Surviving the Home Office

safeguarding sanity when working from home

2020 will forever be remembered as the year in which lockdowns, social distancing and self-isolation became part of our daily vocabulary. Now that the novelty of working in your pyjama’s is starting to wear off and you’ve seen every meme pass by at least twice, you might find yourself starting to feel slightly less enamoured with your new place of work. Because chances are your home office comprises a chair at the dining table, or perhaps a small desk jammed into a corner of the living room. Our best tips for surviving the home office. 

'From the cat meandering into your Zoom meeting to the depressing stain on the wall you are facing, it’s not as easy to be productive as you might have expected.'

After all, you usually only fire off the occasional late night email or put the finishing touches to that report before turning off your laptop and settling in for the night. However, this new reality is expected to last anywhere from a few more weeks to eighteen months or more. This means we can expect to be working from home for quite some time to come, and even when the lockdown lifts, it may be reinstated at a future date. And so we thought some lessons from a professional freelancer might be welcome in helping you stay sane in the confines of your home.

Because working from home means lots of distractions, and anything that helps you focus is worth looking into. From the cat meandering into your Zoom meeting to the depressing stain on the wall you are facing, it’s not as easy to be productive as you might have expected. The things we can usually ignore are suddenly magnified as we spend all day confined in our own little bubble.

Home Office

Time then to give our home office a bit of love. Yes, it matters which way your desk is facing and yes, it’s important to have a good desk chair. You can take my word for it. Desk work is back breaking and you’ll be hard pressed to find a chiropractor willing to take new clients right now. Spend some time online and find that perfect chair; your back and neck will thank you for it. Similarly, move your desk around the room until it feels right. Clear those piles of bills away and make it yours.

Order a pot of paint and a brush, and freshen up that wall. Get rid of the wobbly table that houses your printer and invest in something stylish. You’re going to be looking at it for eight hours a day for the foreseeable future. You might as well treat yourself. Don’t forget to order in fresh flowers to cheer up both yourself and your work space. It’s the small things that make a difference.

Ideally, a decent work space means somewhere you can close the door on. Not just from the kids or the dog for obvious reasons, but where your work is out of your field of vision. It’s ever so tempting to just finish that one small item off your to-do list as dinner is in the oven, but – speaking from experience – you’ll find yourself working late into the night. All this leads to is unrealistic expectations from international clients who suddenly find you are always available, heightened irritability, and of course sleeping in late because you’re exhausted from burning the midnight oil. It’s a slippery slope. Finding and sticking to a healthy rhythm is essential when working from home. Be strict, turn off that computer at the end of the day and don’t touch it again until tomorrow. Oh, and take the weekend off.

Virtual Workplace

Apps like Slack, Trello and Asana can help remote teams stay on track, and are essential when you’re trying to manage projects from home. Holding the middle ground between a digital to-do list, a Whatsapp group and email, they go a long way towards keeping your mailbox free of clutter and help you pool information and resources within the team.

On a side note, please remain vigilant when it comes to strange emails, attachments and other unusual activity. Hackers are having a field day with so many people suddenly working from home computers. So update your software to the latest version, get a good password manager and consider investing in anti-virus software that packs a punch such as Malwarebytes. SafeonWeb also has some great tips to keep you safe online.

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Keep On Keeping On

With movement restricted to just the essentials, you’ll quickly find the walls are closing in on you. And although your dog may be enjoying the extra walks, they’re hardly adding productivity to your day. So, as well as your daily excursion round the block, find an online class you can really get into. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Yoga with Kassandra on YouTube. Her ten to fifteen minute stretch classes are a great way to start your morning, injecting energy and focus into your day. From guided morning meditations to hour-long Vinyasa flows for flexibility, she has something for everyone.

In the name of research I decided to check out overnight global phenomenon Joe Wick, also known as The Body Coach. I enjoyed every second of the 30-minute session, but can tell you my glutes and calves are in agony today. His cheerful delivery and personal shout-outs to the kids online are sure to put a smile on your face and give your day a much-needed boost. It’s not surprising his daily PE class has captured the imagination of parents and kids alike, with week 1 of ‘PE with Joe’ racking up views from 17 million households around the world. Thirty second bursts of HIIT-style exercises include everything from ‘bunny hops’ to ‘Spiderman lunges’ (shooting imaginary webs from your wrists) are live-streamed straight from his living room at 11am CET. So give it a whirl, I’ll be there again tomorrow, cat and dog tripping me up.

After Work Apero

Speaking of internet sensations, the video chat app HouseParty has seen a massive increase in downloads, with Vogue hailing it “the quarantine app you need to download immediately”. Just like with Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Google Hangouts, you can video call with friends, but unlike with these, people can just join in the ‘party’ without you needing to add them to the call. This can have surprising benefits, as well as some potential pitfalls.

We’ll leave it to you to decide how and with whom you prefer organising your virtual happy hour, but socialising is key to staying sane when it’s just you and your four walls. So be sure to take some time out to have some fun with family, friends and colleagues, even if it has to remain virtual for now. We’re looking forward to hosting the first virtual ABRA Apero on Friday April 17th from 6pm, an invite will follow separately.

Finally, tempting as it might be to open that bottle of vino and go into holiday modus sometime around midday, know that this too shall pass and we expect things will become busier than ever before when lockdowns around the world lift and borders are reopened. As EuRA’s CEO Tad Zurlinden said last week “Our industry is going to be at the forefront of rebuilding commerce and economies all over the world and we need to be ready to react fast and big when that day comes”.


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