2021 has been another dynamic year for the world of work. We’ve continued to work from home in bigger numbers, we’ve returned with some trepidation back to the office or back to events as organisations have started to adapt to hybrid working. At The Homeworker we have been guiding our readers through the challenges and changes with features to support you with your mindset, productivity, environment, and importantly, your wellbeing. Here, we look through some of the tips and expert insights shared throughout 2021. These are just a few ideas from our different issues that will help you improve your work from home lifestyle.
Pair up activities:
In the future issue we explored many aspects of the future including your health. Lifestyle coach, Jessica Barclay shared her top tips for fitting in fitness when so often we tell ourselves we have no time.
Make the most of the flexibility of homeworking by pairing up your activities so you can incorporate some fitness into your day. She suggested:
- Take a walk while having your phone calls
- Squats while boiling the kettle
- Go for a run for have a swim while your child has their lessons
Clinical psychologist, Dr Stephanie Fitzgerald shared her tips for protecting your mental health when working at home in January’s Joy issue. When we work from home, work-related stress often stays in the home environment so building in practices for tension release is really important.
Whilst we can all benefit from a good moan to a friend or partner at the end of a long day, we can quickly resent losing our precious free time with others to processing our day. As such, try to build some space into your working day to release the pressure valve, whether that is connecting with a colleague, or having a lunchtime catch up with a friend. If you have someone to share your experience with, who can offer some support or a different viewpoint, then this can clear your head and your free time. By building it into your working day, you can ensure that workplace stress stays where it belongs – in work.
Make time for hobbies
Having a hobby or activity outside work is a brilliant way to switch off, unwind, and forget the stresses of the working hours. It helps you create boundaries between working and personal time, which can improve your work from home lifestyle.
There is much less separation from work when you work at home so a scheduled hobby, gives you something to commit to and enjoy, possibly with other people, which can give you a social connection as well. An activity outside work can give you a better sense of connection, purpose, and fulfilment.
We spoke with members of the homeworker community about how they found ways to switch off. Ideas included singing, wild swimming, artwork, volunteering, and gardening.
Forming healthy habits
If you work from home, establishing productive routines and developing healthy habits can be fundamental to how successful you are.
In the reinvention issue, we spoke with neuroscientists to examine how to break bad habits and create better ones. One of the top tips shared by Dr Lynda Shaw was to make the new behaviour something pleasurable.
This stimulates the dopamine circuitry in our body, involved with reward. If we reward ourselves, we get the feel-good dopamine hit that makes us want to keep repeating the action.
She recommends putting in place something you will really enjoy doing and also to “think outside the box” to make it a novel experience. “What would you love that you’ve never done before, never thought of treating yourself to?… Novelty is the thing that will gain your attention more than anything else.”
If we create fresh experiences and something which also stimulates curiosity, which helps us to learn, Shaw says, “We make real inroads in replacing a habit with something new and you start to enjoy it which means it will become habitual behaviour.”
We featured a guide to time blocking in the April balance issue. We included a full framework to planning out your day effectively to make you more productive. One tip is to build in ‘white space’ into your time blocks.
We often underestimate how long things will take. In our minds, we can dash off a blog post or draft a proposal in a couple of hours when in reality, it may take half a day or more. Be realistic with your time blocks. If something is going to take longer than 2 or 3 hours, think about spreading it over a couple of days to give yourself a break and free up time to do more peripheral tasks that need attending to. It is a good idea to schedule some white space either side of your time blocks to allow for context shifting. This way you aren’t working back-to-back and there is a little leeway when tasks do overrun or your day doesn’t go quite as planned.
Write effective emails
Author and communications expert, Kim Arnold shared some brilliant tips to help us get more out of our emails. When we work virtually, email becomes one of the most common forms of communication. We collectively send and receive millions everyday around the world. Among her tips, she shared some of the common mistakes people make, one being that work emails are often too long.
A lot of emails don’t get to the point quickly enough. “You’ve lost people before you’ve started,” says Arnold. “You need to come out fighting with a really strong opener, something that’s going to be interesting and personal. Not a dull opening and then some background.”
When we think we are being polite or respectful using couching, waffly language, we are often doing the opposite. “We are padding out our email with this unnecessary language that we are asking the other person to wade through so it’s the opposite of what we want to achieve. We worry about being direct, but we do need to get to the point as quickly as we can.”
