Author: Bethany Spencer
Posted: 27 Mar 2020
Estimated time to read: 9 mins
As we find ourselves in the uncharted territory of school closures, business closures and whole companies working from home, we’re faced with new challenges.
Parents, teachers and students alike now must motivate themselves, from home, to work throughout the school day, maintain good levels of contact with colleagues, friends and family whilst practising social distancing. That’s all in addition to maintaining their physical and mental health.
This guide will explore how everyone can effectively work from home whilst maintaining good health:
At Satchel, we’re fortunate in that we are able to work remotely. Even though the majority of our team work out of our London office, some of our team members work remotely in the long term.
This meant that when the decision came to shut our offices we were not only confident that we’d be able to make the new arrangements work, but that we had a whole cohort of the team who were able to share some working from home tips on how they stay motivated (and sane) whilst working remotely.
The following tips can be used by students who are looking to stay motivated with schoolwork, parents who too have been told to work from home or even teachers who are now resigned to working remotely:
Set a routine
The key to working effectively from home is ensuring your day has structure to it and follows a routine. Advice would be to mimic your usual working day where possible so you don’t feel completely out of sorts.
This includes following your usual morning routine of waking up at a decent time, showering and getting dressed. A tip would be to try getting up at your usual time for work and using what would have been your commute time to look after your wellbeing with a morning jog, meditation or spending time cooking a decent breakfast.
Another piece of advice would be to plan your work day, either the night before or prior to settling into work, so you know exactly what you want to accomplish for the day ahead. It helps if the kids are kept to a solid routine too, so you can get on with your work whilst they study and enjoy their free time in peace!
Ensure communication channels between key people
This is crucial for anyone working from home. In order to be as productive as possible ensure that you have the contact details of the people you will need to get in touch with throughout the day.
For students that may mean getting your teachers’ email addresses and gathering numbers of classmates if you’re working on any group projects together. Likewise for teachers, ensure you know how you will be delivering content to your students - create any Facebook groups necessary and ensure all students have access to their school emails. Additionally, make certain you know how you’re supposed to contact your colleagues.
For those businesses that are working remotely there are a number of communication services that can aid connectivity during this period of remote working. We as a company use Slack which serves as an instant messaging service, although alternatives such as Flock and Google Hangouts exist. These provide the workplace with instant messaging allowing you to message individuals or create groups to facilitate team discussions online.
Have a designated workspace
Having a space that is designated for ‘work’, whether that’s teaching, studying or any other business, is very important in helping us to distinguish work and home. Where possible, you should have a clear difference between your workspace and your fun space.
This may be more difficult for whole families who are now having to work from home together - try turning the kitchen table into your office space - set it up and take it down each morning so it still feels like you’re going to work, and you can use the space for its intended purpose after work is done.
If you have the space, using a separate room for your workspace, preferably with a door, would work best but we understand that many of us may not be able to afford that luxury at this time.
Enforce ‘office’ hours
Working from home means we don’t have to take into account travel time. This makes it easy to start work earlier, work late and even skip lunch. However, it’s important that we don't fall into the habit of not allowing ourselves breaks and working constantly.
Maintaining regular ‘office’ hours will not only give your day structure, it will help to ensure everyone is maintaining a healthy work life balance.
Even when we’re staying at home, relaxation time is important - whether it’s phoning loved ones, taking some time for exercise or reading a book, this downtime will help maintain good mental health.
Don't expect too much
For many of us, the sooner we realise that we may not be as productive at home as we are in the work environment, the better. This is especially true for parents and students who may now be having to adapt to working and studying from home together.
There are many reasons why we may not be able to achieve as much working from home as we would on a normal day at work or school - perhaps your at-home setup isn’t equipped for learning, maybe your entire family is now working from home and you’re fighting for table space or you might be used to working as part of a team and bouncing ideas off of other people and now don’t have the ability to do so.
To help you settle into your new work and school environment it’s best to not set your expectations as high as you normally would and allow yourself some time to adapt to what is currently, your new normal.
Remember, this is new for everyone and putting too much pressure on yourself is only going to cause unnecessary stress.
Overall good health benefits us at work, school and in our personal lives. We should always take time to prioritise it - even during periods of uncertainty like the ones we find ourselves in.
We’ve outlined some simple steps you can take to help you maintain good physical and mental health whilst working from home.
Although the UK is on lockdown, it’s still important that we try to get outside to enjoy fresh air and soak up some Vitamin D. Government advice for getting outdoors is that members of the same family are allowed outside once a day for exercise - be that a walk, run or cycle. However, if you are lucky enough to have a private garden - you can still enjoy fresh air from here.
Keeping your body moving during this period is critical for maintaining good physical health. For many of us, the amount of movement we partake in on any given day will have reduced drastically as we are no longer walking to work, around the office, to the shops etc. Because of this, it’s really important to take the Government’s advice and try and get outside for a walk at least once a day - all the while maintaining distance from others.
