the new normal

We are all adjusting to what we're slowly coming to realise is the new normal. For some, this adjustment will come naturally, for others it will be a bit more difficult, but we're all in it together. Here are some things that we think will help.

  

Create a workspace

Many of us just stopped going into work all of a sudden, so aren’t necessarily prepared to work from home completely comfortably, but it’s well worth the time and energy spent to get this right, particularly as it looks like we’ll be here for a while. Wherever possible (make sure you check with your manager first!), bring whatever you can from your workplace home to you. Be it monitors, chairs, keyboards, or paper files that you may need to reference – do your best to re-build your workspace at home.

It’s important to have a designated work area that you can walk into at the start of the day, and close the door on when you finish. Pick a spot that is well-lit, preferably with natural light (but be cautious of glare!), which will help to improve energy levels, productivity and mood.

Ergonomics are also important! If you’re going to be spending hours at a time sitting in the one place, make sure it isn’t doing your body any damage. Check your chairs, check the lighting. Make sure everything is at the right height for you.

Not enough can be said about the importance of a quality workspace. Make it a space that you want to spend time in. Keep it tidy, hide away all extraneous cables and chargers, and any other unnecessary clutter.

Science says that colours can also enhance brain performance, so use reds to increase your attention to detail, and blues to spark creativity. Plants have also been found to increase attention, so spruce up your desk with some foliage.

 

Stay connected

Human beings are social creatures, so it’s only natural that we crave interaction with others – both professionally and personally. Being able to stay in touch with our colleagues also means we’re far less likely to chew the ears off those we love about work, which as well as being important for keeping our work and our off-time separate, won’t do our relationships any harm.

Luckily, we live in the age of technology, so there are a number of platforms that we can use to stay in touch. Applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams make videoconferencing much easier, and are far more intuitive than similar platforms used to be.

Organise regular check-ins with your team-mates, for purposes outside formal meetings – have a morning tea break together, where you spend 15 minutes over coffee just chatting, the way you would in the office, or get together for after-work drinks, from the comfort of your loungeroom. It’s also a good idea to do this with your social circle as well!

If video calls aren’t necessary or possible, go back to the old phonecall – though not the same as being able to see someone, it’s amazing how much of a difference hearing someone else’s voice can make, particularly for those of us who live alone.

Larger organisations often use Yammer as a more unofficial platform for keeping in touch. Reach out to your colleagues here – there’s bound to be someone within the organisation facing isolation the same way you are.

Don’t forget that you can always join our Facebook group to be part of the conversation over there! While we are continuously working on new and exclusive content to share with our members, we also love hearing from you! We’re committed to keeping the conversation going, and continuing to provide members with the opportunity to network with each other – it just looks a little bit different these days!

 

Creating a routine

There’s no point beating around the bush, these are stressful times. We are allowed to be worried, and scared and uncertain because there are so many things that are out of our control. That’s why it’s important that we focus on the things that are, by creating a routine which in turn, can help alleviate anxiety and stress.

Make sure you’re still getting up early – don’t start sleeping in now that you don’t have to travel into the office. Get up at least half an hour before you’re due to start work, and use the time to mentally prepare. Go for a walk, or read the newspaper. Do something that will ease you into the day.

Then get dressed. You don’t have to wear full corporate attire (though if that’s your style, have at it!) but selecting an outfit for the day, that is different from what you wear to bed, or for your morning exercise, will signal to your brain that you have switched on, and you’re ready to go.

Once you’ve established what your hours look like, and all the items on your to-do list, create a schedule for yourself, and more importantly, make sure others respect it. If your organisation uses shared calendars, use as much information as possible to communicate to your team what you are working on, and when you are available to them.

Do the same with those you’re sharing a space with. If you have kids and need a way to show them that you’re in work mode, put on a hat (ie, your ‘thinking cap’), or place a trinket or toy on your desk or outside your door to let your kids know that you’re at work, and should only be disturbed for emergencies.

It’s also important to schedule your breaks, and when it is break time, step away from the computer. Have your lunches and snacks pre-prepared so that you don’t get lost in front of the refrigerator or pantry, trying to figure out what to eat. Try and do the same for kids or hopeless significant others – have all of their snacks prepared in the morning so that they can help themselves throughout the day, and don’t need to interrupt you every time they’re hungry.

