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How to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic

The onslaught of coronavirus has affected every aspect of life for people all over the UK and beyond. Suddenly, huge swathes of the population have found themselves forced to work from home for the first time. The adjustment can be jarring, resulting in reduced productivity and an increase in anxiety.

If you’re a freelancer or contractor, working from home could be your usual practice. That said, this unprecedented situation might be having a negative effect on your productivity, too.

To offer some support, we’ve put together this straightforward guide full of tips and ideas to keep you working successfully throughout this testing time.

Take care of yourself
First and foremost at times like this, it’s vital to look after your mental health. The combination of social distancing, suddenly working in new ways, and a constant stream of startling news stories can play havoc with your anxiety levels. Here are three things you can do to help:

  • Limit your exposure to news sites and social media
    It’s well-known that too much time browsing social media feeds and rolling news sites can be bad for your mental health. However, in a time of national crisis, it’s tempting (and weirdly comforting) to get sucked into scrolling for hours at a time.
    Instead, try and set limits on when and for how long you visit social media and news sites. Perhaps box off a 30-minute portion of your morning to check in on the news and have a quick browse of the conversations on Facebook and Twitter. It might feel like overkill at first, but before long you’ll feel more balanced and less anxious.
  • Exercise regularly
    We all know that exercise is important for your physical and mental wellbeing. But, when you’re busy with video meetings and team check-ins, it can take a bit of a back seat.
    Don’t let exercise fall by the wayside. Commit half an hour every day to raising your heart rate. Social distancing rules state that you can leave the house once a day for exercise purposes, so take advantage of that with a walk or run around the block. If you’d prefer to stay indoors, have a browse through the many HIIT workouts on Youtube. They generally take less than half an hour, and they’re perfect for working off any pent up stress.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family
    Just because you can’t go out to physically visit your loved ones or friends, you can still catch up with them regularly using video calls or good old fashioned messaging apps.
    Something as simple as a weekly Zoom call with those closest to you can be really beneficial for everyone. You get to interact face-to-face and just hearing the laughter and kind words of a brother, mum, or best mate can lift your spirits immeasurably.

How to stay productive
Okay, so we’ve looked at how to get your mind right. Now, let’s consider some of the ways that you can keep your output up, without succumbing to distraction.

Firstly, don’t get too obsessed with keeping to a nine-to-five schedule. Although that can work in an office environment, it doesn’t necessarily lead to maximum productivity at home. For example, many people find that they are productive first thing in the morning and then again at mid-morning. Play to your strengths, and schedule your day accordingly.

Try to find a spot in the house that you’ll be relatively free of disturbances. That doesn’t mean somewhere that’s silent (complete silence can actually reduce productivity), but ideally, it should be a place where the TV or other visual distractions aren’t within your line of sight.

There are lots of people who will have their children at home with them, making work even more difficult. Remember that you don’t need to replace school—simply keeping your kids alive and entertained in the short-term is enough. If you attempt to play parent, teacher, worker, and homemaker in one go, you’ll implode.

As we’ve said above, complete silence can be detrimental to productivity. So, experiment with different types of instrumental background music to help you concentrate. Whether it’s a classical playlist or streaming lo-fi hip hop, the right tunes can help to keep you working.

Finally, be sure to take regular breaks. In an office, you’ll naturally have screen time breaks when you chat with colleagues or make a brew round. At home, particularly if you’re alone, it can be all too easy to end up sitting at your laptop for hours on end without a break. Try a Pomodoro timer (this one is free) to remind you to stop what you’re doing and look away from your screen for a few minutes.

Enlist some tools to help
Juggling time management, project deadlines, and team responsibilities when working from home isn’t easy. Fortunately, there are loads of digital tools that can help. Here are four that we have found to be really useful:

  1. Trello
    Trello is a project and team management tool that lets you stay on top of every aspect of a project right from your laptop. The interface is simple to use, and it integrates with things like Evernote and Dropbox.
  2. Slack
    Instant messaging is useful for team comms, but WhatsApp and FB Messenger just don’t cut the mustard in a professional setting. Try Slack instead. It’s built for business, it’s got tons of uses, and it’s more adaptable than email.
  3. Dropbox
    If you’re sharing large files with your team and you want everything in one place, consider getting a Dropbox account. It’s less hassle than sending files from person to person or attempting to access remote servers without an IT degree.
  4. Google Drive
    This one is an absolute must if you’re working on collaborative documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. Google Drive is free, it’s got tons of functionality, and using it is child’s play.

In conclusion
Dealing with the myriad of changes that coronavirus has brought about is never going to be easy. But, by taking care of yourself and trying to stick to positive routines, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy being productive while you work at home.

We hope you’ve found this article useful. If you want more advice on building your business, have a browse through our list of resources, here.

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