The recent lockdown in the UK and so many countries around the world means people are working from home like never before. For many of our Obelisk consultants, this is business as usual, so for the second instalment of our Obelisk Live podcast series, we spoke to Lola Moses, Obelisk consultant since 2014, to get her hints and tips to help us all make the most of our workspace and productivity at this difficult time. Informed by her interest in interior design and feng shui, the traditional Chinese practice of harmonising with your surroundings, Lola has shared 10 “to do’s” to help us all – have a quick read or listen to her in conversation with Obelisk’s Laura Vosper.
#1 Declutter, declutter, declutter
Creating a tidy and organised working environment, whether you have a dedicated home office space or not, will help you to manage your stress and keep productivity high. Start with your computer’s desktop. If you typically have work in process documents on there, make sure that you either limit these or set up a separate folder, so you don’t feel overwhelmed when you start work. Similarly, make sure any physical paperwork has a place to live (cut-down cereal boxes will make folders in an emergency!) and is tidy at the end of each work session. Finally, look around your work and living spaces and make sure that anything that can be tidied away, or got rid of, is out of the way. Use the upcoming long weekend to create clear spaces and you’ll see the benefit in two ways: your space will feel larger and more welcoming, plus you won’t be distracted from work by other tasks.
#2 Protect your space
One of the challenges of the current lockdown is many of us are facing competing demands on the space we do have. Whether that’s because there are more adults than usual trying to work at home or because children want to use space (and broadband) for school and social activities, you need to find a way to find a fair way to share your resources, and stick to it. Feng shui teaches us that productivity dips when we have our back to a door or entrance, as sub-consciously we feel distracted by the possibility of interruptions. Try to move the orientation of your desk or table if you can, failing that use a sign, lock or obstacle to keep other members of the household at bay and enhance your focus.
#3 Super-charge your technology
Zoom, Houseparty, MS Teams, Slack, FaceTime, WhatsApp, the list goes on and on. It has never been more important to feel confident and in control of your communication apps. If you feel you could be more tech-savvy, set aside an hour or so to read the Help articles and master all the controls for your most popular apps. This isn’t just important for work. Connecting with others is vital to maintain our mental health for most of us. Establish regular times to connect with those you are close to, even if that has to be over video or telephone calls right now.
#4 Bring the outside in
Connecting with nature and green spaces is believed to be a calming influence that helps us with mental problem-solving and inspiration. As our current access to the outdoors is reduced, find ways you can replicate this. Keep windows open as much as you can. Set up your phone and your computer so that they have wallpaper and screensavers featuring pictures of nature or your favourite wild place. If you are privileged enough to have a garden (and your WIFI permits), work outside when the weather is good.
#5 Set your boundaries between work and home life
When you are set up to work from home, it’s easy to find yourself working longer and longer hours. Resist the temptation to dip in and out of work and instead define a regular routine that suits your natural work rhythm. Of course there will be times when your clients need extra time or a quick response, especially right now. Try to make sure these times are exceptional, rather than the rule. Don’t underestimate the discipline this takes, or the importance of setting and maintaining these boundaries. This is particularly true at the moment, where you may need other members of your household to respect your working hours. How you use your space can help with this. If you have to work at your kitchen table, for example, make sure you sit at a different chair when you’re working from when you’re eating.
#6 Watch out for your posture and fitness
Make sure you move around! It can be easy to become absorbed in your work and realise that you haven’t taken enough exercise. As well as being important for our mental and physical health, staying strong helps with mental alertness and productivity. Adjust your posture and position regularly to ward off back problems and make sure that your space is well-lit and glare-free as far as possible.
#7 Make sure you keep taking breaks
If you’re used to working in an office or travelling between clients a lot, you are prompted through-out your day to take natural breaks. When you’re working from the same space every day, you have to make a conscious effort to take the same kind of breaks. Schedule regular times when you move out of your space entirely if you can and in between times, make sure that you look away from your screen and focus your eyes on the other side of the room, or even better, get up and look out of the window.
#8 Batch your tasks
As well as organising your physical workspace, you can increase your productivity by organising your mental tasks. Take five minutes at the end of each day to set out your schedule for the next day, sorting activities into three main categories. Set aside blocks of time for in-depth projects, then try as far as possible to book any calls into another part of your day (with enough time in between to recharge before the next one) and finally, fill in any gaps with tasks such as catching up on email or admin.
#9 Help clients who aren’t used to working remotely
For many legal teams and law firms, this is the first time they have had everyone in their organisation working remotely. Whilst in the main the technology and operational processes have settled down, many people are still adjusting to the need to plan, communicate and support each other differently now teams are not working together face-to-face. If you’re an experienced remote worker, take this opportunity to offer support and advice. Be proactive in suggesting improvements and watch out for work that might fall through the cracks.
#10 Remember these are exceptional times
Even if you work remotely full-time in normal circumstances, most of us are now experiencing highly unusual constraints. Working remotely under normal conditions might include using workspaces or working at clients’ offices after meetings, rather than being at home all day. Similarly, you may be used to having your house to yourself during the day. Be prepared for this to impact on your outlook and productivity, look after yourself and your space and remember we will get through this.