By Chris Farmer, leadership and management training expert and founder of Corporate Coach Group
The ongoing pandemic means that for many people their place of work has been the lounge, the spare room or the ‘home office’ for more than the past six months. While it might have been a novelty at first, for many the lack of human interaction and spending so much time within the same four walls is becoming monotonous and this could lead to common bad habits which could destroy productivity and peace of mind.
In order to improve productivity and retrain the mind as we head into the winter period, here are some simple but powerful techniques you can use to make the most of working from home.
Don’t work in the room where you rest, relax or entertain yourself
Everyone is affected by their environment. We form strong mental-emotional associations between a particular activity and its location. When we are in a restaurant, we feel like eating; when we are in a swimming pool, we do NOT feel like eating.
When working from home, the associations between “Work” and “NOT-Work” become blurred because the two activities are taking place at the same location.
Consequently, both activities suffer. We feel we are never quite “at work”, and we feel we are never quite NOT at work. We feel we are in a strange “No man’s land” between the two states, and it is unsettling.
It is vital to separate our “work-space” from “rest space”. Ideally, you should have a separate room where you do all your work and NONE of your rest. Your living room is not where you work. If you do not have a separate room, then at least have a separate chair, and face an opposite wall.
We know people who work in their lounge. They sit in the same chair that they will be in, that evening, when watching TV. This is a mistake.
Dress for work, even when at home
Everyone is affected by the clothes they wear. When a police officer, a nurse, or a firefighter gets ready for duty, they put on their uniform. Why? Because every profession has its own identity; and every identity has an associated appearance.
Just because your physical place of work has changed doesn’t mean that your appearance needs to as well, and that’s not just because of video calls and meetings. It’s the same principle as working from your living room, if you adopt the identity of working in your casual clothes you will likely have the same mindset as you do when not at work.
We all know people who hang around the house in their dressing gowns and slippers, working with one eye on the TV and this is not conducive to productive working.
Dress as if you were going to work. Groom yourself as if you were going to work, because you are! When you have finished work, it is equally important to change back into your scruffs and relax.
Don’t allow the media to become your new best friend
People who work at home do not have the company of their colleagues, and so may turn to mainstream news for company. Everyone is susceptible to the suggestive influences of the media, which would be fine, if the media was objective and reasonably optimistic.
Unfortunately, the majority of headlines suggest; “It is bad and it’s going to get worse” and while it’s important for all of us to be aware of the latest updates regarding the pandemic and wider current affairs, it can also have the tendency to fill the mind with negative, pessimistic information.
The constant low-level hypnotic suggestions have an inevitable negative effect on our thoughts, feelings, actions and therefore our outputs. Avoid spending all of your time soaking your mind in the news agenda where possible such as through Facebook or Twitter and concentrate your attention onto something more productive to add value to your life.
Form a “Mastermind Alliance” with like minded people and talk to them every day
We are all profoundly affected by the company we keep and the voices we listen to.
Forming an alliance with two or three like minded individuals who (preferably), you do NOT work with, but who are in a similar position as you can be a really effective way of reminding yourself of the bigger picture and that in a sense we’re all in this together.
Your Mastermind Alliance may be from different companies or even a different industry but it is key this is composed of people who have an upbeat and can-do attitude.
Talk to them every day. The purpose of your mastermind alliance is mutual inspiration and emotional support. We ally ourselves with a small number of the right people: people whom we admire and who will challenge us to be at our best.
Keep good health habits; eat, sleep and exercise well
One of the basics that in particular needs to be prioritised as we head towards the winter is the focus on good health habits.
Why? Everything that we do in life requires energy – even if it’s just engaging your brain to perform your daily work from your desk at home. Energy defines your capacity to do work and it must be generated effectively to allow for maximum productivity.
This means you must maximise sleep, nutrition and exercise to generate sufficient energy while also minimising other negatives such as alcohol, calorific food and smoking, or using coping mechanisms such as comfort eating.
Instead, maximise the quality of your Sleep, nutrition and exercise.
- Sleep eight hours a night
- Eat small but eat well
- Exercise three times a week
- Avoid alcohol where possible
Keep your eye on the end goal
I know many of us are fed up of hearing this advice but it really is important to remember that this pandemic will not last forever. Life will return to some normality again and it’s important that we all continue to focus on our long term aspirations which we had before this all kicked off in March.
The human mind can tend towards one of two states: “goal focused” or “drifter mentality” and it’s important to focus on the former.
When working from home our biggest danger is that we lose our focus. We become distracted, disenchanted and we lose our edge. The solution is to continually monitor our state of mind and to do everything necessary to maintain a “Goal focused mentality”.
Goal focused mentality means continually setting goals: Set goals to:
- Improve your Work life balance (deliberately and knowingly separate your work activities from your non-work activities)
- Improve your dress code, grooming and appearance
- Maintain your professional identity
- Reduce your time on social media
- Engage the services of your mastermind alliance
- Increase the QUALITY of your nutrition
- Increase the quality of your sleep
- Reduce the amount of alcohol
- Increase the quality of your exercise programme.
- Generate more energy.
The only way out of trouble is to go forwards, by setting goals, formulating plans, motivating ourselves to take priority actions, and continually adapt ourselves so we are able to make progress, even when working from home.