Working remotely without getting cabin fever

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There have been loads of posts, blogs and articles about working remotely over the past few months. Some of them give useful productivity tips, others focus on mental wellbeing and some even see it as a platform to sell their services.

I wanted to write something a little different.

More about my perspective of working from home.

If it’s helpful or gives you a pleasant read over your morning brew then job done.

Right, let’s start at the beginning, I first started working from home about 13 years ago, and that was only on the odd occasion. Why?

Because of what people thought.

  • They thought you weren’t as productive.
  • They thought you wouldn’t be as beneficial in meetings if you only dialled in.
  • They thought you were just sat in your jammies watching This Morning…or Jeremy Kyle all day.

Basically, the perception was that you wouldn’t work as much or add as much value because you weren’t in the office.

Now those of you who know me know I love to have a natter.  So,  I ask you this…

Am I more productive when I’m at home by myself or when I’m in an office full of people?

You know what? I don’t actually think it makes a difference on a normal day, mojo is mojo. I can just as easily be on fire in the office as I can at home. Generally, when I’m having a chatty phase in the office it’s because I have little mojo or no deadlines to hit. And it’s the same at home if I have a slump in mojo I might give someone a call for a 5 min natter.

Although if I have a lot of design work to do I find I can blast through it quicker at home, but that might be because I turn up some old skool trance or house music so I can’t hear anything else and I just work. Am I more productive in these cases? Yes.

Ok I know I’m rambling here, I do that a lot.

My point is, don’t let people tell you where you are at your most productive. What works for one person may not work for another. I know some people who hate working from home, it’s just too quiet. They miss the chatter and the background noise, maybe that’s why I like music on because I spent so many years working in call centres? Who knows.

Ok, so cabin fever.

Now, these tips won’t work for everyone, or in every situation so just take what will work for you and ignore the rest.

1.) Get dressed

This one has been bandied about loads of blogs I’ve read. But it’s true. Don’t roll out of bed, grab your laptop and start working. Go for something smart/casual,  it’ll put your brain in work mode.

2.) Set your alarm

If you set your alarm to get up and get ready for the commute, try setting it at the same time or half an hour later than normal. Use that time to come round, have a brew and watch a bit of tv. Then get ready and go to work. Having this bit of ‘you’ time will help to stop you burning out.

3.) Take a break

When you are in the office, if you go for a cup of tea at 11, keep those routines. Step away from your machine, get some fresh air, start prepping your lunch or give someone a call for a chat. If you stay locked to your screen for 8 hours, you’ll feel more tired. Also don’t work at the weekend, like today is bank holiday Sunday and I’m sat at my computer writing this… I need to follow my own advice!

4.)Play that funky music

Create some good playlists for your different moods. If you need mojo, if you need to concentrate, if you need perking up or even just something playing in the background to drown out the silence… I like piano covers or spa music for that one.

5.)Get a mirror

This is a weird one but stay with me…

Ok, when you are on a video call you have someone to talk to so you engage more in that conversation. But what if it’s just a voice call? If you don’t have something to look at you’ll multi-task so get a mirror so you have someone to talk to. It might sound nuts but it does actually work!

The first time I used a mirror to deliver a virtual training session was a revelation, I found I was using my hands more and there was a lot more emphasis in my voice when compared to me just delivering to my screen (we didn’t use webcams). Just try it, you’ll see.

6.) Speak to people

Pick up the phone for a chat, have a video call or shout across the fence to your neighbour. If you live alone then working from home can be extremely isolating. You need to make the effort to maintain relationships within your personal life and work life. Why not set up an online quiz which everyone can take part in using a video conferencing tool?

7.) Do something else

Get up. Eat. Work. Eat. Work. Watch TV. Eat. Watch TV. Sleep.

Does that sound like your normal routine at the moment? For many people, including myself sometimes, this is what a normal workday looks like. I’ve been working from home for about 2 months now and what else do I do? If its sunny I spend time outside but other than that not much else. My pedometer on the iPhone yesterday racked up 74 steps! The average over the past month is only 246!

Yep, I know we are in lockdown but I can’t even use that as an excuse, I could have got out of the house and taken a walk along the canal at the bottom of the street, or in some woods. But do I? Nope.

I could take up a hobby, I tried crochet once. I made a poppy and then gave the kit to my sister because it was too much of a faff. I could read a book, I have one that I’m reading while I sit in the sun – but that’s the only time it comes out. Anyway, I’m rambling again, the point is, get some work/life balance and do something other than sitting in front of screens all day.

Do I have cabin fever? I don’t think I do.

I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that I’ll start feeling fidgety if I don’t have my music on. I get up (stay in jammies), make a cup of tea and watch the news for half an hour and then I get ready for work and I start work at 8 usually.

When I first became self-employed I spent 8 months not working, trying to find leads and pretty much just expecting the work to come flooding in…it didn’t.

I had cabin fever then.

I had all these expectations, I had no deadlines but I needed to do something. I wasn’t used to being my own boss.

My husband was working so I had days and weeks of doing nothing productive. And when he would get home, I would chew his ear off because I’d had nobody to talk to all day.

I spent loads of money because I would randomly go shopping or get my nails done…money I didn’t have because I wasn’t bringing any in.

So, after a couple of months of cabin fever, I started implementing these tips and they really worked for me.

Now you may be thinking, why hasn’t she mentioned having a dedicated work area?

Well because not everyone has the space to set up a home office, so I didn’t want to include it. If you can then it’s great and really helps with the work/life balance but if not, the next best thing is putting your kit away in a bag or cupboard until the next day.

Is the reason I don’t have cabin fever now because I had it before? Probably, I know what works for me and what doesn’t so now working from home is just as normal as working in an office.

Final thought – do what works for you, listen to the people writing these posts but only take from them what will actually work for you and your situation.

Stay safe and stay sane.

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