7 key shifts for working from home

The new normal is working from home.

The new normal is working from home during this lockdown period. If you’ve never worked from home, it is a vastly different way of working.I recently had a coaching call with a leader, and we worked on the challenge of working from home. I thought I’d share some of the key shifts in thinking and being that need to be in place to make this transition easier.

1.    Commute: Your regular commute from home to the office allowed you a space to ‘shift gears’ from home mode to work mode. It also allowed you a space to reflect and think, and a space of quiet. When we work from home that transition is too quick, and can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

  • A good practice is to incorporate that ‘commute’ space in a different way when working from home. Some ideas can be to create a space to read (preferably not the news!) with a coffee before you start working. 
  • Starting the day with a to do/to be list, what do I want to achieve today, and in what ways to I want to grow?

2.    Breaks: According to neuroscience, the average human cannot focus on something for longer than an hour and a half. When we continue to push ourselves, we end up expending much more energy than we can spare, with little; to no results.

  • Including short breaks can increase focus and productivity. Take coffee/tea breaks and take a full hour lunch break, without distractions. Read a book, or even watch something entertaining, or take a walk.
  • Breaks also increase divergent thinking (the ability to generate and make sense novel ideas). In other words, they increase creativity and innovation. Instead of continually pushing for a solution, while we take a break, our subconscious brain is continually working on the problem outside of our awareness. We’ve all had moments when we’re showering, or being awoken from sleep, or first thing in the morning, with a creative idea or a solution to a problem that we were grappling with. This is your subconscious brain at work.

3.    Moving your body: We’ve all heard about the dangers of sitting all day. When we move our bodies, we move our focus from the challenges of the day to moving our bodies, stretching those stiff, stressed muscles, and breathing deeper. It is what I call active meditation. Nothing refreshes like time outside, getting some fresh air can increase energy, and motivation us and give our brains a break.

  • Take a walk outside for about 20 minutes, just make sure that you keep your distance from others.
  • Practice standing up and walking around for 5 minutes, after every hour of working

4.    Designated office space: Working from home is a difficult adjustment, and many have had to quickly set up space at home, perhaps in the living room. However, when the work day is done and we’re shifting into relaxing mode, the work remains in sight. When our work space and home space overlap, there’s a sense of being ‘on’ all the time, resulting in stress, and anxiety. We lack clear boundaries. Our work is visible in the evenings and weekend, and the temptation to quickly look at that email, or to continue to think about a particular work issue is great.

  • Work on creating a space that becomes a purely work space, maybe a specific desk or a room that you can close at the end of the day.
  • Create an aesthetically pleasing space. Minimise the clutter. Do you have a nice view? Is your table and chair comfortable? You’re probably going to sit there every day for a few months, you want to have a clean, and inspiring space.

5.    Keeping set office hours: When you’re working from home, it’s easy to allow work to bleed into your evening. Being ‘switched on’ all day and night creates a lot of stress! We need the downtime now more than ever.

  • When you end the day, and the laptop is closed, ensure that the ‘office door’ is closed for business until the following day.
  • Set clear boundaries by communicating to your teams, and colleagues the times you are available.

6.    Making the intangible, tangible: Being in virtual meetings and conference calls all day can feel very dissatisfying at the end of the day, because it can be very intangible. What did I actually achieve today? And tomorrow and the next day is going to be pretty much the same.

  • Redefine your goals for the day by focusing on making the intangible more tangible. Conversations, and relationships and connecting with your clients and teams matter.
  • Reflect and write it down what you have achieved at the end of the day.They could look something like this: I was able to have good conversations with my team. I built good relationships with my customers. I listened more. I created more space for innovation and creativity by engaging and exploring with my colleagues.

7.    Quality over quantity: with all these new practices, it’s interesting to reflect on how your interactions with others change. I love the concept ‘you have to go slow to go fast’ and my favourite quote my Simon Sinek: ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’

  • Are your conversations deeper and more meaningful?
  • Are you finding better solutions quicker?
  • Are you less tired when you’re communicating with others, because you’re focused on the quality of the meetings and engagements?
  • Does your informal conversations yield good results? 

These were just a few ideas of what needs to shift. Think about some ideas that will work for you. Depending on your personality, you may find some work better than others. Take the time to schedule these into your calendar so that it’s easy to implement and continue doing. Reach out to others for support and to remind you keep up with them in the time to come.

In my experience, growth happens the most during challenging times, so there’s an opportunity for all of us to learn how to connect in a real, and meaningful way. I wish you success and health in these unique times.

Additional resources: Here’s a free WFH ergonomic assessment from Herman Miller. It takes a few minutes, and offers your ergonomic score and a few personalised recommendations to improve your WFH health

About Racheal: As an Organisational Psychologist, and Executive Coach, I have worked with leaders internationally to build resilience and create strategies to become more effective. I have a specific focus on women in leadership, and neuroscience and coaching. Please connect if you would like to learn more.

Coaching can be defined as a partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that supports them to identify and take steps that move them between their current reality to where he or she wants to be. The biggest impact of coaching occurs when there is a shift in a person’s thinking, (or aha moments). Shifts in how we perceive the world occur because what we experience changes through the questions that are asked.

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