With hundreds of thousands of our members working from home right now, we know the uncertainty Lockdown 3.0 is bringing to those studying and working from home.
As such we gathered the Bright Network team (all on Zoom of course!) to share their hints, tips and tricks on how they are managing the challenges of work and life during these most testing of times. Here they are for our 400,000+ members – we’re also keen to hear your ideas, so please do take part in our Career & Wellbeing week and share your own tips and tricks on our social channels.
1. Maintain a routine
Your lockdown schedule doesn’t have to mirror your routine pre-pandemic, but it is essential to have one. This means getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time during the week and planning your day around essential tasks and routines that you know work for you. For example, I like to take a long time to make a proper breakfast – it relaxes me and gets me set up properly for the day ahead. What are your key routines? What works for you?
The Bright Network team agreed that scheduling the working day and week in a similar way each day created a much-needed structure. You may want to keep the same hours you would if you were normally on campus or going to the office, or you may want to flex to a schedule that better fits with working from home, what matters is that you have a schedule you stick too. For example, you might like to get up early, have a very focused morning, then take a few hours off in the afternoon before getting back at it. The key points are that you have a schedule and you do what works best for you.
Depending on your work situation pre-lockdown, you may find you have extra time in your day that you would normally spend commuting. Take advantage of this unexpected perk and utilise that time to incorporate something new into your routine. One tip that came out is scheduling ‘serendipity time’; the odd morning or evening where you do what takes your fancy. You should always have a plan, even if sometimes your plan is not to have a plan. During ‘serendipity time’ you might want to read a book, go for walk or just call a friend. Tom Hodgkinson, author of ‘How to be Idle’ has some very interesting thoughts on this.
Finally, you shouldn’t be working every day - you need the time away to refresh your mind and stay productive. Whether it’s Saturday and Sunday or during the week, take days completely off and do things you enjoy.
Regardless of whether exercise featured heavily in your life before lockdown, it should be a part of your routine now. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and help you feel happier. As uncertainty continues to play on our minds and emotions, exercise is a great way to feel more positive. Personally, I start every morning with a 20-minute walk listening to a book on Audible – this not only gets me out of the house, but it also gives me the opportunity to learn new things. I’ll then do a HiiT session with a mate on Zoom mid-afternoon - luckily he’s an ex PE teacher so at least one of us knows what we’re doing!
When the team met they recommended setting aside 30 minutes to an hour each day to do some form of physical movement, whether it's doing a workout, yoga in your bedroom or taking a walk outside. Fresh air is also essential to keeping your mind and body healthy - just make sure you're staying safe and abiding by local rules whilst out and about.
3. Separate your work and home life
If you’re attending university remotely or have been thrown into the work from home life, being confined to one space for all of your activities can feel restrictive. One of the main tips that came out of the session with the Bright Network team was to maintain a healthy work-life balance by doing things like physically packing away your work or university supplies at the end of each working day. Creating a routine when you ‘finish’ can be incredibly powerful – home for me is an old artist’s house – it’s an inspiring and creative space to do great work, but at the end of each day I like to ‘dramatically’ close my laptop and put it in a cupboard where I can’t ‘work’ anymore! Routines like such as these can create a visual separation between work and non-work and let your brain know that it's time to shift gears. Within this realm the Bright Network team also recommended turning off your phone – with so much now available via mobile, it can be all too easy to check your emails whilst on the sofa!
Another idea that came out of the meeting was doing an activity between finishing your workday and beginning your evening to enforce the distinction. Apps like Headspace provide short, guided meditations that help you unwind once your working day is done. This window is also a good time to do a workout, go for a walk or cook dinner as all of these activities serve as a transition between work and relaxation.
4. Give yourself something to look forward to
It’s no secret that the pandemic has cancelled countless plans and many of us rely on the excitement of upcoming events, occasions or trips to get through difficult periods. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to give yourself something to look forward to, however minor it may be.
Make as many plans as you can while adhering to current government guidelines and rules. Is there a new walking route you want to try? Are there friends you’ve not caught up with in a while? Is there a new hobby, skill or recipe you’ve wanted to give a go? Is there a classic film you really want to see but have never had time to watch?
We’re very lucky to live in a technologically-advanced world where there are so many resources available to us at the touch of a button so make sure you're taking full advantage of the extra time you have and actively seek out new things to do.
5. Work on existing skills or hobbies and find news ones
With all this extra time it’s a great time to develop existing skills and hobbies, plus pick up new ones. One of the Bright Network team members was picking up their guitar a little more. All of us have found that we have extra time on our hands – use it to re-engage with hobbies or activities that bring you joy.
Lockdown is a great opportunity to brush up on your professional skills, too. Bright Network Academy has a plethora of courses to help you with your career ambitions and our podcast, Thinking Commercially is a great listen for those of you looking to improve your commercial awareness. If you take this time to work on your career development, you’ll find yourself ahead of the game once lockdown ends. Apps like Duolingo allow you to learn a new language for free while services like Skillshare offer courses across a variety of interest areas.
6. Maintain communication with family, friends and loved ones
Humans are social creatures and, while some of us are more extroverted than others, social interaction is an important part of staying mentally healthy.
The interaction you would usually get from attending lectures, going into the office or even from your daily commute is no longer possible, so it’s crucial to carve out the time to maintain contact and relationships with people you care about. Making sure you get a much social interaction as possible came out as a key tip from the discussion. Going and buying a coffee not only gets you out of the house but also is a great way to get more human contact during the day, plus you’re supporting your local economy. It’s been proven that small talk (even something like talking to the person who’s selling you something in a shop) drives mental well-being.
Take advantage of online games and activities that you can do virtually or try out a home delivery kit that gets everyone up and out of their seats. You can even stream movies with loved ones via Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) and have a virtual movie night. Zoom fatigue is real, but spending time with a friend or trusted family member (even virtually) can do wonders for your mental health and overall mood.
7. Don't be too hard on yourself
Finally, a key takeaway from the conversation was to allow yourself the time and space to check in with yourself emotionally.
A staggering 56% of UK residents are reporting feeling stressed or anxious during the pandemic. The more you look after yourself, the more you will be able to support those around you. Don't be too hard on yourself for not being productive or positive 100% of the time – it’s an impossible expectation.
We are all going through an unprecedented and extremely challenging time and it's absolutely normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to let others know if you are struggling and make sure to take time to relax and do things you enjoy.
Whilst this really is the most testing of times, there is hope and the one thing we do know is that this pandemic will end. In the meantime, we hope the ideas, hints and tips above help you get through it all.
Good luck and please do share your own tips and tricks during our Careers & Wellbeing Week!