5 tips to ease the tedium of working from home

If working from home tips you over the edge of sanity, you’re not alone.

Not so long ago, working from home (or telecommuting from your favourite coffee shop) topped many employees’ wish lists. Who didn’t relish the thought of ditching their grinding commute in favour of a gentler ease into the working day, sans public transport, endless face-to-face meetings, and tight deadlines?

And then the world changed.

Now, according to a recent Servcorp LinkedIn poll, around 26% of 230 respondents preferred to only work from home while 18% stated they’d prefer to work in the office. A huge 57% said they’d like a combination of both.

It turns out, working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Perhaps one of the pandemic's greatest ironies is the realisation that too much of a good thing can be downright bad for you, despite what Mae West famously said. She’d obviously never juggled a Zoom client presentation and a rambunctious toddler who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Now, as the weeks stretch into months, the monotony of WFH is palpable. On the plus side, we’re beginning to genuinely appreciate the positives of separating where we conduct our work and leisure. But now, more than ever, we need a manual that explains just how to work from home effectively and delivers foolproof remote working tips.

Working from home is, well, hard work. We might blissfully avoid the peak hour crush, but those endless meetings and tight deadlines remain, made even more complicated by the remoteness of our colleagues and the close proximity of all our nearest and dearest all of the time.

Suddenly cabin fever has become all too real for many of us and it’s seriously hampering our ability to do great work.

What is cabin fever?

When 2020 began, few would have thought that, within a mere matter of months, we’d feel a strong kindred sense with those living more than 100 years ago.

Not just with the generation who weathered the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, though there’s undoubtedly increased media interest in how our grandparents and great-grandparents soldiered through the last worldwide pandemic, which cruelly hit in the final months of the Great War’s carnage.

1918 was also the first time the phrase ‘cabin fever’ passed into popular culture, courtesy of a novel of the same name by B.M Bower, now largely forgotten. Here’s an excerpt:

“There is a certain malady of the mind induced by too much of one thing. Just as the body fed too long upon meat becomes a prey to that horrid disease called scurvy, so the mind fed too long upon monotony succumbs to the insidious mental ailment which the West calls ‘cabin fever.’”

The parallels with our new WFH reality are unmistakable. And, perhaps it does make perfect sense that the phrase’s rising popularity coincided with the Spanish Flu epidemic as families retreated into their homes to avoid a virus that infected 500 million people worldwide.

‘Cabin fever’ originally described the experienced extreme loneliness and isolation experienced by sailors and ship’s passengers trapped in their cabins during foul weather. It also conveyed the malaise felt by early pioneers during long winters in the world’s most remote locations.

The negative symptoms of being confined to a small space for days on end, wrote Bower, included sleepiness or sleeplessness, irritability or intolerance, exasperation or low motivation.

And doesn’t this description of cabin fever perfectly describe how many of us feel about the struggle to work from home effectively while we’re cooped up, fed up, and cut off from the world?

The problem is, if you don’t find the right working from home tips to reign in your cabin fever, it can lead to feeling seriously off-balance. In some individuals, the long-term effects of this very 2020 condition can cause rage, confusion, or even classic PTSD symptoms after weeks of strict lockdown (which, as an aside, was coined in the 70s to describe extended state-enforced isolation in prisons or psych wards).

The mental health effects of this pandemic are very real. Don’t let the loneliness of lockdown get under your skin—try our remote working tips to boost your productivity and get you back on an even keel.

How to work from home effectively – 5 working from home tips

While remote working definitely has its benefits, when you’re feeling stir-crazy (yet another term linked to the malaise of confinement, when ‘stir’ was a colloquial term for a prison cell), it’s easy to become fixated on what doesn’t work, and what we don’t have.

So, if your workdays and weekends are beginning to blur, here are 5 home working tips to help you ease the pain, learn how to deal with cabin fever and understand how to be more productive when you work from home:

  1. Get your daily D. Being stuck indoors telecommuting, especially during the winter months, means our bodies don’t receive the vitamin D that’s critical for boosting your mood, staving off depression and making you feel more motivated throughout the day. Just 15 minutes of bright natural light is enough to protect you from the effects of low vitamin D levels, so make sure you get some sunlight every day. Set a timer to remind you to go out in the garden or take your laptop onto the balcony. Even setting up your desk next to a bright window can help.

  1. Make a plan. One of the foundational working from home tips is to start each day by updating your to-do list. But make sure you stay practical. If you find yourself distracted by household tasks, add them to your list alongside work tasks and plan to tick them off during your breaks. Doing so defuses their insistent demand on your attention and lets you focus on your work more effectively. If you’re still having trouble, try using an Eisenhower Matrix. Divide a piece of paper into 4 equal squares and name them as follows: Urgent and Important, Urgent not Important, Important not Urgent, and Not Important and Not Urgent. Prioritise your daily tasks and work your way through the list, starting on the most urgent and important.

  1. Be still and breathe. Practising mindfulness is the perfect antidote to the stress and anxiety of lockdown. Meditation apps like Headspace offer easy ways to build your mindfulness muscle. But, if you find it hard to settle, simply closing your eyes for a few minutes and focusing on your breathing can help ground you in the here and now, rather than the fear of what’s happening beyond your home office.

  1. Set a timer. If you’re still having trouble getting through your to-do list in the face of distraction, try the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes (known as one ‘Pomodoro) and promise yourself you’ll focus solely on one task until the timer goes off. Take a short break—grab a coffee, meditate, or go for a quick walk, anything that relaxes you. Then set your timer for another 25 minutes of focused, interruption-free work. After four pomodoros take a longer 20-30-minute break to allow your brain to assimilate and rest. You’ll find the cabin fever recedes fast and you’ll breeze through the day’s tasks.

  1. Schedule in co-worker chats. Want to know how to stay connected when working remotely? Book in time to get together virtually with your team, preferably at the start of the day. Chat on the phone or Zoom for a coffee break—you could even set up a Zoom Pomodoro schedule to help everyone get more done and collaborate more effectively. Socialising, even remotely, can help boost your mood and give you that much-needed interaction to lighten your lockdown day.

Clearly, the simplest way to combat cabin fever is to get out of the cabin. But when that’s not possible, these 5 remote working tips can alleviate the stress and anxiety of quarantine and help you do your best work, every day, regardless of what’s happening beyond your door.

Consider Virtual Office or Coworking to add some balance to your working week. These Servcorp solutions will provide you with daily workspace access should you need a more collaborative workspace with powerful and reliable IT.