• Jen

Flexible working (space)

We’re obviously spending a lot of time in our homes at the moment (understatement) and if your home is anything like mine, it’s a hive of activity with us all working from home and home schooling. And to be honest, a little chaotic!

What was once the guest room or spare room is now an office. The playroom or snug is doubling up as a zoom call space or makeshift classroom. And your kitchen or dining table has turned into a hot desk area with laptops and copious amounts of half-drunk mugs of tea scattered across it.

And thank goodness for the fake backgrounds for video calls. They hide a multitude of sins don’t they!

There are new rules in our homes that we didn’t have before. For example, in our house if a door is closed it means there is a video call in progress, so don’t come in. We’ve all seen the clip of Professor Robert Kelly being interviewed on the BBC news and his two kids come in and then his poor wife has to try and drag them out. Hilarious for us watching, but not so funny for him. Bless him. You can watch it here.

We’re asking a lot of not only ourselves during this time but also of our homes. The demand on space and flexibility of our rooms is not normal. Laptops, files and half-made school projects are on every surface. I can’t seem to walk anywhere in my house at the moment without being filmed on a WhatsApp or Zoom call.

I have to make sure I’m fully dressed at all times when walking about, just so I don’t scare work colleagues, schoolteachers, or friends of my daughters. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either heard or said the word “Shhh…” because there are calls taking place somewhere in the house.

It’s really important that we put in some boundaries to stop work seeping into our home life. Even when we meet up for lunch and dinner, we end up talking about work. And I know it’s normal to discuss your working day, but when work is everywhere in your home at the moment, we really need to have a break from it.

I work from home anyway (not just during lockdown), but my office / studio is separate from our house, so I usually have that distinction between home and work. But as my daughter is home schooling, I’m working more at our kitchen table so I’m around in case she needs me. And to provide drinks, snacks and lunch of course!

This is not how our homes should be. Home is a place where we can switch off from work and daily stress (don’t watch the news at the moment), a place of comfort and where we can relax and be ourselves.

If you can’t shut a physical door on your work stuff at the end of each day, it’s important to tidy up laptops, work phones and files each evening. I know it can be a pain as you’ll just have to get them all out again in the morning; but clearing away items related to work will help you to switch off and gain back your home each evening.

Have something easy to hand that you can literally slide all work items into. I have a French shopping basket for my work stuff and in there are all sorts of things, from laptop, packaging samples, paint brushes, pieces of wood, my daily planner and lots of notebooks. But it’s a big open bag, so I can easily throw (carefully) everything in. And… an important point for those who love interiors, it looks nice just sat on the floor in the corner of the room. Laptop bags are ugly and remind me of work.

There are so many storage baskets you can buy too, which are perfect for hiding work items. And you could even fold up a pretty throw to drape over the basket so you can’t see your work things inside. And it looks stylish.

It’s so important to gain your home back when you’re not working. We’re all under so much pressure at the moment. The pandemic alone is stressful, but on top of that we’re all cooped up at home, we’re tired, stressed and fed up and we are trying to deliver the same level of work as we would normally, whilst also home schooling and let’s be honest, going slightly mad!

So, tidy away the laptop. Switch off your work phone and use your dining table as it should be used and have a family meal together. Put your PJ’s on and relax. And then do something just for you. One of the things I do miss about commuting into London for work is my reading time. Once I’d checked my emails, I had time to read (that’s if I was lucky enough to get a seat on the overcrowded trains and tubes of course). I don’t have that now, so reading time is precious and a real treat. Read, take a bath, play games with your kids, spend an hour on your hobby, exercise or meditate. Whatever it is, make sure you wind down.

At the moment we don’t have that break from work in the form of commuting home to home life. So, you find yourself still in work mode when you are stood in the kitchen chatting to your family. Go for a ten-minute walk after closing your laptop, or stretch for five minutes whilst doing some deep breathing. Anything that helps you to wind down after a stressful day.

And at weekends, really do make the effort to clear away your work and children’s school stuff. Your child’s bedroom shouldn’t look like a classroom at the weekend. They also need some time off and to enjoy their bedrooms as somewhere to have fun and relax in.

Claim back your home as the space it’s supposed to be. Kick back, relax and enjoy your down-time. You deserve it.

Home is our happy place.

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