In this new world we find ourselves in, a record number of us are working from home. In fact, it's more than ever before. I'm sure most of you felt like I did on that very first day: petrified. I know I for one couldn't stop my head spinning.
How are we all going to communicate? How can I combat loneliness? How do I keep my spirits up? How can I get all this done? How can I think about everything I need to think about at once?
As someone who worked alone at home for two and a half years and returned to the corporate environment because I missed it - actually missed it! - here are my top tips that kept me sane then and are keeping me sane as you read this.
1. When your favourite song comes on, give yourself a five-minute dance break.
Whether you're listening to Spotify or the radio, when that special song comes on, jump up and dance. This always makes me feel human again, and I always return to my desk with a smile on my face.
Something about getting up and moving re-sets you into a better mindset, and this is something I discovered while I worked at home full time.
Give yourself that happiness boost. You deserve it! (My current favourite is anything from the Wicked soundtrack.)
2. Make time for something you love.
The first week I worked from home, something just wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it for a few days as this wrongness grew and grew. And then it hit me. I wasn't writing. My routine ever since November has been to get to work early to write or edit (whichever I'm currently working on), and this lack of purpose in my personal life was making me miserable throughout my whole working day.
As soon as I started doing my hour of writing/editing before work, I felt like I could breathe again. I hadn't realised how suffocating I'd found this who scenario. I know I'm not the only one.
Spend at least half an hour a day doing something you love. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it makes you feel human again. Like you again.
3. Accept you're not going to be your speedy efficient best.
Even if you have all the tools at your disposal and the fastest broadband ever (and let's face it, who does?), it's still impossible to be your best at the moment. Being at home is not the same, even if you go through your normal routine. There's something about getting into the car and getting into 'work mode' on the drive there that I'm missing.
There are so many distractions at home. For me, this is wondering what my dog's doing every ten minutes, noticing how dusty it gets in my office, and listening to my husband laughing at what he's watching on the TV and cursing him for not having to work too.
The only thing we can do is accept that these distractions are inevitable and not beat ourselves up about it. If you were in the office, you'd do at least one tea round, right? You'd go and speak to someone about something and end up talking about something else. It's fine in the office, and it's fine now! Don't beat yourself up. You're trying your best, and that's all that's important. Don't expect to be answering everything within five minutes of it coming in. You wouldn't expect that of yourself in the office, so don't pile the pressure on now!
4. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Similar to the above, give yourself a break. Have a cup of tea. Take a moment to open the window and enjoy the sun on your face. You're only human.
One of the ways I keep my perfectionism at bay is to write a very short to-do list. I force myself to only write two things at a time. Then, once those are done, I'll write two more things on there. It's a lot less overwhelming working like this than writing yourself a list of ten things before you've even read last night's emails.
If your work is anything like mine, it's constantly changing, and to expect a list of things to be completed that day before knowing what the day brings is going to set you up for failure and set you on a course of thinking you're not working hard enough.
5. Allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel.
Even if you're doing all of the above, if you feel you need to take a minute and rant to yourself, do it. If you need to shed a few frustrated tears, do that too. Don't try and keep it in because you think it's stupid. Stop being so stupid. I'm only working from home, right?
There's a lot more going on than simply working from home, but when you're behind that computer screen, it's so easy to forget that. You are only human, and this new world is bizarre. You're not expected to adapt in one day.
I am lucky enough to have an office filled with books. Whenever I feel like my head's going to explode, I turn around and stare at my books. I'm a bookworm, what can I say? It calms me. So have something in your workplace that makes you feel better. If you feel like you're going to freak out, take a moment to look at it and remember you're a human being with more than just work in your life.
It's okay. You are going to have bad days; we all are. But that's okay.
If you are lucky enough to have incredible work colleagues (and I'm thankful for mine every day), give one of them a call to vent. You don't have to talk about work. Just like you don't talk about work every second you're in the office.
I hope something in here is helpful. If you've got any tips, feel free to share them!
Remember to be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack, and make time for the things and people you love.
We'll make it through this together. I'm sure of it.