Lone Working From Home – Tom Parker (LUMS Marketing Officer)

Working from home can pose challenges even for those that have been doing it day in and day out for months or even years. But when it’s not what you’re used to, you can be caught out by a range of things, from caring for children and looking after pets to ensuring you have an adequate workspace and that technology is working.

With the current situation, a concern that is on many of our minds is our wellbeing. And perhaps more so for those of us that live alone.

Home working when you live alone brings with it a whole host of unique challenges and concerns, such as how you get any social interaction. And common problems can be magnified, for example motivating yourself can be difficult without anyone there to push and encourage you. There’s no magic bullet or one size fits all approach to tackling these, but I thought I’d share some considerations that have been important to me and some tips that I’ve found particularly useful.

Space

There’s a lot of research that link physical space with mental and emotional wellbeing. When you live alone, it’s very easy to think “I’ll wash the dishes later, no one else needs to get to the sink.” or “The vacuuming up can wait for another day, no one will see the carpets.” But when your home is also your workplace and only social space, suddenly every moment of your life is spent in a messy, cluttered space. Spend time properly caring for your environment. Don’t feel guilty about taking 10 minutes away from work to clean the dishes; you’ll return to your desk feeling more motivated and productive, with a clearer mind to focus on work.

Also, I suggest trying to separate your work and social spaces at home. When I’m at my desk in the spare room, I know I’m there to work. Then at the end of the day, when I turn off my computer and go into the living room, I leave work in the other room and switch off from it. This physical separation can really help mental separation too. Work shouldn’t invade other aspects of our lives just because we’re at home.

Food

I always find it hard to motivate myself to cook for just one person and get irrationally irritated that everything seems to be for two or four people; using pasta sauces or chilli mixes means eating the same meal for days. But again, there’s plenty of information out there that links diet to mental health. While you’re stuck at home, food can be a real comfort. Eating healthy, wholesome meals supports mental wellness, and gives you physical and mental energy, so make the effort to cook proper meals.

But, don’t feel guilty for having an occasional cheat day. Sometimes, you need a break from housework and getting a takeaway can feel like a real treat to lift your spirit while being stuck in the house. Just remember that everything should be in moderation.

Exercise and fresh air

I’m terrible for not exercising! And, without someone else around to encourage me, I’m even worse. But exercise is going to be really important as homeworking can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. Those of us that haven’t previously bothered will need to do a bit of exercise at home to ensure we’re looking after our bodies (particularly if we’re going to treat ourselves to a takeaway!).

While motivating yourself to exercise might be hard, remember that it has great mental and emotional benefits as well.

Also, try to go outside for a walk and fresh air (being mindful of Government advice!) and if you can’t get out and don’t have a garden, be sure to open your windows every now and then; there’s nothing like being stuck inside for a few days to make you appreciate fresh air.

Socialising

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the current situation, don’t forget to socialise. Living alone doesn’t mean you can’t talk to or see anyone, and it doesn’t mean you can’t do it often. Make the effort to set up virtual gatherings with friends and family; there’s loads of apps that can help with this (my friends use Microsoft Teams and Discord). You could create a virtual pub, play computer games together, watch a film, and there’re even apps that help you play board games online.

Also, I think good food and great company feeds the soul, so why not Skype your friends and eat a meal together? Or why not arrange to start a new hobby or do exercise as a group?

One of the things that has really made isolating alone easier for me has been my amazing colleagues. During the working day, we set up video group calls so we can chat while working; it’s just like being in the office! We don’t have to have in-depth, meaningful conversations and we often have our heads down focusing on work; but just having the work ambience and being able to speak up to discuss something without phoning is great. Turn your home workspace into a real office workplace.

During difficult times, people pull together and look out for each other. And, with the technology available to us, you don’t need to do things alone. Keep talking, keep some level of routine and keep positive!