“Lunch is pivotal”: home-working wisdom from the IM front line

Dan Linstead 27 March 2020

Two weeks ago, most of us made only the occasional visit to the world of home-working – a strange, halfway place where only our freelance colleagues chose to permanently dwell. Now we are all hardened pros, and here is what we have learned.



Get dressed. You WILL be more productive. Don’t kid yourself on this one.
Owen Leigh, Digital Producer

Put some trousers on.
Dan Read, Motoring Editor

Putting myself into clothes I would wear for work puts my brain in work mode.
Ynte Lammertsma, Video Assistant

Try on your jeans every few days. Tracksuit trouser waistbands can lull you into a false hope that your home-working healthy-eating plan is going really well. (Everything fits when it’s elasticated.)
Charlotte Martyn, Production Editor



Eat well (where possible). There’s no denying that there’s a sort of special feeling somewhat akin to Christmas about our current situation (families being crammed together at home desperately trying to find ways to fill the hours, cupboards well stocked, hours of great telly to be consumed, etc) and a sense that because times are testing we can legitimately give into as many sugar cravings as we fancy. My advice would be don’t.

That brief (albeit delicious) high will be followed by an inevitable energy slump and the reduced productivity/defeatist mindset that comes hand-in-hand with sugar crashes. Try to stick to a balanced diet and avoid making food a reward for diligence. Oh and don’t let the half-empty bottle of wine in the fridge door lead you astray at breakfast time.
Alex Drew, Editor



For anyone at home with school-age children: do your best to ignore smug parents on your social media feeds or in the news who look like they’re nailing the whole ‘working from home while also home-schooling four kids’ thing. They’re almost certainly not. It is tricky. Your children almost certainly won’t want to spend five hours a day diligently working through maths exercises while you work, but on the flipside you won’t want to spend five hours a day with them making yet another rubbish craft project. Binge-watching Sarah & Duck is fine sometimes. CM

Draw up a household rota / timetable. We have a childcare / home-schooling timetable (proving somewhat ‘flexible’) – but have tried to get everyone heads-down and working at the same time, breaking for a family lunch and outdoor stuff, then the kids doing ‘independent learning’ (thanks, YouTube!) on their tablets in the afternoon.
Anna Scrivenger, Editor

Don’t have a six week-old baby.
Matt Tuffin, Director of Video

See Matt’s tip. Although mine’s eight weeks old.
Dan Read, Motoring Editor


Office setup

Spend time making your home office comfortable. In particular, get your monitor up to eye level so you’re not hunched over your desk every day. We could be in this for the long haul. Your back will thank you for it later.
Matt Havercroft, Group Editor

If you’re lucky enough to have enough space, it’s really helpful to try and keep your working room separate from your relaxing room.
Emma Pocklington, Deputy Editor

Find music that suits your way of working. For me it’s complete silence. Therefore: earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. DR

Invest in kit that makes your life easier, whether it’s a wifi signal booster, headset, extra monitor or whatever. It all means less time yelling at your laptop. AD



Don’t stress if kids, cats, dogs etc invade your video calls because we’ve all got similar challenges, and it helps everyone else relax who’s in the same boat. Keep in constant touch via chat boxes –  Slack, Skype or whatever – so you don’t have to email your team-mates with a quick question. Eventually we’ll forget what the office was actually for… AS

If you’re accessing large files on the server you’re going to see a lot of this:

Don’t stare at it getting frustrated! Pass the time having a stretch, choose your next album to listen to, write an email…
Will Slater, Design Director

Use video conferencing to do things that are more fun than conferences. In the last fortnight I’ve had a video dinner party with my in-laws, and a virtual pub quiz with 100,000 strangers. Last Friday we had our first ever virtual team drinks on Zoom – more than 20 of us, plus assorted kids and partners, having a glass together from home (pic at top of post). It was the most sociable we’ve all been for months, and brought a strange quiver to my cynical heart. This week it’s Hawaiian night.
Dan Linstead, Editorial Director

If you’re going to have something on in the background (and have a smart TV) I can highly recommend putting on an 8 hour YouTube loop of a fireplace or rainforest instead of the news to add some ambience that isn’t too distracting.
Jordana Widt, Executive Assistant

