Whether you’ve been working from home for years, or you’ve just started working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, being away from an office and co-workers comes with a whole set of challenges.
I’ve asked some of my publishing colleagues for their top working from home tips and they’ve come back with some great advice.
Rachael Roberts: Beat the ‘threat system’ hormones
A lot of people are currently finding it really hard to concentrate while working from home. Given all the worries and distractions this is hardly surprising. Every time you see a piece of news, or get a message from someone about the current situation, or even have a worrying thought, your body produces a spike of adrenaline and cortisol. This is intended to help you fight or run away from the danger, but when you’re sitting at a desk it has nowhere to go but around and around your nervous system. By the end of the day you’re exhausted but also totally over-stimulated.
So my top tip is to take conscious and regular actions to balance out those ‘threat system’ hormones. Deep breathing and meditation are great, but some aerobic exercise will also help to reduce adrenaline and cortisol and create endorphins. And what better than having a dance? Make the most of NOT being in an office and have a boogie at regular intervals during the day. I even get my disco lights out!
Through psychology-based coaching and in-service training, Rachael Roberts helps teachers and other educational professionals who are feeling anxious, overloaded, or otherwise not living their best lives, to grow, and to make deep, permanent, positive changes. She has 30 years’ experience in education as well as having trained in counselling, psychotherapy, meditation and life-coaching. Read her blog at www.life-resourceful.com.
Małgorzata Konopczyńska: Plan tomorrow today
My working life always focused around teaching: waking up in the morning, a quick coffee on the run, and the everyday noise and chatter of students. My day was divided into two parts: working outside the home and working at home. Actually, almost nothing has changed. It is only the teaching part that is now taking place at my desk at home. This is a new experience for me, but I can already see one thing – it’s important to effectively manage your time. It’s not surprising that in the beginning this entails working on your self-discipline. I can make a fresh cup of coffee whenever I want, look out of the window a bit, pick up the phone or help a friend in their garden. And suddenly, at 7 p.m., it turns out that out of the five projects I started in the morning, three are still untouched.
So, what’s the solution? It could be a calendar, an app, a piece of paper or a file with a list of your important and most urgent tasks, with your work hours noted down and a lot of perseverance in achieving your daily goals. I start with small steps; I plan my day the evening before, print it out and stick it in three strategic places, so I always know what I need to be doing.
Małgorzata Konopczyńska is an EFL teacher and author. Working with Nowa Era, she has contributed to their publications as co-author (her latest course Super Powers is out now), author of lesson plans and materials reviewer.
In her free time, she helps run Nauczyciele Angielskiego, the biggest Facebook group for English teachers in Poland. Along with three other friends, she also organizes Zlot Anglistów, an annual TEFL conference.
Vic Kostrzewski: Respect sleep
Your doctors, personal trainers, productivity coaches, and therapists would all agree on this: sleeping well helps you cope and thrive; sleeping poorly makes most things worse. For me, while working at home, this means mindfully watching my calorie, caffeine, and screen time intake – making sure I stay away from these for a long while before bedtime. Your path to a good night’s sleep will vary, but I believe it’s worth the effort.
Vic Kostrzewski is a Commissioning Editor for Macmillan Education, and an author / course designer at bravelearning.com.
Nik Peachy: Start the day early
I usually get up around 5 a.m. It’s the best time of the day to get some peace and quiet work time while the rest of the house is still sleeping and I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m being an unsupportive spouse or parent. Especially at this time of the year the light on sunny days is great in the early morning and that helps to start my day in a positive way. I’m not being bothered by emails, conference calls or phone calls and I can get my head down and really find my flow.
I’m not naturally a morning person, so this took some getting used to, but I gradually shifted my wake up time back by 15 minutes every few days until I got to where I wanted it to be. It was really worth it.
Nik Peachey is a teacher trainer, online course and materials developer and director of PeacheyPublications Ltd.
He’s been involved in ELT since 1992 and has been specialising in digital delivery since 2007. He has worked for a wide range of companies including publishers, universities, NGOs and edtech startup companies. He has four times been shortlisted for British Council Innovations Awards and has won twice (in 2012 and 2016).
Atena Juszko: Find a designated work space
I had worked in the above office space for over seven years. Despite the breathtaking view, it was just a desk in the corner of our bedroom. Even though I didn’t mind it at the time, it’s only now that we’ve moved into a house with a designated office that I’ve started to appreciate a separate working space.
It’s only now that I can close the door and forget about work after a long day of writing and editing. It’s only now that I don’t see my desk and computer while I’m trying to fall asleep. It’s only now that I can have a skype call without my kids jumping on the bed next to me.
The blurry line between home life and work life is finally clear. Our office (‘our’ because I’m currently sharing it with my partner until he’s allowed to go back to the office) is just ours. There’s no bed here. And no kids are allowed.
So my top tip is to create a designated office space. One that will allow you to have a clear boundary between your home life and your work life.
What’s your top working from home tip?