25 March 2020

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We’ve all become significantly more home–based over the past few weeks as a result of COVID–19. This is having far–reaching effects on how we live and work. Emmanuel member & productivity coach Karen Eyre–White (2003) explores its impact on our working lives, and how we can all find new ways of working which help us to stay productive.

A young woman with short greying hair, standing in a comfortable office. She has blue eyes and is wearing a pale green–grey polo neck jumper. These are times of great change in how we spend our time. In a matter of weeks, COVID–19 has overturned our daily routines, changed our social fabric, and fundamentally altered our working lives. Many of us are now working from home indefinitely, doing the daily battle with server connections, virtual meetings & our burgeoning inboxes! This is often alongside our spouse & children, and against the backdrop of the wider impact of COVID–19 on our relatives, friends & society.

If that’s you & your team, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, I can tell you that you are certainly not alone. Having graduated from Emma in 2006, I joined the Civil Service and worked my way up to be Chief Executive of a safety regulator. But after the birth of my daughter I wanted to do something I was truly passionate about, so I took the plunge and set up a productivity coaching business: Go Do. The businesses & individuals I work with are all grappling with a challenge that’s unique in its scale and impact, with significant implications for productivity, motivation and wellbeing.

We’re all different, and we each need to find our own ways of working which help us to navigate this new and unfamiliar territory. There is no one–size–fits–all solution, but here are three steps which can help us to feel more in control of our working lives when we’re at home:

  • Creating strong boundaries between home and work helps our brain switch gears more easily. Working in a specific place away from distractions, creating a sustainable schedule (and keeping to it), and having a daily ritual when you start work can all help. Experiment and see what works for you.
  • Being realistic about what we can achieve each day helps us to feel positive about what we’ve achieved rather than disappointed about what we haven’t. A short list of 3–5 priorities can keep us focused on and on track amidst all the distractions of home.  
  • Connecting virtually with colleagues can be crucial to both our productivity and our mental health. We all need different levels of engagement to feel connected and supported, so consider what the right balance is for you.  

When we emerge from this outbreak, society will have changed in ways it’s not possible to predict now.

In the realm of work, I believe we’ll look back and see this as a turning point. We can approach the situation proactively, supporting people to find new ways of working that work for them. From this, there can be positive outcomes for individuals & the organisations they work for: increased flexible working, greater equality, and improved productivity for all.

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