It’s been over a month now since the LWAI team decided to be responsible and self-isolate while continuing our work from home. It’s hard to say if it feels longer than that or if it feels that time has flown, which seems to be a very common symptom of social distancing.
Statistically, working remotely, if done right, increases productivity and can lead to a happier life. 80% of people working remotely say they are happy with their job, compared to just 55% of on-site workers. National statistics indicate that 45% of people in the UK spend over an hour commuting, and this equates to higher stress levels and decreased happiness. Working from home seems like an attractive alternative under normal circumstances, but it’s important not to forget that we are currently being forced to do so because we are in an extraordinary situation.
We have read multiple articles over the last few weeks on smart working, productivity and mental health; here are some general tips that have been working for us:
- If you’re not used to working from home, adjusting to this new lifestyle can be difficult, but it’s important to create a realistic routine and stick to it. This can take many forms – personally I recommend waking up at the same time you would if you were commuting and getting dressed, eating at normal lunch hours and away from your computer, exercising and sticking to regular work hours.
- It is imperative that we maintain the right degree of work-life balance. A Cardiff University study found that 44% of remote workers struggle to relax and unwind after work, compared with 38% of staff who work in fixed locations. Have a dedicated (and quiet) workspace that you keep organised and tidy and avoid working on your bed. Having order around you will help you work more efficiently and give you a sense of higher productivity. Make sure to also clear your workstation after work, this simple step will help switch off work mode. I also suggest then doing something to help you relax and unwind such as going for a run, watching an episode of your current favourite series, reading a book and I’ve found a small glass of wine after work also helps!
- Take breaks; walk around the house every hour or just look away from your computer. I have found that creating a ritual helps me re-centre myself. In my case coffee is an essential part of my day, and taking 5 minutes to make a great cup of coffee perks me up, partly because of the caffeine, and partly because the Italian in me demands it, but also because of the ritual and the joy of waiting for my Moka pot to make its distinctive gurgling sound.
- Remind yourself to keep your posture in check and see if you can do anything to make sure there is as little strain as possible on your neck, back, wrists and eyes. This could be using a different chair, elevating your computer, using wrist supports etc.
- Communication has never been so important, so make sure you are using the right tools for it. There are plenty of apps and programs available, so find the ones that work best for your team and stick to those, rather than switching from app to app. Ensure that you know what the priorities are and ask for clarification should you not be sure what is expected of you.
- If you can make an email a call, do it. With the lack of physical connection it’s important to try to maintain human relationships as much as possible. In particular, make sure to stay connected with your team, remember to ask how they are doing and create a system that allows and encourages each person to feel they can openly share should they be encountering difficulties. This comes more naturally when meeting in person but if this regiment is established, it will strengthen the team bond even after your isolation is over. Team spirit and empathy are essential – we’re very lucky to receive photos of Lacey’s adorable dogs as a daily uplift – and always remember a laugh can help make the day go smoother.
- Having a realistic daily to-do list can help you feel a sense of achievement that will launch you into the next day with a positive outlook. Set yourself up for success and if you can find ways to do things creatively even better – since we can’t physically be in the art world, why not bring it home? You might find it inspiring to surround yourself with images of your favourite artworks. I finally found a perfect use for all the postcards I have bought at galleries and museums over the years and used them to spruce up from at-home workspace.
- Hold yourself accountable. Make sure you set realistic goals and keep your team updated with what you are doing. This will help you to not lose track of time during the day and create a more trusting relationship with your colleagues. Of course, this shouldn’t become a hindrance to your work, there needs to be a healthy balance with checking in and being trusted to get on with things – the point is to build trust and reduce stress.
- Be honest with yourself about what distracts you. Social media is tempting and omnipresent but working from home still is work. Don’t keep social media tabs open on your work PC, hide non work-related notifications, and check your phone only when you are taking a break. Personally, I have found life going on just as well when I decided to keep my personal phone on silent mode. It’s also important to recognise that the pace of your workday may be different but that shouldn’t mean being unproductive. The (art) world is taking a bit of a break but there is always something to do, and it’s important to keep busy regardless if only to avoid a shock when things pick up again.
- As an art recruitment agency, we have of course seen a slowing down of activity, and although some companies are still recruiting, this is undoubtedly a very difficult time for those who are looking for a new job. Make sure you read up on how the government can help you, but also use this time to work on your CV and cover letter (we advise having a general cover letter as well as more specific ones for different roles) and do research on the companies you’re interested in to see if there are connections you can make on LinkedIn, for example, during this downtime. Even if you’re not looking now, having a clear sense of what you want and understanding your own experience and strengths will help you, when the time comes, in making appointments and quickly contacting potential employers.
These tips may seem intuitive, but it was while researching and writing this post that I really stopped to consider whether I was doing all of them. To an extent they could be adapted to general everyday life and knowing there is always something to learn reminds me that the world never stops, for better or for worse.
The Art World has always been more flexible than other sectors and many people were already used to working from home, but not under the conditions we now find ourselves in. Even the LWAI team, who were used to interacting at least in part remotely with international candidates and clients, still had to go through an adjustment period. Still I wish to echo the words of many others who wonder if this could be seen as an opportunity to let the Art world grow, bring it home, make it even more accessible.
Uncertainty has always been a part of our so-called normal life and this is no different. We can only focus on working on the things we can control, sometimes we can even do it together, and together we will get through this.
by Irene Sartorio, Recruitment Consultant