University alumni and now Politics and International Relations lecturer, Dr Samantha May, shares her top five tips for working or studying from home...
So how many of us have over-romanticised the idea of working or studying from home? Have you conjured images of working in your pyjamas, at the hours that suit you, with a selection of snacks on your desk and a cat on your lap? (the cat is optional). Ahh, the bliss with no distractions, nagging supervisors, annoying colleagues, and constant surveillance. What an idyllic work environment it is! Or is it?
As many of you are already realising, working or studying from home has a number of negatives especially when the choice to do so is no longer your own. It can be isolating, demotivating, anxiety inducing, lacking in structure and difficult to separate from leisure time. There is a reason that I enjoy face-to-face teaching so much!
There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions to the negatives of home working and each of us will develop our own coping strategies. The following are not solutions, but tips on how to mitigate against the worst of the challenges from home working.
1. Firstly, don’t work in your pyjamas!
You will need to find a separation from work/leisure time which is complicated when both occur in the same physical space, which for many of you is pretty small and confined as it is. Get up and get dressed. I can’t believe I am admitting this publicly, but in the name of the greater good, I have been known to get dressed in a suit (yes, when I am working from home) walk out my back door only to enter through the front door to signal that I am now “at work”. When the physical separation between work and pleasure is impossible it is often useful to create psychological distinctions.
2. Create your own structures.
Try not to drift between work and leisure which can easily unintentionally occur when working from home. Write a daily ‘to do’ list and pre-schedule your working hours by setting a start time, break times, and of course the finishing line (at which point by all means change into your pjs!) Stick to both the starting time and the finishing time so you do what needs to be done but can still revel in the ‘treat’ of having the evening for your own activities.
3. Take breaks.
It is far too easy to sit at your desk for hours and hours without moving. This is bad for your emotional and mental well being as well as your physical wellbeing. Take regular short breaks where you stand up from your desk/work area. Stretch!
4. Stay Connected.
Isolation and loneliness are common aspects of working from home especially if you live alone. As well as causing stresses on our emotional wellbeing, isolation can also disturb our creative and critical abilities in that we are stuck in our own heads with no contending or alternative points of view. Use technology, online resources, social media etc. to connect with others. Reach out to each other to ask revision questions, email teaching staff with questions, create Facebook groups, twitter discussions, and watch documentaries with fellow students together over Skype. Stay connected!
5. Working from home isn’t just about work it is also about home.
In these challenging months ahead, we will all have to be resilient and strengthen our resolves so DO make time for things that you enjoy or things you “haven’t quite gotten round to yet”. Read the classic novels you’ve been meaning to for three years, pick up the guitar you were given for Christmas, make the lego set a friend gave you for a laugh, take out your brushes, paints and sketch pads or turn the sitting room into a rocket-ship with your flatmates (I can personally vouch for the latter).
Most of all, stay safe and look out for one another.