During the Pandemic of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), working from home is something almost everybody does. But how do you do it well? And what impact does it have on your social life?

In this blogpost, co-authored by Simran Arora (VMware Solution Engineer, UK), we will share some insights into how to effectively work from home (WFH). We’ll also give some tips on how you can WFH without crushing your social life or get Zoom’ ed-out.

Some tips right of the bat:

  1. Dedicated workplace
  2. Plan your day
  3. Schedule breaks
  4. Virtual Friend Meetups
  5. Take walks
  6. Hobby at home
  7. Leave home once in a while (if possible), and wear a mask 😷
  8. Have a cat for proof reading
The cat makes sure I keep doing my work

Simran:

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a large amount of people started working from home. This experience won’t be new for a few people; however, for many, it’s still an unknown territory altogether.

Although my job always allowed me to work from home, this current situation has thrown lots more challenges. Working remotely in a normal scenario already used to cause many people to struggle with the lack of distinction between work and home life. Since the pandemic, that’s heightened significantly because those boundaries have increasingly blurred as we are forced to be confined to our homes. In the current situation the usual advice about visiting the office every once in a while, and working elsewhere a few days a week, or heading to your coffee bar for a few social interactions, is currently unacceptable. All this suggests, is that it’s more complicated than ever to strike that ultimate goal of achieving a far better “work-life balance”.

It’s the desire of this “work life balance” that results in significant amount of people preferring to work from home or requesting flexible working hours. While it’s essential, it is a phrase I rarely use. I’m not the first and won’t be the last to speak about how it isn’t strictly achievable. Work and life will never be equally balanced. Some days the scales will tip towards the direction of work, other days, family life would take priority.

So instead of trying to achieve the impossible, I’ve mentioned below a few things I’ve been doing to assure both my work life and my private life can manage alongside one another in harmony even if they’re not completely balanced.

Define your hours

Having set working hours is the first step to stopping one from overworking or worse, never shutting off. When work is at home, and home is at work, it’s challenging to identify the difference apart. The temptation to stay logged on, replying to emails or carrying on with work is usually there. Therefore, having clear, defined hours isn’t just helpful for your own mental state and wellbeing but also for those who live with you.

Another key consideration when working from home is making sure those who you live with are happy with the arrangements. By setting some time away for work means they do not feel as if they’re living in an office or that your work continually takes you away. You are essentially allowing everyone to have some kind of structure around other household activities like mealtimes and Netflix time.

One of the considerable benefits of working from home is having the flexibleness and freedom of setting your own hours. Although those hours don’t have to be 9-5, it’s good to define work hours and have them written down, so they become easier to stick to. It equally ensures you’ve got enough downtime for yourself and so you can enjoy the family time as well.

In an office environment, you have got your core working hours so you shouldn’t need to work longer than those simply because you’re at home. Additionally, in an office environment we usually get the visual and social cues to switch off, take breaks and finish for the day. These short breaks are harder to seek out when working alone at home. Therefore, setting the alarm for break and lunch, scheduling an end of day meeting or call can give you a way of closure to the working day and transition into your own free time. Giving yourself an activity to mark the end of the day may also help you to switch off. Something as simple as a brief walk outside or grabbing coffee from downstairs, can signal the brain that it’s the end of your working day and almost can feel like it’s replacing a daily commute making it easier to turn off. 

A Morning Ritual

One way to ensure you have got time to yourself that’s not dictated by work is to wake up early enough and make an easy morning ritual. By having a morning routine, whether it’s mindful practise like journaling and meditation, or exercising or simply reading with a quiet cup of coffee ensures you have had time for yourself before the working day has begun. It can help set you up for a productive day and prevents that feeling of urgency or being behind the curve from the instant you wake up. Having a pleasurable morning routine to assist you to prepare and provide you some time for yourself helps keep that work-life balance

Social Time

While you may feel you’re being more connected than ever with one after the other Zoom meetings, what we miss out on are the social conversations. Working from home doesn’t provide those ‘coffee machine moments’ which divide the day and enable us to snap out of work mode for a short time. This is why it’s essential to set that time that aside even if it means ringing up a colleague to catch up rather than scheduling a zoom call. 

