I read a lot of tips on working and resting after work. We hear loads about a perfect morning or evening routine too. However, to me, personally, the most essential aspect of work from home was learning to transition between different types of activities at home, especially managing subtle changes in activities. Not a lot of focus is placed on those seemingly short moments in the day – sitting down to work, checking the calendar to plan the day, reviewing the number of new emails, finishing a virtual call, ending the last task of the day before we head back to re-join our family in the kitchen. But how we handle those small transitions is crucial to our productivity, as well as wellbeing. And so we need to learn to make time for them, practice and get into some good habits too. The great news is this: once you get the hang of this, it is really easy to do!
First step is to realise that we need transitions and plan for them. We need to plan time for them. We need to wake up earlier and make time for our home activities, but also allow 15 minutes at least to move from the home space to the office, as well as to the work headspace. We need to plan for transitions between various tasks at work. We need to consider taking a few minutes every hours to move, stretch, drink water or just go outside for a moment. Take a breath. We need to plan for lunch but also time to move into the home space and back to work again. At the end of the work day we also need to plan a transition back to the home space. It might sound like a lot of time to plan for transitions, but trust me – it is worth it! You will feel more relaxed in both home and work space. You will get more done, possibly much faster too.
Second step is practice. At first it can be really overwhelming to remember it all. It takes up to three months to really overwrite our old habits – we cannot really truly change them, we can only shift our behaviours gradually. So it might be worth planning the day in a calendar and setting up some reminders now and again. Be creative and kind, though. My reminder come in a form of a fluffy Springer Spaniel who needs to see me at least once an hour and needs to go out to play in the garden at least twice between her and our meals. While we all work from home during the lockdown I have also made our teen son responsible for timekeeping, which helps us and him too. If you live alone, maybe you can switch on the radio and get used to getting up when certain programmes are on?
Third step – just like in business – is to review and improve. Spend some time each weekend thinking about your week. How did you manage your transitions from and to work? How did you manage transitions between tasks? What worked, what could be done better? Where do you get stuck and what type of help do you need? Where can you seek it? Take a transition – for example moving from team call to individual work with data – think about the differences between those two tasks and your personal needs – what do you need to move from one task to another easier? There is a lot of remote work productivity related content online, but maybe chatting to your line manager, partner, a friend is enough?
For me personally, understanding the need for transitions was crucial. The rest was much easier. But we are all different. Each step can have its own opportunities and challenges. We can struggle or have a lot of fun with it too. In any case, learning to plan and actually manage transitions can be helpful for many areas of our lives. It leads to a more balanced remote work but also generally can decrease the levels of stress and improve our wellbeing.