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The Relay team are here to share what works for them.

Remote work is key to Relay’s collaborative foundations. Without geographic boundaries to restrict us, we can link up with freelancers from Pennsylvania to Israel, from Sydney to Sussex, and Cyprus to Cincinnati. The Relay team have learned a thing or two about working, and thriving, from home — wherever that might be!

We find working from home to be so much more than an imitation of the corporate experience, but it’s completely understandable if you’d rather follow the majority. There are no losing points for sticking to the regular 9–5 schedule if that’s what floats your boat. Life can feel like a hectic combination of dates and bills, so if the traditional wisdom suits you, then go forth and prosper!

The beauty of working from home though is that you get to experiment and discover what works best for you. No one person is the same, and you are finally free to explore a work/life routine that is uniquely yours.

Mental Health

There’s no getting around it — working remotely due to a pandemic can take a toll on your mental health. While you may have traded in your dinky cubicle, or your manager breathing down your neck, you’ve also lost things like the water-cooler conversations and the change of scenery.

With great flexibility comes great responsibility. It entails a lot of self-motivation to stay focused and productive and working from home can be very distracting, even more so for those with children and other family members who are also at home. There’s also other conditions that make it hard to focus, from depression to ADD, and anxiety to OCD, the list of mental health challenges could be endless.

All of the advice, tips, and tricks here are to provide you with a foundation on which to grow, create, and thrive in while working from home, even if it’s a challenging prospect for you.

“For my mental health, the first thing I do when I wake up is think of three things I am grateful for and then I do a short meditation.”

Prioritize hobbies

There’s a feeling of productivity that comes from running errands or socializing outside of the house. A sort of guilt for perceived laziness can set in, simply from being in the same place all the time. Creating something physical can be an instant cure for this restless flagellation. Another row of stitches on a scarf, redesigning your living room, or having your own wine and painting party (bonus points if you can rope in a bunch of Zoom friends) can all be super therapeutic.

“Play for me used to be travelling the world, living the digital nomad life, but lockdown put an end to that for now. It did however mean that I found myself with a fixed address, where I could keep a piano and pursue my dream of learning to play.”

Actionable Tips:

Get dressed for work

In a cruel twist of irony, remote work is the only thing that Snuggies could possibly have been designed for, and yet there is a reason they aren’t encouraged! Wearing something different in work mode than in relax mode is a signal to your brain to switch gears.

Consider some more ways you could individualize this common recommendation:

Designate a uniform. Wearing the same thing every day can be very liberating. You’ll always feel comfortable and look good, plus it’s one less thing to think about. You can save that extra bit of willpower for something later in the day that’s more important.

Dress up! Flaunt the rules in a different way by wearing clothes you’d never be brave enough / allowed to / comfortable in at the office. This gets double points as a creative outlet if you have a hobby like cosplay or a passion for hair and makeup.

Take care of your posture

“I leave my work in my office — I keep my emails off my phone and work at my desktop rather than my laptop.”

This can hugely affect your mood, energy levels, and your health. Get a keyboard and mouse and sit at a desk that’s the proper height for you. Office ergonomics are so important for your body and mind, so having a proper desk setup can greatly improve your productivity. Depending on your space at home, it is also good to vary your posture and keep moving, can you alternate between a sitting and standing desk for example? Variety is the spice of life after all!

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Sunlight

Not everyone is lucky enough to live a charmed life by the beach, but even standing outside your front door for ten minutes gives your brain a kick start first thing in the a.m. Bonus points if you stretch or do those oft neglected physio exercises while you’re there.

“My current top tip: work when it’s dark (and colder!) and take some free time for exercise and vitamin D during daylight hours. With the UK winter meaning limited hours of sunlight, it’s been great to be able to flex my schedule and get the benefits of the day.

Coffee

Try not to hit the caffeine before you’ve even woken up. Cortisol levels rise by about 50% in the first 30 minutes that you’re awake, so even if you’re a caffeine hardened night owl, adding coffee to your heightened morning stress response will physically cause you to be more highly strung than waiting just ninety minutes.

