Not only are large numbers adjusting to an unexpected working from home setup, we are also having to do it with all our family members in the house and limited opportunities to go out. Here are some tips to making it all work:
Create a proper working space
This bit is important. Set yourself up with a long-term, dedicated space, where you can work comfortably and without interruption. Sitting on the sofa with a laptop is fine for an afternoon, the dining table works for a day or two, but it’s not sustainable for long. Successful homeworking relies on creating an environment where you can be productive and enjoy working. To that end, consider the way your surroundings are decorated too. If possible, give yourself a nice view, and as much natural light as possible. You don’t necessarily need to spend money on this, but an afternoon spent shifting furniture around is well worth it. And, let’s face it, you’re not likely to need the spare room for visitors any time soon.
Create clear boundaries between work and home life
This is in many ways the hardest bit, and it’s perhaps not immediately obvious why this is necessary. However, separating work from the rest of your life is important, or you will struggle to switch off if there is no obvious difference between the office and your home, especially when the geographical difference is minimal. When work and home is in the same building, or even the same room, it’s essential to create clear boundaries, going in both directions. Below are some tips to make that happen
- Fix your work hours
Be disciplined with separating work from life, and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to do the laundry and hoover the house during working hours, don’t go near the computer after work is over. Schedule in breaks too – leave your desk for a bit, have a cup of tea, call a friend or head out into the garden
- …but not necessarily to office hours
Your employer may not give you a choice here, but if they do, this is an opportunity to create your own workday that suits you. Night owl or morning bird? Make use of the times when you are at your most productive. Even if the work hours are set, schedule the harder tasks for when you are at your most alert, and leave the easy ones for the sluggish periods.
- Create a start and end routines
It’s good to establish solid routines, especially at the start of the day. Get up at your regular time and have a shower, make the bed and have breakfast. Use your normal commuting time for a regular activity, such as exercise, taking the dog for a walk, listen to a podcast or clean the house. Either way, don’t go straight to your desk – you will be more productive if you give yourself an enjoyable transition. Some other suggestions for clocking on and off include walking around the house before and after work in order to create a ‘leaving home’ and ‘arriving home’ feel.
- Get dressed for work
Don’t be tempted to stay in your pj’s, or whatever you would otherwise wear to chill on the sofa. That doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable, but changing clothes when your working day is over is a good way to create a clear border between the two.
- Establish some ground rules
If you live in a house full of people, all now forced to find ways to coexist in a confined space, it’s a good idea to establish house routines too. Divide up domestic chores, and perhaps set some rules as to when the noisy ones can be done. Make it clear when you can be disturbed.
Our homes are full of distractions, and creating an environment and a routine in which you can thrive and be productive is essential.
- Set targets for the day
If you are used to creating your work day structure based on the daily rhythms of the office, working from home will represent both freedom and a challenge. Start by setting targets and tasks for the day ahead, and be clear about what you want to achieve each day and week.
- Eat healthy food
One of the videos doing the rounds on social media at the moment depicts a six-packed guy dancing with his shirt off – cut to post-isolation, and he has acquired a sizeable to belly to shake. The temptation to snack in the absence of a structured workday will be high, but try to resist. Eating well, and keeping normal mealtimes will give you energy and help keep you focused. Fresh and healthy food is in any event the easiest to get hold of in these days of hoarding! The one other thing we now have in ample supply is time, and cooking and baking good meals is a good way to spend it.
- Stay off social media
It’s tempting to reach for your phone, but try to resist. Aside from the distraction, and the harm social media demonstrably does to your productivity, it is also a good way to separate work from the rest of your life. Reserve the online fix for your breaks and for after-work hours. The tv also needs to come off.
- Get some fresh air
Yes, that might be hard at the moment. At the time of writing, we are restricted to one outdoor exercise session per day, so do make use of that. Aside from that outing, use your garden or balcony to its fullest, open the windows, get out in the fresh air and move your body often. Now is a good time to do all those gardening tasks you keep putting off. Do you have outside space for an exercise session? There are lots of online classes available for free at the moment (Les Mills is one example: https://www.lesmills.com/uk/ondemand/). Either way, build in breaks that provide both fresh air and body movement.
Invest in technology
- Use technology to help
But avoid using too many apps and programs. Find the ones that work for you, and that help you organise your day and your work, and switch the rest off.
- Upgrade communication
Don’t email when a phone call is possible. Don’t call if a video call is an option. Working from home can be lonely, and whilst you might not miss human interaction to begin with, that’s not likely to last.
- Check in with your team
Contact with your team and your manager will to varying degrees be necessary to do your job as well, and, in general, more is more on this front too. Check in regularly. If this hasn’t been set up by your employer, request regular catch ups, and suggest team video calls. Lack of ‘mutual knowledge’
- Ask for help
If you don’t have the necessary equipment, your employer should help you. Tell them what you need and what your obstacles are, and they should provided assistance.
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