We have all be put into a situation that we have not planned for that has turned our routines upside down, many juggling working from home with caring for children, or parents or a partner with dementia.  Here Rachel, from the Empowered Conversations team, who is very much used to using Zoom in her role with us and working from a kitchen counter, has put together some top tips for those of us who are in unchartered waters.

1. Get up at your usual time: It is easy to let boundaries slip but this will allow you time for a cuppa, breakfast, shower and time to yourself to get into the mindset for work and school if you have children at home too.

2. Get dressed for work! This helps you get into the mindset for work, you will be more focused on what you have set to do for the day. This also means you are more likely to still fit in those workpants when you return back to work. I will never forget a client (a solicitor) who worked in her pyjamas over the Christmas period only to find she could not fit in her suit for court in the New Year!

3. Start at the same time as you would normally: This helps you to keep boundaries and some sense of normality through routine. You may want to start half an hour earlier as you don’t have to factor in traveling time, this will allow you to finish earlier in the day to free up time for you and family and allow for interruptions.

4. Have a clear designated workspace: If you have your own office already fantastic. But in these uncharted times or if you have never worked from home before many of us don’t! Set yourself a space be that the lounge, dining table, conservatory, wherever feels best for you. Take note of your comfort and posture!  But make it a place where you can set up your work for the day and easily clear at the end of the day, so you don’t feel like you have been locked in your office.

5. Have a realistic plan/diary: Set out a list of tasks you need to get through in the day with realistic time scales. When working with clients set a reasonable time scale for your call/video chat and to fit around what you are balancing at home. Be fair on yourself, you may need to factor in time to breakaway to help children with schoolwork. Factoring this into your diary this will also help them with routine and boundaries.

6. Take breaks! This is absolutely essential particularly for anyone working with people. It is an absolute must to have at least a ten-minute break between typing up your notes from your previous person before calling the next in order to get your head out of that conversation and back in the zone. Take regular breaks throughout the day to reduce eye strain from looking at your computer/laptop screen. It is important to get up and have a walk about, to reduce back strain from sitting down all the time and aid circulation by getting moving regularly. Toilet breaks as and when needed, I have been many a time guilty of thinking I will just get this finished before going to the loo. If you need to go!

7. Lunch break ! Food and Drink: This sounds an obvious one but it is easy to get into the trap of just working through and becoming enmeshed in work especially if other things have got in your way like interruptions from children and schoolwork. Set yourself out a regular lunch break in your diary and stick to this as much as possible. This will again help you and your family keep some form of structure and routine in the day. Regular tea/coffee breaks are helpful and drink plenty of water throughout the day to help keep you refreshed and focused.

8. Go out/Exercise if you’re not self isolating : Getting out and about can really help you get into the mindset of work and clear any mental blocks. You may not miss travelling into work but that at least got you out of the house. You may want to walk the dog or go for a walk or jog round the block before you start your working day. Throughout your day when taking breaks you may want to go into the garden and get some fresh air or play with the children. This will help relieve any feelings of being cooped up in your office! It’s a tricky one being restricted to the one hour a day to go out for exercise so you may want to save this for the end of day in order to help you separate work and homelife. Find what works for you but remember getting out is good for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

9. Keep in touch with colleagues: We spend a lot of our working day with colleagues and teams of people. It is easy to become isolated in a short period of time when home working and particularly in the current circumstances. It is good to factor time in your diary to zoom or phone your colleagues to help keep the feeling of being connected to a team.  A weekly team meeting to ensure people feel connected and supported within their team is also a good idea. This will also keep everyone up to date with any new developments and enable the work to be distributed fairly. It also adds to the structure and routine of your working week.

10. End of day meetings: It is really important to be able to separate work and home life. End of day meetings with your team are a great way of doing this. This is particularly helpful for those working in a role where they are supporting people. If you have been speaking to people all day you will have a lot of emotional stuff in your head and it can be hard to separate that when working alone at home. During the end of day meeting you can chat about what your day has been like any concerns you have over the people you are supporting as well as the positives that have come out of your day. This gives people an opportunity to offload instead of carrying it all into their evening. Towards the end of your call you may want to focus on what you plan to do in the evening and what you’re planning for tea. This gives an opportunity to switch the focus from work to home life and think of what you might do for you!

11. SWITCH OFF! Have an agreed time when you will switch off. This can be determined by your end of day meeting. Having this time set in stone will again add to the feel of structure and routine and help you separate home and work life. Switch off your computer/phone and put your work equipment away out of sight or shut the door on your office. Do not return to you emails or work until it’s time for work the next day. It can wait this is your time now!

12. Slip into something more comfortable: Get out of your work attire and change into something more comfortable and casual so you can step into your home life and enjoy your evening more readily. Do something for you be that exercise, read, listen to music or watch your favourite film. Enjoy time with your family.

If you need support with balancing work and caring for a loved one contact us emma@empowered-conversations.co.uk and find out more about our online course.