Mood & Mentality Tips:

One thing that everyone at Relay agrees on is how difficult it is to log off! Not only because we love our work, but also because it’s so accessible. “Just-One-More-Thing” can become your home office mantra, and feeling like you’re always on the clock takes its toll on your mood in a big way.

This is why utilizing both your pre-work and post-work time deliberately will be an absolute game-changer. Decide what you’re best placed to do in that time — activity, errands, reflection, creation? Harness that energy even in just a small way and you’ll be centred by the time you hit your desk, and by the time you decide to clock off.

Here are some jumping-off points to help you figure out your perfect wind-up / wind-down routine:

· Exercise first thing in the morning to set your mood for the day, or as an after-work treat to fire up some endorphins?

· Is your time for reflection and gratitude early, before the world is awake, or in the evening when everything is wrapped up?

· What time of day do you feel an urge to reach out to your friends or colleagues? Scheduling your social energy for before or after work will make sure you don’t lose touch with your loved ones when you’re busy or stressed.

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Looking Forward

“At the start of my day, I think of one “me” time activity I’d like to do in the evening. This helps me get through the day because I know something fun awaits me at the end of it.”

Bookend your days

On the plus side, you have no commuting in peak hour traffic, whether by car or by public transport. On the flip side of the coin, this means your brain and your body are missing that stimulation between rolling out of bed and starting your work, as well as the action of leaving the workplace that signifies an end to your workday.

“Creating your own ‘commute’ and chatting to a friend whilst going for a walk at the end of your working day can be a great way to set aside any pressures or stresses and give you the space to relax. Turns out that work/life balance is important … who knew?”

Embrace your space

“When you’re stuck in a never-ending quarantine and feel the cold fingers of dread setting in around your neck but you’ve got work to do, try moving your furniture around! It will suddenly feel like you’re not in the same place, looking at the same walls, talking to the same houseplant — and you’ll be invigorated for work.”

You know those Hollywood interrogation scenes, where a fluorescent light shines directly down on the victim? There’s psychological backing to this style of lighting creating tension and heightening emotions. Again, with another Hollywood example, the scenes where the mobsters negotiate in a dimly lit booth in the back corner of a mood-lit restaurant? Dim lights tend to encourage agreeable tendencies and steadiness of emotion. So grab some lamps and try out some different bulbs — warm or cool, bright or dim. Set your own mood by setting your own scene.

“You work at the same place where you live so you could easily get tired of the environment. Create a cool workstation! Make sure you set your desk on a nice spot and add any decoration that would make you feel nice.”

Digital Focus Tips

Whether it’s romance, parenting, or friendship — it’s important to set boundaries in every healthy relationship. Even if you and your career are a match made in heaven, you need to put some measures in place to avoid becoming codependent.

Separate Browsers

“I keep all my work in one browser and use another browser for social media and personal emails, so I don’t get distracted.”

Try using Google Chrome for work and Mozilla Firefox for socials and leisure time or vice versa. This way, your latest bookmarks, personal emails, or internet rabbit-hole search engine prompts won’t distract you from your tasks.

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Setting Boundaries

“The “Cold Turkey” app is amazing. It blocks any distracting websites and notifications during the working day and once set it’s absolutely impossible to circumvent or turn off. Once the workday is done, you can set it to block your work-related tasks too. It’s super easy to just do “another 10 minutes” or “reply to another couple emails”, but before you know it, your evening is gone.”

Tracking Hours

“I use a free timer app called Visual Timer and it helps me immensely with balancing my time and to fairly record my hours. Setting a timer helps me to check-in to see whether what I’ve been doing is what I’m trying to do (“catch and redirect strategy”) and to record whether that time was a billable period.”

And if all else fails, you can always go take a nap in your very own bed. Just remember to set an alarm!