Is it really the most wonderful time of the year when you’re working from home?
I realised something today….this week I will have been working from home for 9 months! The arrival of the festive period (and the lack of office party) has really made me stop and think about where this year has gone, how much has changed and what I’ve learned from working at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On March 17th when I loaded my work computer, stationery and worldly goods into my car, it all seemed a bit of a novelty. At that point, we thought it would just be for a couple of weeks, maybe the school Easter holidays would be extended a little, a month or two at the most. And here we are, 9 months later, long since forgotten calendar still on the office wall stuck on the month of March like it’s in some kind of time warp and everything is probably covered in dust by now. We’re fortunate that the REALSENSE offices overlook the glorious Cheshire countryside and a week before we left the office, we had noticed a cute little lamb in the field below our window. How excited we were, thinking we would be back to watch it grow throughout the Spring and Summer days – and how unprepared we were for the reality that was to come.
Setting up a Home Office
Working for an E-Learning company means I’m surrounded by health and safety expertise and so having undertaken our Display Screen Equipment and Homeworking training courses, I already knew the importance of setting my home office up properly – to support my posture, my eyes and also my sanity. I knew in advance that my dining room chairs would hurt my back if I had to sit on them all day so I asked to borrow the chair I use at work. It’s got lumbar support, arm rests and castor wheels and most importantly for me, it’s adjustable. At just under 6ft tall, I can soon suffer from back pain if my chair isn’t the right height. Don’t tell anyone but I’m currently using the Christmas tree for extra lighting as now the gloomy winter days are upon us it’s a bit dark where my desk is set up – although I had the opposite problem in the summer when the sunshine streamed in through the window, causing a problematic glare and reflection from my screen and nearly melting me at the same time. It’s really made me miss the office, where everything is already set up properly and we have wifi that works all the time (Don’t get me started on all the wifi issues I’ve had while working from home!)
I’ve also been really mindful about security and staying safe whilst working from home by myself, thankfully the Homeworking training gave me some hints and tips so I could take the necessary steps to make sure my home office is safe and free from potential threats or hazards. Our new Information and Cyber Security course has also taught me a lot about keeping data and information secure and helped me ensured I don’t breach any Data Protection rules.
Missing the REALSENSE team
Although I’m currently longing for the big Christmas tree in the entrance hall to our office building and the smell of mince pies wafting up from the coffee shop on the ground floor, what I miss most at this time of year is my colleagues. I miss human interaction, the shared jokes, someone else making me a cup of tea and being able to share frustrations and difficulties without scheduling a Teams call. My current work colleague is called Eric…he’s an Elf on the Shelf…and yes, I do find myself talking to him at various points throughout the day.
Working from home has certainly been a challenge to my mental health and stress levels at times, especially during the first lockdown when like many, I had to juggle work and homeschooling plus pandemic-induced anxiety. Looking back, those days seem almost unbelievable, and at REALSENSE I think we’ve coped because we pulled together as a team and supported one another, sharing hints and tips about self-care and trying to muddle our way through the days as best we could. Here are some of the things we’ve done to help us cope – and thrive – whilst working from home. We’ll definitely be relying on some of these things to see us through the festive period.
Working from Home – Hints and Tips
* We’ve implemented a team ‘Elevenses’ call where we dial in on Teams and just say ‘hi’, have a cup of tea and check in on one another to make sure everyone is OK.
* Individually we’ve set personal daily goals – get up, get dressed, keep to a routine, try to implement boundaries between work and home. Some of us have been following Joe Wicks’ 90 Day Plan and sharing information and motivating each other has spurred us on.
* Get some fresh air – whether that’s a quick walk at lunchtime or before or after work, exercise and a change of scene have proven to be life-savers.
*Treat yourself – a nice meal at lunchtime, a hot bath, a new outfit. There’s not been a lot to look forward to in recent times but even little things can help. Today I’m wearing my sparkly Christmas tree earrings, even if they’ll only be seen on a screen during a Teams or Zoom call.
*Have a digital detox evening – as soon as you finish work, turn off your computer and phone and try to enjoy your home environment without social media or digital distractions.
*Watch your alcohol intake – studies show that more than one in five people have been drinking more this year. We’ll be looking at this more in the new year when we explore some of the issues raised in our Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Course but it’s certainly something to be mindful of over the Christmas holidays.
Looking Forward to 2021
We’ve got lots of exciting times ahead here at REALSENSE, collaborations with some of our partner companies, new courses in the pipeline and lots of new content coming for our website.
Hopefully we will return to our office as soon as it’s safe to do so, reunite with colleagues and feel proud of ourselves as a team that – like many others – showed flexibility and resilience during one of the toughest periods of our lives. And maybe if we’re lucky, there’ll be a new lamb to look at out of the window.
With news of vaccines on the horizon it feels like the end is in sight – and with it a possible return to normality. For some people reading this, working from home will become a thing of the past, for others, it’s here to stay, even if it’s only for some of the time. I highly recommend our Homeworking Training it really gives you the knowledge and tools to make homeworking the best possible experience and has helped us ensure we’re ready to tackle 2021 with gusto, whatever it may bring!