So, you’ve been working from home for a while now and you have got things nicely set-up, thank you very much.
Your desk and chair are ergonomically perfect, your workspace is organised and you have the time and space to get a decent day’s work done.
Lockdown space invaders!
But then….all of a sudden, there are other people in the house all day! Instead of arriving home in the evening, their job or school over for the day, they’re there all the time!! And they seem to need workspace too!
The other thing that has landed in your humble abode are all those activities that you used to leave the house for. You now need to fit your *yoga/Crossfit/choir/life-drawing/spa (*delete as appropriate) sessions into your already overcrowded home space too! As do the other members of the household.
So how can we make this work so that everyone can be efficient and happy during this already stressful period of global pandemic?
It’s all about boundaries. Be they physical or psychological, if we can discuss and contract who does what, where, when and how, then we can work through this time of isolation without clashing.
When it comes to the people in the house, it is important for everyone to be able to express an opinion about what they need to do on a daily or weekly basis. Feeling heard will support the contracting process
Think about the environmental elements of your work? Do you need quiet to make phone calls? Do you need to be seen on video conference calls? Do you need space to spread out paperwork and plans?
If each person prioritises their activities into (a) essential and (b) nice to have, you can then discuss how to schedule each person’s essential tasks first, moving on to the nice to haves.
Try to think what is involved in each of the activities and work out the best locations for them to be carried out. For example, divergent, creative thinking is enhanced by views of nature and natural light. So if the office desk faces a window, perhaps the person doing creative work can have that space. While the person needing to employ convergent thinking and focus on detail, such as accounts, maybe better suited to a more internally facing position.
For some, working from home will still require following their usual ‘office’ schedule. But if others can be more flexible then consider whether it’s feasible to time-share the office to fit in with these needs.
For those with teens at home, for example, you may find that their circadian rhythm means they are more inclined to work later in the day. They may just be hitting their stride when you’re reaching for your cocoa. Rather than bemoan this, why not consider how varying energy levels may help at this time?
Unless you are lucky enough to have a large house with spare rooms to utilise, it is likely that you will either be sharing or re-purposing existing spaces. Therefore, there will be extra materials or items in there than there usually is.
Decide where those things will go when the working day is over, so that the room can be used for its primary purpose. For example, moving work off the dining room table at the end of the day to ensure the evening meal can be enjoyed, as well as psychologically delineating the move into leisure time.
Creating ‘zones’ with your choice of clothes
As well as maximising the space, what you wear is an interesting consideration. ‘Enclothed cognition’ is a psychological term that refers to how we behave in a certain way when wearing something that holds symbolic significance.
You are unlikely to be fully booted and suited during this isolation period, but your choice of apparel will assist with the delineation. It can also help cohabitees distinguish between work and casual time.
A similar ‘what, where, when and how’ can be applied to the outside activities. As many classes move online, we can still continue our hobbies but, again, we will need to contract with our cohabitees.
A noisy mid-morning online Zumba class will not be conducive to the Skype staff meeting in the next room, but a simple family discussion will facilitate either better scheduling or a solution around who wears the headphones!
Keep the communication channels open
Be prepared to evolve. Requirements are bound to shift as everyone takes time to adjust to a new (albeit) temporary way of living. Keep talking to understand the changing needs of the whole household, and maintain your sanity!