Lockdown support: How to work more effectively from home

John French


All the advice you need to work more productively from home during lockdown 2020.

Photo credit: Unsplash – Dylan Shook

So now you’re working from home

Working from home always seemed to be the ideal working dream, that is, of course, until #lockdown2020. Suddenly you are now reduced to one isolated cage, one prison, with little support, regular office equipment nor any set routines.

The Covid-19 lockdown crisis has literally turned everyone into remote home workers over night. This is not a small adjustment. It has created some enormous and vast challenges for countless people as well as a nightmare unravelling scenario for many corporates and their carefully curated brands.

Different psychological spaces

Work and home spaces are vastly different psychological spaces. If people are not used to working from home, they can find it very challenging to try and adjust and reconfigure the fragmented parts of their work routines and old corporate lives.

Most corporate workers have very clear and set boundaries and sectors in their lives. The corporate office is the place to focus, put your head down and achieve business objectives and goals. Home, on the other hand, is for downtime, family, resting (hopefully) and for a general theme of relaxation.

It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly

As a result of the national lockdown, millions of habitual professionals have had to run home to the hills and have had to suddenly pull virtual home offices out of their amateur magicians’ hats. On top of this, they have been forced to do this with no warning, no time and probably very little support.

Welcome to the world of crisis management …

It is not surprising then that countless professionals feel that the proverbial office rug has been pulled out from under them. How to do explain to your children that Mummy or Daddy is being watched by their boss through a computer lens on Zoom? What can I use as my desk? Oh Lord – I don’t have an office desk at home! Please stop peeling those bloody potatoes … you’re messing on my report and dirtying my laptop screen. SCREAM!!!

The enormous challenges

Not all professionals are fortunate enough to live in leafy affluent suburbs with plenty of space and a home study you can conveniently close off for privacy and comfort. There have been many stories surfacing of some desperate individuals jumping into cupboards to conduct Zoom calls. Others have chatted from their beds, and of course every child in the house has the incredible knack of interrupting and sabotaging every Zoom call!!

Indeed, desperate times call for desperate measures. But what can you personally do and achieve to maintain your sanity, your personal brand as well as your brand ambassador status during this lockdown time of crisis?

Some helpful tips

I have been working from my home office since 2010, and during the last decade, I have learnt the following principles for working effectively from home (often the hard way).

These are some practical tips that I have learnt along the way to help you and your colleagues to work more effectively from home during this lockdown period:

  1. You need to set up a home office (first prize) or at least a comfortable work station (preferably away from the rest of the family). Try and make it as far away from your bedroom and TV as possible.

    Spatial boundaries are essential to keep you mentally focused. Distractions destroy any office space. Make sure there is adequate light and ventilation and that you feel comfortable.

    If you are conducting live tele-conferencing and Zoom calls, make sure that you have a clean decent backdrop behind you with no windows, gaping holes or light from the back. I shall explain more about why this is necessary in future blogs.

  2. As bizarre as it sounds, each morning get dressed and groom yourself like you are going to the office. This helps you to get into work mode and will help you to feel good about yourself and facilitate working smartly. Just try it if you don’t believe me.

  3. Limit social media time and other home distractions – Checking the news, navigating your social sites and dealing with home chores will swallow up your whole day if you let them. For good time management, create window periods to do all these social tasks. Don’t let these distractions creep into your productive work time.

    TIP: If possible, put your cell phone in another room while you are working. During the lockdown crisis, many of your friends are sitting at home very bored and will be messaging you every five seconds. Create a healthy boundary as far as this is concerned.

  4. Introverts will tend to find it easier to work alone from home – Be warned, Extroverts. You will sub-consciously tune in to any distraction to find an excuse to connect socially, you may try vainly to be more active and get away from your chores at your desk. The key is always to know yourself and know your personal derailers.

  5. Make time to engage and connect digitally – Human beings are social creatures and most people derive pleasure from connecting with others and sharing their daily experiences. Build socialising into your day plan and realise that it is a vital part of your mental and emotional well-being. You need to manage your social isolation wisely.