I treat my calendar as my ally and like to use it to organise both my work and social life. I prefer to set aside time to call a friend or perhaps catch up with social media messages, so I add this to my calendar to ensure that I keep a healthy proportion of non-work time in my schedule as well.

Set aside a chosen ‘non-workspace’

It’s a classic piece of advice when it involves homeworking: to create a dedicated workspace sort of like a home office space if you can. By having space specifically set aside for work will help establish good boundaries around where work stops, and home life begins. Doing so can help you section your house and shut off fromworkat the endof the day. It’s essential to recognise that your living space in your house is just as important as your workspace if not more, therefore by having these boundaries one can minimise the risk of overlapping these spaces.

A separate office is ideal, but not everyone encompasses a separate space for a home office. Many people might be working from their table, a corner of the living room or spare bedroom. Which makes it even more important to stop your work from spilling over into your living or relaxing space. 

It’s been crucial for me to designate space and time for work, even though I’m living in a place with not much room to spare. I do not like to mix my living and working space because, just by having that space helps me lot to have the abilityto switch “work brain” on and off.

Above are just some of the things I’ve been doing while fully working from home since March. I hope these tips can help anyone who’s struggling to find that balance. Like I said I don’t believe we’ll ever get a complete work life balance but it’s something we should always be aiming towards for the sake of our own mental health and equally for us to be as productive at work.

For more on work-life balance, check out this podcast, in which I share some personal WFH experiences and more tips:

Podcast on Work-Life Balance with Simran Arora

Remi:

To come back to the tips at the beginning of the post, a dedicated Workspace / Desk is key to your mental and physical well-being. It’s great for the work experience for you and your customers/colleagues, but also for not getting distracted by family members or other things that are going on around the house.

On the left you can see how I worked from home for the first couple of weeks of the pandemic, I also just bought the house so not all the rooms were done yet. But the office was one of the first one to finish and on the right is the result.

Here is some equipment I invested in to make sure I can have a more pleasant experience while working from home and in return provide a better and more favourable environment for my customers when I present to them on zoom. (Believe me, my butt is also thanking me!)

  • Height Adjustable Desk (Ikea Bekant, Black)
  • Dual Monitor Setup (Any >24″ Screen will do)
  • Webcam (Logitech Brio)
  • USB-C Hub (CalDigit TS3)
  • Keyboard, Mouse and Trackpad (All Apple 🤓)
  • Office Chair (Ikea Markus)
  • Some plants for a nice view and more Oxygen
  • Water bottle for keeping me hydrated

I also use Apple AirPods for the audio, as I can walk around freely without too much disturbance for the listener, but that’s completely optional!

If you want to go full Pro, invest in a good microphone such as a Blue yeti X.

Home Workout Equipment
Home Workout Equipment

Home Exercise
Being restricted to your house can feel like you are locked up. Working out can give you that extra serotonin boost that you need to keep yourself mentally healthy. Besides, it also helps to keep fit physically. Even the best chair makes your back, neck and ass hurt if you sit down for 8 hours straight. And if you plan your day correctly, you’ll have some time to exercise during the day. Even a couple of minutes can help you feel better!

Home Made Kombucha

Hobby at Home
Another great thing to do is getting a hobby you can do at home. I started making my own Kombucha (Fermented Tea), more about that in my next blogpost But the idea is that you keep yourself busy and only Netflix is not a great way. Being able to fully let go of your work has helped me getting more motivation the next day to start, fresh energy and a clear mind is the best way to start your day!

Optional: Leave home once in a while and go for walks during the day
During these difficult times, I know there are lots of restrictions. Some countries have more severe measures than the others, however, if your country allows and it’s safe for you to do so, do make time for a walk at least once a day. You can eat your lunch while walking around the block, or go for a walk while calling your friends. Take the dog for an extra run. Just make sure you wear a mask when you go to public places 🙂

How are you keeping sane during lockdown?
Now that we have shared some tips, we would love to know what you did to make WFH more enjoyable?

If you made it till the end of this blog, here is cat “Maki” making sure you stay safe and stay mentally healthy!

Maki: “Meow”

Don’t feel okay? Reach out to me via mentalhealth@vmware.com