When you’re running a big online conference, people tend to talk over each other all the time. A great way of managing the free-for-all is to ask everyone who wants to contribute to say so in the comments field, then the moderator can go through them one by one. Hats off to our client Laura Ward at the RSPB for this one.
Ellen Wade, Group Account Director

Get up and move every now and then. Read your emails on your phone while you walk around or just stand up for a bit and stretch. You’ll feel better and sometimes it will snap you out of a four-hour excel deep-dive that you really need a break from. Look away from the screen at least every hour. Go to the window and look at something in the distance. It will stop your eyes feeling so tired and strained at the end of the day. OL

I was also just thinking that with these daily video catch-ups, I actually feel more connected & collaborative with you all now than I did when I was sitting in the same room. Go figure. AS



Break up your day into small chunks of 1 to 1.5 hrs (any longer is too much). Make sure you mark the end of a chunk with a drink or a small (healthy) treat or a quick burst of exercise/stretching or deep breath of fresh air. Turn your coffee/tea runs into mini-ceremonies. Use your best china and utensils. Have it away from your desk. Ice, lemon and a sprig of something in your water. That kind of thing.
Matt Pink, content strategist

Find your most productive time and embrace it, even if out of office hours. Could be 7am. Could be 9pm. Make the most of being able to write/think/design at that moment. DR

Take a lunch break. It’s all too easy to get something to eat and wander back to the computer. Take a proper lunch break and do something active. And then shut down the computer at the end of the day. EP

Make a nice lunch. Lunch is pivotal. MP

Continue doing your usual ‘commute’ but as a walk before or after work to clear your head. ie if your walk/ cycle/ drive to work is usually 25 mins, then stick to the same routine and go for a 25 min walk before sitting down at your desk instead.
Katy Hewett, Account Manager

Allow a little bit longer to do everything. MH



I’ve been doing the Joe Wicks 7 days of sweat. It’s 20 mins of exercise that feels like an hour. Great for keeping the beer weight off. MT

Make the most of your one permitted trip outside per day for exercise. Having always hated the idea of running (and runners)… I started running this week. Turns out it’s free, you can do it whenever you like, the only equipment you need is a pair of trainers, and it’s a really good way to clear your head. Who knew? Oh, and drink lots of cups of tea.
Oliver Hurley, Production Editor

Pre-arrange your own coffee break time and snack – so you avoid turning into a human custard cream. Also – work in your exercise gear – much easier to just power down and run out the door!
Clair Atkins, Director of Client Engagement

Simply having the window open while I’m working and hearing the birds singing outside – does a lot of good for peace of mind.
Sean Wilson, Content Producer

Or check out the RSPB’s birdsong radio. EW


Turn off social media. Video calls for work, but phone calls instead of instant messages with friends. Turn off social media and don’t read the news. The French radio station FIP is varied and brilliant (if it’s good enough for Slack…). Turn off social media. Get the idea? MP

Keep your phone out of reach or at least put it on Airplane mode. It’s way too much of a distraction and people are going crazy on social media at the moment. Check the news once a day, nothing more. I made the mistake of having Sky News on in the back ground pretty much all day yesterday and really noticed how much my anxiety levels had risen by close of play.
Sam Freeman, Senior Art Editor


It works for me…

Take an hour every day to learn something new or improve your knowledge of something key to your work. (This is the swotty suggestion). There are LOADS of brilliant free online courses/webinars/podcasts at the moment. Like, LOADS. MP

Use the extra time at home to do the jobs you put off every weekend, for example trimming the garden hedge, painting over that smudge mark that annoys you every time you see it on the wall, replacing lightbulbs or cleaning out cupboards.
Harriet Dixon, Senior Account Manager

Playing practical jokes on my girlfriend has really got me through the period so far.

Turning off the internet whilst she’s on an important conference call is pretty funny.
Richard Jenkins, Senior Art Editor

Baking – it’s therapeutic, takes your mind off everything, you’ve got baked goods for that much-needed boredom/comfort eating, and it makes your house smell like cake. I’m on my third batch of muffins since the office closed…
Rachael Stiles, Editor

Taking selfies with my cats.
Nicole Mooney, Art Editor


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