My finances, my projects, my life
September 18, 2020

Mistakes to avoid when working from home

Since most of us are spending long weeks in quarantine, you likely have to work from home without necessarily having had time to prepare. Here’s some advice for turning this imposed situation into an opportunity to be productive.

Some see teleworking as a temporary, necessary evil due to the health crisis. Others are discovering a new way of working that actually suits them. This is not a new debate and myLIFE has already outlined the main arguments for and against working from home. What’s new is that working from home is mandatory for so many people, which upends company organisation, as well as the fact that we are also restricted from moving around. How does this affect our well-being and productivity? How can we turn mandatory teleworking into a positive experience?

The answer is simple: with good faith, perseverance and enough discipline to maintain a healthy separation between your personal life and professional life. In order to do so, there are a few good habits you should adopt and others that you should absolutely avoid. The good news is that productivity is not just an end in itself, it is also a key factor in your well-being.

Employees who work from home full time may be subject to increased stress and additional physical and psychological risks.

Take back control no matter what!

Between the reality of the health crisis, the unending anxiety-inducing news cycle and forced quarantine, the outlook is rather bleak. With all of this, having to work from home full-time probably isn’t the best way to feel better. According to an OIT-Eurofound joint report on the effect of spatiotemporal flexibility at work, employees who work from home full-time may be subject to increased stress and additional physical and psychological risks. Make no mistake, working from home is no small thing and requires preparation that you likely did not have. So it’s up to you to take back control and plan your work day accordingly!

An emoji is never as good as the real thing

Step one, take stock of your situation and adapt your habits accordingly. You’re working in a new environment, perhaps completely isolated or the opposite, perpetually distracted by children who need your help on homework or are always bored. Since your colleagues are no longer right next to you, your inbox is flooded with emails from them, which are not always well written and can lead to misunderstandings that are counterproductive to team spirit and your motivation. Productivity quickly declines if we’re not careful. So what should you do?

Are you seeing red when you read your emails? Don’t answer right away! Take breaks to boost your serotonin and improve your mood. Making time to feel good throughout the day is essential. Feeling better? Re-read the email after you’ve calmed down and you may be surprised to find that it wasn’t that bad after all. To keep up your relationships with your colleagues, why not keep your office inside jokes going with virtual chats or plan a short team meeting every day to smooth out any wrinkles that may appear? Social isolation is your worst enemy, and an emoji will never be as good as a real smile. Take care of your mental health!

Sleeping too much changes our cognitive functions as much as sleeping too little.

Is sleeping in a good or bad idea?

These days there’s no more rushing around in the morning to get the kids ready for school, never-ending traffic jams or getting shoved around in public transport to make it to work on time. Is this an opportunity to finally sleep in and make up for your perpetual lack of sleep? The answer is no, and there are at least two good reasons for this.

One of the biggest studies ever conducted on sleep gives us the first : sleeping too much changes our cognitive functions as much as sleeping too little. Sleeping a little bit longer because you haven’t been sleeping much is a good thing; sleeping more than you need to is not. The second reason is that, because you’ll feel better, you run the risk of continuing to push your schedule back and going to bed later and later. You will end up more and more out of sync with the work schedule your employer expects as time goes on.

To save time, you might be tempted to go right from bed to your computer. But this has consequences, too: yawning, fatigue and lack of concentration throughout the day. Rather than sleeping in, which is counterproductive, reorganise your day and schedule it in blocks. Instead of getting up later, turn the time you gain without a commute into a moment for yourself: eat a good breakfast, walk the dog or meditate. Get dressed, put on make-up, get ready for the start of the work day and, if you can, set aside a specific work space. With a routine from your bed to the office, you shift your brain gradually from relaxation mode to work mode.

One of the biggest challenges of working from home is not losing concentration.

Focused all day long

One of the biggest challenges of working from home is not losing concentration. Sitting on the couch for two minutes, quickly turning on the TV, allowing yourself a round of your favourite video game, doing last night’s dishes or soaking up the sun for a few minutes on your balcony are just a few of the countless possible distractions. Giving in to these distractions is a sure way to see your productivity rapidly decline. If you want to avoid getting in trouble with your manager, you will have to lengthen your work day to compensate. But infringing on your personal and family time can also create conflicts or problems at home.

The solution is simple, but it requires discipline: try to create a space and time for work that are separate from the space and time for your personal life. Set a schedule and tasks for the day and stick to it! It is important to minimise interruptions in the work day. An interruption of three seconds is enough to multiply the number of mistakes per task. Stay focused and leave your smartphone alone!

In the evening, there is life beyond Netflix

Morning routine, structured day, focused work; now you’re a work-from-home pro. Congratulations! Now it’s time to unplug and de-stress after a productive day. But don’t just throw yourself on the couch with a pint of ice cream to watch your favourite shows. The numbing and anxiety-reducing effect will, of course, make you feel better in the short term. But what you likely really need when you’re quarantined and forced to work from home is to get back in touch with people and have real social interactions. Instead of isolating yourself, see how friends and family are doing, play with your children, spend time with your partner over a nice, home-cooked meal. At the end of the day, humans are social creatures and the best special effects in the world will never replace how good it feels to spend quality time with others, even if it’s through a screen as long as quarantine continues.

With a little discipline and good faith, quarantine and mandatory work from home are not insurmountable tasks. Keep your head up! It’s up to each of us to take control, adapt and turn this imposed situation into an opportunity to be productive. Take care of yourself!