Top tips for surviving self isolation: Work

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Top tips for surviving self isolation: Work

by | Mar 17, 2020 | Blog, Business, Business

Ok, there’s no more school. S**t just got real.  

My family and I been self isolating this week. Not out of choice but because the baby was displaying two of the three symptoms and I would never forgive myself for infecting the older couple next door or the rest of the school. More importantly, they would never forgive me! 

I have been at home with all three children (and my husband) in the house all the time.  It’s frustrating and, admittedly, stressful at times. But I’m trying to be pragmatic and approach this time in the same way I would approach the school holidays. With structure, fun, support and…iPads!

We’re learning fast so I wanted to share my top tips for surviving self isolation. We asked our communities for their top tips on how to work effectively and keep children entertained and you came back with so much that we decided to do a mini series themed work, family and you. Here is the Work instalment. 


Lots of us are used to working from home, but many are not. And it’s a whole different ball game when the rest of your family is home too. So here are our top tips for surviving self isolation: work.


Structure your day

If you’re used to going to the office your day will have a natural rhythm and hopefully some natural breaks. At home it’s very easy to sit on the sofa and not move. You need to find your new rhythm and plan an outline for the day. Work out when you will be at your desk, get dressed and find the best time for calls and meetings. Remember that might be different to when you’re in an office, particularly if there is a baby in the house. You might find it more challenging to work through the screams of your children!  


Get dressed in the morning.

Have a designated work space. 

Plan some snacks and meals.

Try and fit some exercise in, maybe a YouTube video with the kids (check the Family instalment for more suggestions like this). 

Agree a finish time and stick to it. Work and family need to remain separate. 


Adjust your working hours

It sounds obvious but you need to make adjustments, even if that means working more evenings than usual. 

Sarah Holgate, who helps us with marketing, says: “I get up early whilst the children are still asleep and (in my pjs) get a couple of hours done before the rest of the house wakes up.  Not only is this time  hugely productive but it allows me to feel more settled that I have already ticked a few things off of my to do list before the breakfast madness begins!”

Consider leaving the easier bits, such as checking and replying to emails, to periods when the children are naturally distracted, like mealtimes or playing in the garden. And remember, it’s ok to have an hour of family downtime in the afternoon when everyone is on their device.


Share childcare

If you have a partner, work with them to look after your children. It’s likely, if they are also at home, that they will need to get some work done too. So, work together in detailing a clear plan or schedule of when and how you will share the day.

If you’re on your own, maybe there is a friend or neighbour you can self isolate with.  Be very careful with this bearing in mind the guidance around social isolation but it might be a way of keeping you sane. 

My husband and I are good friends with another couple who are both self employed so we have talked about getting together at their house (they have an office in the attic) and taking it in turns to do an hour of childcare each. That’s a 3:1 ratio of work:childcare. 3 hours of work to one hour of childcare for the mathematically dyslexic! 


Communicate honestly

Let those that you work with know when you will be available for work. Communication is key!

With your colleagues and clients, be honest and upfront about when you are available and able to meet deadlines and make calls.  Don’t over-promise! It won’t help in the long term and it will just stress you out. Remember that the rest of the country will be in the same boat so those you work with are likely to be sympathetic to the struggles that you are facing. 


Try new tools

Tools like Slack are brilliant at keeping you in touch with clients and colleagues. It’s the work equivalent of WhatsApp (which is also now available in desktop form in case you didn’t know!). 

If you normally work with people that share a whiteboard to keep track of team activity, use Trello. It’s easy to use and doesn’t take long to get used to. 

Get used to seeing your own face on the screen. Use Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype for Business, whichever one suits. We’ve all heard about how much of our communication comes from body language. It’s true. And seeing it keeps things running more smoothly. 

GSuite is a godsend for sharing documents. Get organised with your filing system and start using it immediately! (thanks Jess Williams-Chadwick for this one)

Familiarise yourself with these new tools. They’re all really user friendly. 


Finally, speak to people

Whilst we talk a lot about the positives of flexible working, working from home all the time is something very different. It is not for everyone. In fact, Nic, That Works For Me COO and Cofounder, did it for a few months between roles and hated it. She was desperate to get back to an office! Some people need to be around others and that’s ok! 

The important thing is to know that about yourself and work with it. 

Don’t let days go by without speaking to anyone. Even the most introverted of people need to talk to other people, it makes us human. Arrange a daily call with a teammate, another person working from home or your Mum. Natalie Walker, a freelance HR Director, told us “our FD set up a social room on video. Basically anyone can dial in for a chat, you can keep working with it running in the background and people can just randomly chat as you might do in the office! And all the guys are growing working from home beards!”  They’re also all going to meet for virtual drinks one evening. What a great idea!

Whoever you speak to, speak to people outside the home. It stops cabin fever and reminds you there’s a world outside of your four walls. 

Hopefully this helps make you feel a little more calm about surviving work during self isolation. But what if you have children? Check out the next article on Family aimed at parents looking after children during this period of self isolation. 

Jess x