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Working from home without going mad!

Up until I founded Juniper Wealth my entire career had been in home based, flexible working roles. From working from the kitchen table to dedicated home offices to being on first name terms with my local Baristas I have navigated this for over a decade and have learned a few things in that time.

Now faced with the potential prospect of returning to home working whilst also home schooling our children and running two businesses between us I have been thinking about how we might best do that and wanted to try and articulate my plan for surviving and thriving under these difficult circumstances.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Routine reigns supreme

The temptation is to lay in, work in joggers and a hoodie but whilst that is okay for a day or two after two weeks it starts to impact on your mentality, focus and positivity.

Talking with my eldest daughter last night I was explaining how we’ll be working like a school day starting at 8;45am with blocks of 1 hour, scheduled breaks, lunch time and even PE. She was very disappointed to find I was going to make her get out of bed before 8am every day and continue studying but she came round to the idea when we I said they would still get an Easter break!

These little psychological tricks of putting a shirt on, sitting at a desk, working to a defined routine all help keep us sane and productive. I have even been known to walk to work – leaving the house, walking for 10-15 minutes before returning home and getting the work day started.

We will also continue to have our team catch-up every morning, but this time over Zoom video conference, to ensure as a team we keep our routines in place, colleagues communicating well and a degree of normality is maintained.

Rhyme but don’t repeat

There is a good reason school days are not uniform, why great songs use the same notes but to different melodies and rhythms and why eating your favorite meal everyday gets old quickly.

Routines need to change – or at least cycle – to stay healthy and beneficial. Even the best routine gets old and tired so try and bring something new and different to the routine where and when you can.

If you have reading, CPD, or even house work that needs completing then slot these in at different times of day. As an avid reader I have always found sitting reading in a different room with a cup of coffee instantly makes me more productive when I get back to my desk. I would throw this in mid-morning or mid-afternoon to break up the day and change up my routine. At the same time scheduling in 11 – 11:30 am to get the washing on or tidy the kitchen can be really helpful in not letting these things distract you or using them as an excuse to not work.

With the kids at home we are planning on doing this too but with Physical Activity, Art, Music and Food Tech style activities. An hour of using different parts of our brains and bodies can be ultra refreshing and reset you ready for getting back to work.

Accept home working is flexi

Working from home often means spreading your working hours over a longer period of time. You will end up working evenings but with the payoff of having time free in the middle of the day. If you are balancing home, work and family all at the same time this is inevitable and it is best to embrace this early on.

Working from home when our children were tiny was really hard and we would often have to agree that one of us would be working whilst the other was parenting and then switch duties. There is only so much Peppa Pig kids can watch before they get bored. (It’s about 167 minutes if you are interested!).

Your situation is different to mine but a time will come when you will need to break from your normal working hours when working from home and accepting this early doors will help further down the line.

Pick up the phone more

We have become reliant on email as a method of communication and it can be really effective at enabling communication in the work place but the hardest part of working from home is the loneliness that can come with it. Not the despairing loneliness but the “I haven’t spoken to another human all day” kind of loneliness but this time you can’t get home and off-load onto your partner or housemates because they have spent the day with you.

For this reason now is the time to pick up the phone instead of emailing. The time to jump on a video call to a supplier or provider, to call clients, to call family and friends and business associates to talk, and share life.

Manage your inputs

Log on to any newspaper, social media or television news channel and all you hear or see is negativity and bad news. There is a temptation to check the news every 20 minutes to see whats happening but in doing this you create a cycle of negativity which can lead to a loss of optimism and hope.

I firmly believe that as a species we will recover and as an economy we will survive this pandemic. That is not to undermine the concern and severity of the situation nor the impact on life literally, financially and mentally COVID-19 is causing but that there always remains hope for the future.

Curate for yourself a happy space. Part of the internet you go to for positive news or hopefulness. Put on nostalgic music or watch a film or TV show that makes you feel good. Get outside for a walk and spend time in nature.