COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus. To get the latest information, visit the NHS website or follow the verified @NHSEngland account on Twitter.
Working from home is the new normal, but have you found your stride yet? These tips will help…
In the space of two weeks, the world has changed beyond recognition. Everyone in the UK has been asked to stay home to protect the NHS and save lives. As a result, millions of people are now facing the unique challenges of working from home. From finding a suitable workspace to staying focused and effectively communicating with your team, these tips will make it a little bit easier.
Find a routine
Your morning routine has just gone up in smoke. Now your commute takes you from bed to business in a matter of minutes and you won’t be stopping at a coffee shop either. These little rituals help to wake you up and get you in the right mindset, so you’ll miss them more than you’d think.
There’s only one thing for it – you need to create a new routine and working from home gives you a lot more flexibility. Exercise is a great way to boost your energy and your mood, so why not replace your commute with a workout? Prefer an extra hour in bed? A good night’s sleep improves productivity, so you can do it guilt-free.
‘Work from home guilt’ is real. It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working, the fact that you’re doing it from home makes you feel like you need to do more. The result? People are more likely to work late and through their breaks when they work remotely, but it’s not sustainable for long periods of time.
Give yourself a break. Literally. Take two short breathers every day and make sure you use your whole lunch break. Not only will you feel better for it, but it will help to improve your productivity and your creativity – which means you’ll be better at your job. Give your eyes a break too – every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on something in the distance for 20 seconds.
Find your balance
When it comes to finding the right work-life balance, we’d usually tell you not to take your work home with you, but that’s not an option right now, so instead, you’ll need to set boundaries. Otherwise, the lines between your work life and your home life can become blurred.
Set a start time and a finish time. It might be the same as your usual hours or you might be able to get an hour in before everyone else logs in, but whatever you choose, make sure you know when to call it a day. It’s all too easy to lose track of time when you’re working from home or to pick up your laptop just because it’s there – try to resist, you’ll feel better for it tomorrow.
Create a dedicated workspace
For the next few weeks, your home is your new office, but most of us aren’t set up to work from home. You probably don’t have an office, you may not even have a desk, but it’s worth creating a dedicated workspace, so you feel like you’re getting up and going to work.
If you have space, set aside an entire room. That way, you can close door to distractions and close away your work at the end of the day. Don’t have a room to spare? Find a quiet space in your house with a table to work at and minimise distractions as much as you can. Make sure you have space for your equipment and files – you may have to pack it up at the end of the day, but you can still create that sense of ‘going to work’.
Plan your day
Meetings, stand-ups, coffee breaks – at work, your day is broken up into manageable portions, but at home, it’s one long sprint. And while that can improve your productivity in the short term, over time, it can cause you to lose focus and burn out. The answer? Plan your day in advance – and by that, we mean the night before.
When you plan in the morning, it’s too easy to change your schedule. Do it the night before and you’re more likely to stick to it. Build in video conferences, catch-ups and focus time to give your day structure – and use calendar events to help you stay on track, so you know when to switch tasks and when to take a break.
Get on the same page
When everyone’s in the office together, communication is easy, but when you’re all working remotely, things start to go awry, so you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. Why not introduce a daily video call? You can catch up face-to-face with services like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. For the day-to-day stuff, try instant messaging on Slack or Microsoft Teams.
Of course, it’s not just your colleagues you need to communicate with. Whether you’ve got kids under your feet or housemates knocking around, you need to draw a line between work time and leisure time, so you can focus on the task at hand. If you’re sharing childcare responsibilities, agree who will work when and make sure you keep your boss in the loop.
One thing’s for sure – there will be a lot more distractions in your living room than there are in your office. The pull of daytime TV is strong and the demands of bored children are stronger still. You can minimise these distractions as much as possible, but you can’t avoid them completely, so you need turn them to your advantage.
It may sound strange, but distractions can be an effective motivator. When you know there are going to be additional pulls on your time, it puts extra pressure on the time you do have, and that pressure can help you to focus, making every sprint, no matter how short, super-effective.
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Knowing the ebbs and flows of your focus and your energy levels will help you to be more productive. If you’re a morning person, you can start checking off your to-do list before anyone else even logs on – this is when you’re at your most focused, so start with longer, harder jobs, leaving the afternoon free for easier tasks.
Hate getting up in the morning? Make the most of your lie in and do your day in reverse. Start with smaller, easier tasks and work your way up to the big stuff as your energy levels rise. It’s probably tempting to stay in your PJs, but don’t underestimate the power of getting up and dressed. It will put you in the right state of mind and help you to focus.
Okay, we’re just going to say it – don’t work on the sofa. Tempting as it is, it’s also a surefire way to get neck and back pain. Even just working on a laptop instead of your usual keyboard and monitor can cause problems because it forces you to slump forward.
Ideally, you want to set yourself up with the same equipment you have in the office – that means working at a desk with a screen, a keyboard and a mouse. If you can’t do that, you need to stay as active as possible. Make sure you get up and move around every hour. Walk, stretch, dance – how you do it is up to you, but the more you move, the better you’ll feel.
Cooking is one of those distractions we were talking about earlier. Now that you’re at home, the kitchen is just metres away. You can whip up a storm if you want, but just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. After all, this is your lunch break and you need to recharge before you get back to work.
Instead, prepare your lunches ahead. Make double portions in the evenings, so you have quick and easy leftovers the next day, or dedicate an hour on Sunday to prepping the whole week. You’ll find loads of big-batch recipes on BBC Good Food, with everything from smokey black bean chilli to tuna Niçoise protein pots. Want more? Check out Tasty, Epicurious and kitchn.