Working from home can be difficult at the best of times, and the current pandemic has meant that a lot of us are working from home either for the first time, or far more than normal. Luckily, as someone with chronic illness, I’m very used to being stuck inside for long stretches of time.
GENERAL WFH TIPS
1. NOT GOING STIR CRAZY
If you’re not used to being home all the time, it can start to feel claustrophobic very easily.
My biggest tip is to try and bring the outside into your home as much as possible:
- Allow as much natural light into the home as possible, try to let in some fresh air in too by opening a door or window;
- Embrace your inner crazy-plant-lady: try to have some indoor greenery like succulents or small potted plants (fresh herbs are perfect for this because you can use them for cooking as well!). If you’re worried about all your plants dying, maybe look into a few fake plants – they’ll always look luscious and ‘healthy’, but you still have something to remind you of nature.
- If you’re on lockdown or in self isolation and can’t go out walking, still make sure you get some sunshine! If you’ve got a garden or balcony, maybe take your laptop outside and work there for an hour or two. If not, sit out on your doorstep for a few minutes while you have a cup of tea or a snack.
2. HAVE A FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE
I know myself that not by being in the office, it’s all to easy to just park myself in front of the computer and not leave until it’s time to start dinner. Without having to actually get up and fetch files or pop into someone’s office to receive instructions, I’m certainly guilty of this.
At the same time, having a fixed schedule of work vs break times doesn’t work for me either, because something always comes up. In addition, having to stick to a schedule that I can’t always meet often adds stress, especially when I inevitably start falling behind.
What I’ve found most helpful is creating a flexible outline with windows when I’ll aim to do something, rather than specific times. A typical day for me at the moment has a window for a 15 minute morning tea sometime between 10-11am, a 1h lunch break between 12:30-2:30pm, and another tea break between 3:30-4pm. This way, I can still take my breaks during the lulls in between tasks, but they’re just structured enough to make sure I know to take them.
3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Yes, in all likelihood, your location is currently “stuck inside your house!” This makes the location of your actual workstation all the more crucial. Having been stuck at home for long periods before, let me tell you, even the smallest change in scenery makes all the difference!
Try to have your work station set up in a space that’s not used for anything else, like recreation or sleep – this helps keep the ‘work’ mindset restricted to just the workspace and not your whole house.
Also, try changing up where you’re working every now and again. If you’re getting stuck on something and can’t seem to get your brain to focus, go work outside for a short period of time! It gets you out of that lethargic mindset that can set in when you’ve been staring at the same set of walls for weeks on end.
My fellow spoonies will know, the biggest enemy of staying at home is boredom. Your in-person interractions with other people are limited, you can’t go out to the gym or to sporting activities, and Netflix has so many options that you’re now facing decision fatigue.
By the time I’ve slogged through a task and need a break, the last thing I want to do is spend my entire break trying to work up the movivation to actually do anything.
The tip is to have activities ready to go before the boredom sets in, and have a variety of options which require different levels of focus and time commitment. I like to do something during my breaks because it actively resets my brain, and gives me something to think about that isn’t remotely work related.
My go-to boredom-busting activities are:
- Colouring (both with pencils and digitally);
- Reading (true crime ebooks are great because they’re often short and easy to put down and pick back up);
- My list of new movies & tv I’ve been wanting to watch; and
- My list of movies & tv I can rewatch if I just want to zone out.
FOR FELLOW SPOONIES
I’ve also got a short list of tips for my fellow spoonies embracing WFH:
Create new alarms – even if, like me, you don’t normally use alarms for things like medications, working from home can throw your whole routine out of whack, and it’s easy to miss the usual cues – set alarms to help you get used to the new routine at home.
Reach out to an OT – if you’ve already got an occupational therapist, make sure you’re following the advice they’ve given you and try to replicate their adjustments as much as possible. If you don’t have an OT and you’re going to be WFH long-term, definitely reach out, even just for telehealth, having those accomodations made to your working set-up will make such a difference to your ability to work for sustained periods of time.
Personally, I use a contoured memory-foam cushion to encourage better posture and decrease pressure on my coccyx, a footstool at a speific height to reduce the pressure on my hips (particularly the one that subluxes), and have my screen situated left of centre to account for my cervical spine dysfunction which turns my head slightly to the left. Get creative – I’m currently using a Commercial Law textbook as my footstool!
Make allowances for flare-up’s – unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to completely replicate your usual working environment, and this may cause some new issues or aggravate existing ones. For me, I’ve started keeping my TENS machine in my desk drawer (for my back, neck and ankles), along with fisiocreme and low-grade pain meds, and have had to start a new regime of exercises for the many muscle groups which have either become excessively rigid or excessively lax as a result in the change in set-up.