Working from Home

Working from Home Tips

Working from Home Tips

Many people working from home for the first time this week have commented on social media about how difficult they’re finding it to settle and how little they seem to be getting done. I’m not a psychologist or management expert, but, from experience, I’d say that is completely normal. Working from home since I became a full-time author in October 2018, I have come to realise:

1. I don’t have more writing time than I did when I was working. The time I spent driving to and from work, chatting with colleagues in the corridor, having meetings, taking coffee-breaks, walking between offices, making phone calls and assisting customers does not suddenly morph into pure, unadulterated writing time. My brain does not have the space and energy to double my output.

2. Unbeknown to me, my writing brain was chugging away in the background during these apparently unrelated activities. These days it helps boost my writing energy if I re-create work activities in the home environment. I go for a walk, meet up with other household members for a short coffee break, listen to the radio, or set aside time to engage in social media. Because I’m working in a house, I’m able to switch rooms for an hour or so. Whenever there’s a hint of sunshine, I take work outside, preferably some reading or drafting that doesn’t require me to look at a computer screen.

3. Even by building in these work-type tasks, I can’t make my writing into a 9 to 5 job. I take a chunk of time off in the afternoon and return to writing or research for a couple of hours in the evening.

4. My ‘weekends’ are when I want them to be. At the moment we’re all experiencing every day like a wet bank holiday: time on our hands and nowhere to go. However, even before lockdown, I chose to put in a few hours writing at the weekend. I engage in work hours and rest hours across seven days, rather than a clean five-day: two-day split.

5. I maintain interests outside my work area. During lockdown, these are more sedate than before but still important. My writing brain chugs away while I’m on my permissible daily walk or while I’m reading a relaxing novel.

6. Contact with others is so important to stimulate me socially and intellectually so I have found a new set of work colleagues. I engage with others in my discipline on social media (i.e. bloggers, readers, publishers and writers), and I have a core of fellow writers with whom I exchange regular emails.

7. IT problems hit at home as well as work. Last week, I lost internet connection for three days. With the increased demand in my street from all the new home workers, I fear it could go down again. I plan my work so that I carry out online research while the internet is working, and keep writing and offline reading in reserve for the down times. There are three others in my household now working from home. All experienced difficulties in using the specially created links to their workplaces and had to phone up their IT people. Having an entire workforce working from home is a new phenomenon for IT departments, too. They’re doing sterling work in keeping staff connected.

8. I appreciate that my working context is less complex than others. Providing that the internet and electricity function most of the time, I can carry on as normal. I know it is far more difficult for others. In the days when I used to fit in writing around looking after young children and I didn’t have control over my timetable, I accepted that writing and research took far longer than I wanted and I learnt not to sweat the small stuff. (But it took me a long time to realise that.)

9. These were the new routines that worked for me, but it took me a while to work them out. There’s no right answer to working from home in this enforced isolation.

So is it business as usual for me?

You might be reading this thinking that not much has changed for me. But, like many people, I’ve found it hard to concentrate, even on reading a novel. I’m still coming to terms with the enormity of this global crisis. I think we’re all in shock and need time to adjust to the new “normal”. We’ll get there. I’m feeling my way back to work again – slowly.

I won’t pretend I’m as seriously affected as workers in the hospitality sector who have lost jobs, and in some cases, have fears over their accommodation which is linked to their workplace. Many people are stuck a long way from home with real anxieties over their present and future situation.

However, it’s not great news for me. I finally got The Roommates into high street bookshops one week before lockdown. I had interviews lined up in three glossy magazines but it’s doubtful they will be published now. And two author appearances I was due to make at festivals are cancelled.

A knock-on effect of high profile and big debut authors having their signings, launches and book tours cancelled is that their publicity teams have taken to social media and other media in a big and concerted way. Lesser-known authors like me – without a PR machine behind us – relied heavily on social media to promote our books. It’s hard to make an impression now with so many big hitters also using it.

So there’s nothing for it, I’m going to end this post with an unabashed plug for my books. The links are to Amazon Kindle versions, but the titles are available from all ebook platforms. Paperbacks of the three HarperCollins thrillers can be ordered from any bookshop offering a delivery service.

The Roommates – a psychological thriller – Four girls start university and find themselves sharing a flat. Each is trying to hide a secret from their past. When one of them disappears, the others have to trust each other and work together to find her, little realising the danger ahead.

Four students. Four secrets. One devastating lie.

Closer Magazine – Must Read; Woman’s Weekly – Book of the Week.

Please click here and here for more reviews.

The Good Teacher – police procedural – If you like a detective story, but want something a little less gritty in these tricky times, you might like to spend a few hours with DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams. Former professional dancer, Pippa takes on her first case, the baffling murder of a much-loved teacher.

‘A great police based thriller with a good bit of humour, engaging characters as well as a serious subject at its heart’ Jen Med’s Book Reviews

‘One hell of an addictive read … 5* out of 5*’ The Ginger Book Geek

‘A smashing book and very well worth reading’ Linda’s Book Bag

‘One of those read in one sitting page turners with engaging characters and a good twisty plot’ Liz Loves Books

‘It’s a fun, scream through-in-an-afternoon type of book’ Reader’s Retreat

The Perfect Neighbours – psychological thriller – this is a slow burn thriller with a big bang in the middle.

Behind the shutters lies a devastating secret…
When Helen moves abroad with her loving husband Gary, she can’t wait to meet her fellow expat teachers from the local International School. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare…
As soon as the charming family across the way welcome Helen into their home, she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely and a child goes missing, vanished without a trace.
When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the community, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything…

A Top Ten Kindle Bestseller

Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty – historical fiction – I based this novel loosely on the diary of my husband’s grandmother, a war nurse at Gallipoli.

In 1915 Sara Winwood writes a diary. It begins as a grand adventure for Sara and five other newly enlisted sisters in the Australian Army Nursing Service heading into the unknown to do their bit in a distant war.

But on board the hospital ship Gascon, adventure turns to ordeal. The women face an unrelenting barrage of blood, death and disease with only the fortitude and humour of their patients – shrapnel-filled men scraped off the hostile cliffs of the Gallipoli peninsula – to keep them going.

They don’t just see war; they touch, taste and breathe it.

“This well-written and vivid novel is a truly compelling narrative of one of the worst military disasters of the first world war. If you enjoy historical fiction, I would highly recommend this book.*****” (Nursing Standard)

“I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the First World War, especially the women’s role…Verdict: A well-written account of life on a hospital ship. ****” (Soldier Magazine)

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. She writes the Gloucestershire Crime Series, published by Hobeck Books. The first title is Her Deadly Friend, and the second is Her Charming Man. Her titles with HarperCollins are: The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university during freshers' week; The Good Teacher, a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams, and The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Rachel studied at Aberystwyth University, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her family. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

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