An account of working from home in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Sam Karjalainen.
In my media career, flexibility and remote work have always been promoted heavily within the agencies I’ve worked for, and I have worked from home for a few days here and there. For the last 3 weeks however, I have been thrust into remote working 100% without any preparedness, a situation that a large portion of the population have also found themselves in due to the ongoing crisis.
OMD has been hugely supportive to their employees in easing this universal shift to remote working, the biggest pros to date include a swift company-wide transition to Microsoft Teams (RIP Webex), offering IT supplies to help bolster at-home work set-ups, and setting up multiple Yoga, HIIT, and even jam sessions to ensure our great work culture translates to our remote work culture.
Throughout the 3 weeks I’ve spent in effective isolation, I’ve had time to reflect on this situation, and in true media fashion, I’ve tried to optimise my experience to drive better performance. My main learnings to date are:
Keeping the body healthy: Working from home has resulted in a downgrade in workplace comfort – from a multi-monitor set up, ergonomically adjusted chair, and free coffee & snacks; to now being confined in a small east London apartment, squinting at a single laptop screen and investing heavily in UberEats.
One thing I’ve discovered about myself in this period is that my posture is terrible, whether I’m slouched on the couch or hunched over at the dining table. This is in part due to the single laptop screen set up I mentioned before, but also me relying on an IKEA dining chair that has clearly not been designed to support a human sitting 8 hours a day on it. To resolve this, I’ve been stretching and exercising regularly to ensure I can keep my blood flowing and my muscles active – lunchtime Yoga has been a godsend for this.
Taking regular breaks: Whether it’s Boris’ daily briefing, enticing snacks in the cupboard, or simply the allure of social networks that spreadsheets simply don’t have, there are many distractions in the home that can affect my remote working schedule. I’ve found that these distractions usually come from being restless, and my solution has been to schedule regular breaks in the day – in the normal office environment, we spend lots of time talking to co-workers, getting a Pret coffee, or having in person meetings, all of which break up the schedule and limit our screen time. Without the social contact and more importantly, Pret being closed, I’ve had to create other breaks in my working day – I’ve been going on regular lunchtime runs, spending more time cooking healthy lunches, and putting time in the calendar to take care of life admin, as appropriate.
Separation of work and play: Now that I spend an extra 8 hours a day in the same room where previously I would relax and unwind, the line between my work and non-work environments has blurred. While this is partly due to my own small confined living space, driven by a need to live in as close to a cultural hotspot as I physically can while still being able to afford food, I’ve found a few life hacks to help signal that my working day has ended in the hope of letting my brain relax overnight. This includes physically putting away my laptop, mouse, and any other work-related items in a cupboard so I don’t have any temptation to jump back into my e-mails; doing some exercise or otherwise getting out of the house – keeping distance from other people of course – or just changing my scenery by hanging out in a different room.
While most of these tips are based on common sense and you might have optimised your own lifestyle even further, I hope that these can be helpful to anyone reading.