We need to use our creativity to solve problems and be innovative in our work. It is not just about being artistically talented. Mindset coach, Ekaterina Ward looked at ways we can be more playful and creative. Using the home environment, we have a little more freedom to facilitate our creative process.
She suggests setting the scene for playful creativity. Declutter, clear distractions, minimise decisions, and intentionally set the stage to ignite your creative flair. Opening up creative capacity often starts with clearing the mental load and physical space, managing distractions, and setting systems to minimise decisions.
Perfectionism and traits of perfectionism can be so destructive that it holds you back from achieving goals and also happiness. Working alone can sometimes exacerbate how much we let perfectionism take hold as we have no one else around for perspective. In the balance issue, we looked at how to balance overcoming perfectionism with high standards. One top tip: Be authentic.
One of the worst aspects about perfectionism is it often involves us donning a mask and presenting a front to the world that is far removed from how we actually think and feel. When we are busy presenting a façade of calm, cool perfection to the world this often precludes us from accessing the help and support that we need. If you pretend everything is perfect then you are only hurting yourself and keeping others at arm’s length. Be authentic with how you feel and what you are dealing with. It’s not failure to ask for help. This makes you human and allows a closeness with others that will allow you to achieve everything you want to, with help and support along the way. There is no prize at the end for getting through alone.
Find your purpose
Neurocoach. Brad Reed explored why finding your why is so helpful for brain function and performance. Those with a strong sense of purpose can make better decisions. In his work, Brad found one of the single most important traits I have noticed in high performing people is their clarity of mind, focus and overwhelming sense of purpose.
Those with a solid understanding of their purpose don’t dwell in hypothetical thinking very much. They know, instinctively, if the decision is going to help them achieve their desired outcome or not. It becomes a solid “Yes” or “No”.
Be your own cheerleader.
Coach, Natalie Trice revealed ways to give yourself a confidence boost when you work alone. In the Joy issue, she talked bout the importance of acknowledging and celebrating your success.
When you work from home, there might not be a gang behind you telling you how brilliant you are, so you need to do it for yourself. When you do something well, congratulate yourself, and then tell someone else. Learn to recognise and celebrate your successes. It might feel difficult or contrived at first but if you can work on dialling down that negativity and become your own cheerleader, the world will want to clap for your successes too.
Balance the budget
A productive home workspace can really improve your work from home lifestyle. It can help motivate and inspire you to do your best work. Interior designer, Aurore Martial shared lots of ideas to create a balanced workspace including how to make an impact without blowing the budget.
There are plenty of ways you can create a beautiful home work area without spending thousands. Changing a frame on a wall, adding some plants, switching your lightshades and curtains all require minimal effort but can have a big effect. For a little more work but a big impact, you can find rolls of wallpaper that are inexpensive and a made to measure wall mural is a good option for around £300 – £400. Work with different textures to make it more interesting. Combining glass, marble, woods, and metals, provides variety. You will probably have different materials around already such as a metal lamp, wooden desk, ceramic vase. Make the most of these to put together an interesting space without blowing the budget.
Make it special
As the working routines evolve, office space reduces, and more hybrid models of working are adopted, our work space requirements are also changing.
In the reinvention issue, Tom Coleman, founder of Spaces to Work talked about the importance of finding a unique or special venue for the occasions when remote teams get together. In this way people are already motivated and enthusiastic about the meeting. A new environment also helps to offer different perspectives and spark creativity.
“I think when you’re in a remote team, those get togethers are really important, it’s not like when you’re in an office and a meeting is just another recurring thing. In a remote team when you meet only every month or six weeks, that is a special event. You want [the venue] to be different.”
Maximise your space
We interviewed interior designer, Steve Hird in the future issue about the changing home workspace and how it will evolve. A key trend is maximising the space and making our homes work for us. Using previously underused or dead space in the house is a good way of creating a small workspace. It might be a small nook on the landing, opening up a cupboard space or fitting something into an alcove.
About the author
Louise is an award-winning journalist and speaker who focuses on working from home, remote work and wellbeing. She is the founder of The Homeworker, which is dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home. The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, fulfilled, and more productive in work and life.