured activities. The concept of ‘Flow States’ originated with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and he wrote about his ideas on flow in his book ‘Finding Flow’
Finding Flow while working from home
You can experience Flow while working at home just as much as while working in the office. All you need to do is set your goals for the task on hand and create the right environment for you to concentrate on doing some focused work. Maybe this means playing some relaxation/classical music in the background. Maybe this means diffusing some essential oils to help focus the mind like Rosemary essential oil or Peppermint. Or maybe it’s as simple as sitting down to your laptop with the first cup of tea/coffee of the day and using the Pomodoro technique to achieve your optimum productivity over a series of ‘sprints’ and ‘breaks.’
Whatever technique you use remember that while working from home, you will be even more productive if you stay connected to other people. Make time for chats with colleagues about non work-related matters as well as work matters. Take the time after work to chat with family and friends. ‘Virtual coffee dates’ are a great idea. Now, more than ever before, we need those human connections to sustain us. A mutually supportive network can go a long way towards boosting your spirits and helping you find your ‘zen’ while working from home.
Gemma Costello is a marketing specialist currently working in the tourism industry and has published widely, including internationally, on the subjects of sales and marketing, business development and digital marketing/social media. Twitter handle: @gemmacostello4;