 

Harness your potential

So, you’ve set up your desk just right, and you’ve checked in with that guy you went to school with 30 years ago, and meal-prepped for a whole week, but now it’s probably time to get some work done. How can you make sure that you meet the same level of productivity as you did when you were in the office?

Firstly, it’s important to get to know your natural rhythms: are you a morning person, or more of a night owl? It’s possible you may be able to be a little bit more flexible with your hours, so have a chat to your manager – perhaps you can start working from 7am til 3pm, instead of a regular 9-5. However, once you figure out what works for both you and your team, it’s important to stick to it. Avoid letting work creep into non-work hours.

Try and make time for some quick exercise in the morning – it can be anything from a slow walk around the block, to a full aerobic workout in your loungeroom. Either way, doing it first thing in the morning will give you time to ease into the day (think of it as your new commute!), as well as set a positive mood, improve your concentration, and boost your memory.

If you feel as though you’re lacking motivation for exercise, register for the Mother’s Day Classic Virtual 2020, where they have an inbuilt support network to not only help inspire you and your personal fitness over the next couple of months, but to actually make Mother’s Day mean more by raising vital funds for breast cancer research.

Another important thing to note is that the digital age is genuinely shortening our attention spans, so don’t try to fight it. There are heaps of productivity methods that are designed to harness our best performance using short bursts of concentration. Try the Pomodoro Technique, where you set a timer for 25 minutes while you focus on a particular task. When it goes off, you break for 5 minutes. Repeat. Or the (10+2)x5, where you split an hour into 5 batches of working for 10 minutes, and breaking for 2.

Create a list of all the things you want to achieve throughout the day. This will help to schedule what each of those batches is for: For example, for the first burst I will work through my emails. Break. For the second burst I will put together the outline of that report. Break. For the third I will work on the first 3 slides of that presentation. Break. If there are other tasks that you also want to get done, but don’t quite fit into the ‘work’ category, schedule these into your breaks: First break I will pay the electricity bill. Second break I’ll put a load of washing on, and so on. When each task is small and has a definitive end point, it is much less daunting to tackle.

If you’re easily distracted, it can also be a good idea to utilise some tools and gadgets that are designed to help. Use a website blocker that won’t allow you to access any time-waster websites, and unsubscribe from all the newsletters and email subscriptions that constantly ping into your inbox using Unroll.me (although we can recommend leaving Women in Super on the safe list!)

Remove any phones or unnecessary gadgets from your desk. If you need your phone nearby in case of calls, make sure you keep it out of arms’ reach – somewhere that you physically have to get up to access.

And if you’re still struggling, bring back the swear jar! $2 for every time you check your phone unnecessarily, or $5 for every item left uncompleted on your to-do list – nothing like hitting where it really hurts to make sure we stick to our goals.

 

Keep it separate

The key to maintaining optimal performance is knowing how to draw the line between work and home – which is a lot trickier to do, now that there is no line!

Once you’ve established what your finish time is, make sure you clock off at the same time, every day – sign out of emails and any work-related notifications, and if you can, physically close the door to your workspace. Create some sort of ritual that signifies you are done for the day, even if it means getting in the car and driving around the block so that you can return home to start your evening routine.

While all of this advice is ideal when we are completely in control of our own space and time, the reality is that at the moment a lot of us are forced to share with significant others, children, and even pets can be a bit more needy now they’re used to having us around more, so it’s important that as well as knowing and understanding our own routines, we also get familiar with the routines of those we are cohabiting with.

Schedule your time around the rise and fall of those around you. Pick shorter tasks that require less concentration when the kids are at their rowdiest. Are there hours of the day that offer less distractions so you are able to tick off some key items? Will noise-cancelling headphones do the trick?

 

There’s just no point in doing things the way we did them in the office. For the time-being, everything is messy and unpredictable, and the longer we focus on when it will be over, and getting ‘back to normal’, the longer it will take us to realise that this is the new normal, and we will be at our best if we can just focus on doing the best we can for now.

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