How do you create a successful prolonged period of working from home by strengthening your routine, your space, and your mentality?
If like most of us, you have now been working from home for a couple of weeks already, you might be feeling a shift in the dynamic, as the novelty of the situation starts to wear off.
Before the novelty transforms into a burden, take a moment to optimise your ‘working from home’ situation.
This article is part two of a three-part piece and in this article, we will focus on the second level, your space. If you missed it, click here for part one where we discussed the first level, yourself. Part three where we explore your mentality will be next.
Your space: Let’s get physical
We all remember the discussions about the drawbacks of bringing work home. Well now, we have no choice, work has invaded our homes and might be here to stay for a while. How can you remain a gracious host to this house guest, even when it starts to overstay their welcoming?
To transform this situation into a successful cohabitation, you need to train your brain to separate your work-world from your home-world. To do that successfully, you need to create anchors. The more of your five senses you can engage, the more powerful those anchors will be. This will result in a clear separation between your two worlds, a clear separation that you can transition in and out of, intentionally and proactively.
The largest anchor you can create is a spatial one. Within the spatial anchor, you can create sub-anchors that are designed to specifically engage each of your five senses. The spatial anchor can be achieved by dedicating a specific area of your home to being your home office. It would be easier if this dedication is permanent, meaning the space is not multipurpose and is only used for work.
However, this is a luxury of space many of us do not have. In that case, your home office can be a collection of items you can easily deploy to turn one corner of your dining table into your home office for a few hours. It is important, however, that you pick different items for your work hours than for your home time (think of your coffee mug for example), and that you stay consistent with deploying the entire collection for work and not using the items outside your work world.
What can those items be, beyond the obvious laptop, notebook, coffee mug? Use the following five tips to create anchors that engage each of your senses.
1. Engage your visual sense.
When you sit to work, even in your familiar kitchen, see if you can sit on the other end of the table, in a new direction to get a new ‘view’. It may not be a view of the ocean, but even a view of your familiar kitchen or well-known bookcase can create a powerful anchor if you are looking at it from a new perspective.
2. Engage your auditory sense.
Just as you sit down to start working, try to play the same album every day. While you don’t have to listen to the same album all day, it is quite powerful to start the day, with the same album, before moving on. Whatever you play in your work world, avoid playing in your home-world.
3. Engage your olfactory sense.
Do you have a scent diffuser, a scented candle or rooms perfume you can spray around? Smelling the same scent every time you sit to work helps your brain kick into work mode easily and you’ll find yourself warming up to it or ‘getting into it’, as they say, in a much smoother way.
4. Engage your tactile sense.
What are the textures, surfaces and other tactile items you can have around you during your work time only? Is there a specific chair with a particularly smooth or rough texture, soft or hard surface, cold or warm surface that you can sit on only while working? Much of this is about creating contrast so that your senses, system, and mind perceives a ‘different world’ and can easily click into and, equally importantly, out of that world. Think of the chair, table, a blanket the temperature of the room, maybe even what you are wearing, as textures and tactile triggers.
5. Engage your gustatory sense.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the sense of taste. Could your breakfast be different on working days rather than off-days? Can you make your coffee differently during work time or maybe use a specific flavour of tea? For a successful transition, the most important moment is when you first ‘enter’ the world of work, and when you first enter the world of home. So your first coffee ‘at work’ will create a more powerful trigger to your brain than the subsequent coffees during the day.
While the more anchors you create —consistently and clearly, the stronger the trigger, you obviously do not need all of the ones above. Find what works best for you. Often 3 to 5 anchors are more than enough, even better if they engage different senses.
These anchors are not only crucial to trigger your brain into ‘work mode’, but they are also very helpful to help you get out of work as well. What triggers or routine can you create when you close your work-day and step into your home-world, all that without leaving your house?
The danger in bringing your work to your home, for a prolonged period of time, is that you end up working all the time. And even when you are not physically working, your brain keeps processing and you will find it difficult to ‘switch off’. Switching off is extremely important for your well-being, your mental health, and your emotional balance.
So, we are talking here about balance. For me, balance is not about mixing things, but about separating them and transitioning from one to the other and then back. The separation needs to be clear cut, consistent and strengthened by contrast. The transition needs to be clearly marked, intentional and proactive. This is as important for your work performance as it is for the quality of your home dynamics, family relations and recharging Time.
This article is part two of a three-part piece. Click here for part three where we explore mentality and emotional fortitude.
Most of us have been working from home for a couple of weeks now. As the honeymoon period comes to an end, the novelty of the situation is starting to wear off and you may be feeling less excited about not having to commute and more nervous about facing another day in this now blurred work home-world of yours. Before the novelty transforms into a burden, take a moment to optimise your ‘working from home’ situation. In this three-part article, we have looked at what you can put in place, right now, to optimise your experience, enhance your wellbeing and preserve your mental health during this unprecedented period. After you secure shelter, establish healthy routines and then create a purpose for yourself. If we all did that, we just might be able to turn this global affliction into a worldwide opportunity to create a better future.