I’ve been working from home (WFH) for a week already and on Monday started homeschooling my three lively boys aged 9–16. It’s tough at the best of times – but in lockdown? I managed 8 hours of Day 1 before cracking open a bottle of wine at 6pm!

I love my job. I love going to work. It’s my sanity and my safe place. I miss my colleagues and their conversation. I relish the headspace it gives me. It’s where I maintain good mental health.

Of course, we’re all in the same virus-infested boat. But I do wonder how we can stay motivated in our work while juggling, surviving and coping with all sorts of other issues in these unchartered waters.

Are we sailing towards a tsunami? Our physical health is indeed threatened; what threatens our mental health is the unknown.

It’s Day 6. So far, I’ve had to exclude one child from homeschooling and suspend another. I’m very tempted to gaffer tape them to the floor.

I’ve had more coffee breaks (to preserve my sanity) than is reasonable in any workplace and I’m curious as to why the father of my children always offers to go out to get the essentials.

Apparently, getting exercise is separate to food shopping. Perhaps I should take up smoking so I can go outside for fag breaks?

Enough domesticity – now to reflect on how to stay motivated while living in this surreal ‘new-normal’ existence.

For us Redtorchers, working remotely is easy as long as there’s data and WiFi. Live events we do brilliantly. Social media and content, outstandingly. Creativity, wow!

However, WFH during lock-down is a very different scenario.

I’m Director of Operations and need our staff to feel part of Redtorch every single day.

Our whole team has worked through various ideas on how to remain focused and productive. I think some of them are worth sharing.

  • Start with structure: We start each workday bang on 9am with a TEAMS conference call involving all 15 staff members. This connects us. It enables us to catch up and share on the previous day’s humble brags and issues. We can laugh, talk and chat. And it gets us up, most of us dressed and presentable, ready for the day’s work. Some even turn their cameras on.
  • Introduce team workouts: Each week we take part in an early morning virtual Pilates session with our very own Jax (whose talents don’t just stop as a Project Manager). Release those endorphins, tone those tummies, get energised. It’s a must.
  • Set deadlines: A little bit of stress is good for the soul and working towards deadlines keeps us laser-focused and mindful. The more time we have, the easier to procrastinate. Self-set deadlines are very handy.
  • Resist distraction: Aim for the 50/10 rule. If you can, take a 10-minute break every 50 minutes. I’m pretty good at ignoring my own advice here, but it’s worth noting!
  • Find a dedicated space to work: A proper desk area, an upright chair, and somewhere you can leave when you need downtime.
  • Take your exercise allowance: We all appreciate exercise and the joy of sport! It’s what our agency is all about. Make sure you get out for a run, a bike-ride or a walk every day. It’s proven to help improve mood and increase energy. But did you know that setting aside time to exercise during your workday can actually improve productivity?
  • Bribe yourself! We’re all kids at heart. Promise yourself a treat – biscuits with your cuppa, a glass of vino at the end of the day (and I mean the end, not the beginning, ok?). Good behaviour deserves reward. You’ve finished the task set, stayed motivated, plugged away, and achieved the daily goal. Go get your prize.
  • Make time for a date: Love in the time of COVID-19, as author Gabriel García Márquez might have testified, isn’t the ideal time to start a relationship. You can’t meet, wine, dine or kiss; you CAN, however, have a daily date with your TV! Telly-date – it’s something to look forward to after work.
  • Get a grip and get dressed! This will impact your mindset, your productivity and your work performance. Keeping your PJs on is just slobby. You’ll adopt the characteristics associated with the garment you’re wearing. Clothing has sub-conscious symbolism – professional attire or weekend workwear – either way, we prime our minds to behave accordingly.Want to nail that deal? Then put on the cape and become a superhero (just take it off for the video conference call though).
  • Control your social media intake: Social media is a blessing to have, especially right now. You can access everything about everything, but keep it controlled or it will become a distraction you don’t need when working.
  • Stay connected: I am now surgically attached to my phone. In the past, I have cursed my children’s obsessive use of their mobiles, but I get it. There may be fewer distractions at home, but isolation isn’t anyone’s friend and can take an emotional toll, even for the introverted. Build in a networking schedule to stay in touch with family, friends, colleagues and clients.
  • Check in with the quiet ones: Those who may not feel like chatting on the daily conference call – to let them know you’re there and to ask how they are. I’m the class clown. I send hilarious videos (well, I like to think so) to the team, those ones that brilliantly funny people are creating during this difficult time. Sometimes though, I’m quiet. And people notice. We’re a team; connected and caring.
  • Stick to a routine: Find a schedule that works for you and your employer. It’s an organic process initially but once you have it, everyone knows where they stand and everyone will be much happier. Boundaries are key.
  • Host a Friday evening virtual Happy Hour: Bring Your Own is essential these days but we can all raise a glass, get a bit tipsy, and enjoy the weekend feeling connected.

There’s one thing guaranteed in this life and that’s change. Nothing is forever. If you’re feeling isolated or can’t find the motivation, talk to a colleague. Work together and find a way to get back on track.