  6. Get organised – The world may be in chaos right now, but you don’t need to be. You can create a good degree of mental peace by getting yourself organised, as well as your home office space and your wider home. The more organised you are, the more you will be able to help your business and the world around you.

    : Get organised by creating filing systems, online diaries, day plans and a work / team strategy for going forward.

  7. Plan your day – During this isolated time of lockdown, the days can slowly begin to dissolve into each other. The global and national economic crisis can make even the most optimistic people depressed.

    As human beings we all need to have purpose in our lives. It gives us a reason for being. You can guard your mental well-being by creating a focus for each day – a project, a list of things to do, something to get up for.

    Achieving your goals will give you a sense of achievement and raise your feel-good endorphins.

  8. Set specific office hours – When you are working from home, it is so easy for the boundaries to become blurred. For your own and well as your family’s personal well-being it is important to try and create healthy boundaries between work time and down time (if possible).

    Healthy boundaries help to create a healthy mind. When you work from home, your psychological boundaries become even more important. Work can easily bleed into the other parts of you home and damage relationships and peace of mind.

    TIP: Set work goals for the day and pace yourself to get them done by a certain time. The sooner you get your work done, the sooner you can relax with your family and everyone can relax and play the usual lockdown games.

  9. Communicate your work schedule to those your live with – Your poor family! All of a sudden your family’s personal space has been invaded by the office and out of nowhere there are strange new demanding stresses and boundaries. This is not easy for any family member to digest or accept, especially for children.

    The easiest way to garner support and the necessary buy-in from your family is to actively manage your needs and expectations with them. Remember that they also have their own personal needs and that everyone needs to compromise and co-operate during this very challenging lockdown period.

    Create firm boundaries with your family about when you need to work, but make it up to them afterwards by giving them your full attention and love. Be present and be patient.

  10. Maintain a healthy lifestyle – Working from home during lockdown can lead to a very sedate and lazy lifestyle. Most of us need some kind of stick behind us for motivation and to keep us moving. Without that support it’s fairly easy to slow down into nothingness.

    This is where self-discipline becomes essential.

    Make sure that the only exercise you get is not your trip to the fridge. Download some exercise videos from the internet, drink a lot of water and don’t buy too many unhealthy snacks – it will be your downfall.

  11. Stay connected and check in – During this crisis lockdown time, the biggest stress most managers will carry is that they are feeling that they are losing control of their teams and of productivity.

    You can make your manager as well as your team feel safer and more secure by checking in briefly with them at the beginning of each day and reporting back on things achieved at the end of each day. This is great team hygiene and helps your manager and the entire team feel more connected and cohesive.

  12. Brush up on your digital communication skills – Since you are now working remotely, digital communication and engagement will be your primary communication medium.Make sure you have the necessary technology and software set up on your pc and that your work station/ office can double as your filming studio.

    The biggest mistakes people are currently making with their Zoom / video / Skype backdrops is that:
    1. They have windows / back lights / uncontained open spaces behind them when they are recording which creates all kinds of visual horrors.
    2. Bad lighting ruins your presence and appearance. Ideally, you should have light in front of you and not from behind, and a pilot light from one side to give you dimension.

      By improving the lighting when you are filmed, it gives you far greater presence and a stronger business impact.

Contact Communication Guru for further support

For more support or virtual team training to help your employees work more effectively and productively from home, please feel free to contact John French at john@johnfrench.co.za

You can visit our website at www.comunicationguru.co.za

“Stay safe. Stay sane.” – John French Communication Guru

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Free guided relaxation for your personal stress management

Stress Management is a vital module in all of our training programmes because stress is the greatest enemy of effective communication. Listen to this 8 minute beautiful guided relaxation by Jenny Ibbotson. It will help you to manage anxiety and develop a habit of calmness.


Stress Management is a vital module in all of our training programmes because stress is the greatest enemy of effective communication. Listen to this 8 minute beautiful guided relaxation by Jenny Ibbotson. It will help you to manage anxiety and develop a habit of calmness.


Free guided relaxation for your personal
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