Being outside also ensures we get enough sunlight which is important for our health When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol, this vitamin “instructs the cells in your gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus — two minerals that are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones (Healthline)”.
With gyms closed and restrictions on how often we can go outside, keeping fit has never been more of a challenge nor has there ever been more of a need for us to try and stay active. Not only is keeping active good for our physical health, it’s vital for good mental health too, as exercise works as an instant mood booster.
Now is the time to dig out your old exercise DVDs or delve into the world of online fitness, below are some free online workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home:
- Barry’s are a global fitness company, famous for their high intensity sessions and red lit gym rooms. After closing their doors as a result of the coronavirus, they are now streaming live workouts almost everyday, via their instagram account @barrysuk.
- The fitness brand Gymshark are also streaming live workouts on their Facebook channel throughout the weekdays which you can join in with at home facebook.com/Gymshark.
- The Body Coach, Joe Wicks, has a YouTube channel full of free, at home HiiT workouts that you can browse through. He’s also started, P.E with Joe, aimed at children to help keep them active during school closures. These will be streamed live from his YouTube channel every day at 9am and will last for 30 minutes. It’s a great initiative to get kids moving and is suitable for all ages - even adults! The Body Coach TV.
- YouTube also has a whole host of fitness workouts that you will be able to stream for free from your living room and find something that suits you. Simply search for the type of exercise you want to do e.g. yoga, low impact, beginner workout followed by ‘free at home workout’ and you’ll have tonnes to sift through.
Given the current landscape, it’s challenging to eat exceptionally healthily - our time out of the house is limited as are supermarket stocks. However, there are simple things we can do to try and stay as healthy as possible.
First and foremost think about how much fuel your body needs, chances are you’re moving a lot less than normal and as such, don’t need to eat as much as you were pre-lockdown. This isn’t to say you should actively decrease your calorie intake, instead be mindful of portion sizes for you and your family. This also means that meals prepared could stretch further.
When you do go shopping, try to pick up fruits and vegetables - whether they’re frozen, fresh or tinned - it’s still important to fill your body with good food.
It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t put yourself under too much pressure if you’re not able to eat as well as you were prior to school closures. Circumstances have changed, whilst we should always be conscious of what we put in ours and our childrens’ bodies, it’s just as important to make sure everyone is being fed.
Just as important as our physical health, is our mental health. As parents and teachers it’s paramount that we look after our own mental health so we are able to support our children and students.
As a student, it’s now more important than ever to pay attention to your own wellbeing and the mental health of those around you. Here are just some ways we can all take steps to look after our mental wellbeing:
Take time for hobbies
Whether you're scheduling your work, school or office day from home, always leave some time throughout your day to do the things you love. This can help you to switch off from any anxieties you may be experiencing.
If you’re unable to participate in your usual hobbies like swimming, Brownies or wine tasting - use this time to explore some new hobbies - buy a paint by numbers, learn to sew or try and learn a new language. There is plenty of time to discover a new interest that will help you to wind down and pass the time.
Take a break from the news
To help ease our anxiety around the current climate, it’s important that we allow ourselves a break from the news and switch off from social media.
The level of connectivity we have is a double edged sword as on one side, it allows us to connect with loved ones from afar and stay informed as to what’s going on in the world. On the other side, there are thousands of news sources, notifications and social media posts that echo the same bad news which can be overwhelming and at times, misleading.
To give yourself a break from everything, try limiting yourself to checking the news once a day or when you feel prepared and go through your social media accounts and unfollow anyone who is heightening your anxiety or spreading information that isn’t from an accredited source - such as the WHO or Government.
Make time for yourself
It’s always easier said than done, but now is the time when we really need to take some time for ourselves. Whether that’s factoring a pamper night into your week at home or taking advantage of ‘gained time’ that would have been spent commuting to do some morning yoga or curling up with a book. Make sure you do something that’s selfish.
In the current climate we will be doing a lot to help others, worrying about others and adapting to work around others. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take some time for yourself.
We are currently in a period of uncertainty where we don’t know when we will next be able to visit our friends, family and loved ones - it’s a trying time for everyone. These circumstances mean that it’s more important to ever to maintain or create online connections with those people we aren’t living with.
Fortunately 96% of students have smartphones which will enable them to video call via FaceTime, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger with their friends. It’s a similar climate for adults, teachers and parents, who have devices that will allow them to connect virtually with family and friends. For those family members who can’t video call, a regular text message or phone call will go a long way.
We all run the risk of going a bit stir crazy or becoming lonely during this period of lockdown so it’s important for not only our own mental health, but for the mental health of others, to check in regularly during.
Enjoy family time
If you are fortunate to be living with your family during this lockdown, although it might be cramped and figuring out how you can transform your home into a classroom, office and workspace is causing more stress than any of you thought possible, take the opportunity to enjoy time with your family.
Most of us crave quality family time and now, some of us are presented the opportunity to spend time with our family for an extended period and we should be doing all that we can to make the most of it.