Hazel LambertWith the majority of our staff and students now working from home during the coronavirus crisis, former freelancer and CMVM Public Engagement with Research Manager, Hazel Lambert, has some advice on how to make the best of it.

Before I joined the CMVM team last year, I worked from home, alone, for nearly four years. For the first three years, I loved it. Then I got a wee bit lonely and decided to re-join the world. Here is what I learnt. Hopefully it will help you as you adjust to working from home.

Create your workspace – if you can close the door on it, all the better. My first home office was a shelf that folded down from a cupboard at the end of the bed. When you work and live in the same space, finding a way to put work ‘away’ really helps. If you can sleep and work in different rooms, that’s ideal. If you can’t, throw a blanket over your desk set-up until it’s time to go ‘back to work’.

Prioritise – if you have less time than usual, do the most pressing thing first. Some things will fall off the end of the list, but don’t beat yourself up about it. For all the perfectionists out there, when you have a limited time window to get a piece of work done,  then remember that sometimes good enough is good enough.

Check-in with your colleagues – when I was freelance, I kept in touch with clients through video and phone calls: they really help with clear communication. Text and emails are great but sometimes nuances are lost. Our team has a short MS Teams call every day to say hello and agree priorities – it works.

Routine – get dressed or stay in your pyjamas, you choose. But set yourself a start and end to your working day, it helps. And if it doesn’t work, change it.

Set a timer – if you can’t resist the lure of the fridge, or the piles of laundry are distracting, set a timer for 25 minutes. Sit down and focus. When the alarm goes off, stick a load on, grab a snack, stretch, wander about the room, then sit back down for another 25 minute slot. You’ll be amazed at how much work you get done.

Cheer yourself up – for some of us, being alone is bliss; for others, it’s more of a challenge. If you live alone and now work alone, find the thing that makes you smile. It doesn’t matter what it is but build it into your schedule. I’ve held back on introducing the ‘office disco’ to my colleagues in CMVM but maybe when we are all back in the office…

The kids – if you have a baby, toddler or a worried teenager, the reality is it’s just about impossible to work and look after them at the same time. Don’t try – it’s really stressful. Set working times instead, share these with your line manager and your children so everyone knows what to expect. Then you can focus even if it’s just for an hour. Everyone will feel better.

Be kind to yourself – For many of us there is something hugely calming about logging in and working- the familiarity is reassuring when everything else around us has changed. But remember to step away too, be kind to yourself. We are all coping with new ways of working, changes to our lives we can’t control and supporting the children, friends, partners, colleagues and neighbours around us. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have a tough day.

And finally – put a bit of tape over your webcam unless you are on a call. It helps with the ‘I’m available or not’ mentality and prevents anyone else from seeing your home disco moves if, like me, that’s the thing that cheers you up.

If anyone would like to check in on their public engagement project or needs advice on a communications project you can send me a calendar invite for a chat on Thursdays between 3pm and 7pm and I’ll do my best to help.

Hazel Lambert, CMVM Public Engagement with Research Manager.