20 of our top tips to keep you sane and productive if you’re working from home, from the pitfalls to avoid to the benefits to embrace.
As the coronavirus outbreak necessitates restrictions on travel and social contact, more of us than ever before will be working from home for extended periods. For many of us, this will be a completely new situation.
For some people, working from home is an appealing prospect. For others it is far from ideal. However, you are feeling about it, it will take a bit of getting used to.
There are many ways for you to keep your spirits up, stay effective and keep connected while working from home. These are just simple tips but they could make all the difference.
1. Establish a routine
Humans are creatures of habit and right now we are all facing significant changes to our routines. Establishing a new schedule at home will help you to regain a sense of control and normality.
Structure your day, plan out the tasks you wish to achieve and assign structured time to do these. Write a to-do list, sharing your objectives with your colleagues – keeping you all connected. You may need to adjust tomorrow’s list depending on what you get done today – and that’s ok.
2. Keep regular hours
When you don’t have to commute, it can be very easy to continue to work until late or start work early. Try to stick to your set hours to ensure you are still achieving a good work-life balance.
If you do want to change your working hours slightly (and your work agrees to this), be militant about sticking to them.
When you’re working different hours to everyone else, it’s easy to end up working beyond them.
3. Do something to demarcate the start of work
If your day usually started with a commute into the office, use this time differently now. This might be walking round the block or spending some time in your garden to separate yourself mentally from the rest of your home before starting work.
Exercise can create endorphins and is good for your mental wellbeing so working out from home before work or at the end of the day can help to release stress and anxiety.
4. Find a suitable workspace
Finding a dedicated and undisturbed work zone is so important. This is one of the first things regular home workers will tell you.
Whether you are working at your home office, dining room or kitchen table try to find somewhere you won’t be disturbed.
5. Get comfortable
Make sure you have everything you need to work comfortably. Does your chair support you? Is your desk (or makeshift desk) at the right height? Think about the things that help you work well at your office and try to recreate them at home.
6. Separate work and relaxation spaces
If at all possible, chose a workspace that’s separate from where you relax in the evenings. That means don’t work from your sofa and certainly don’t work from your bed.
If you don’t separate your work and play spaces, you’ll find it harder to stay productive during the day and you’ll struggle to switch off at night.
7. Get up and get dressed
One of the benefits of working from home is that you can take a more relaxed approach when it comes to dressing for work. However, to keep an element of routine it is best to get up and get ready for work, even if that is in your kitchen!
According to studies, keeping up a more formal attire, especially when working remotely can help us perform tasks better.
Wearing suitable clothes enable us to get into ‘work mode’ as we are psychologically prepared for going to work.
Dressing appropriately also helps during a time when more video calls are encouraged.
8. Treat work like work
Don’t be tempted to be less formal just because you’re at home. Try to work in the same way you would at the office – or as close to the same way as possible.
At the end of the working day remember to tidy away papers and other items you have been working on and switch off your computer so that you feel disconnected, just as you would if you were leaving your normal workspace.
9. Schedule breaks and take them
There are fewer distractions when working remotely. In an office it’s easy to grab a coffee with colleagues or step away from your computer screen. When working from home there is a potential to fall into unhealthy habits of moving less.
Make sure to schedule time away from your computer so you don’t burn out.
10. Take lunch (and not at your desk)
Eating well is a great way to look after yourself both mentally and physically. Eating mindfully and eating regular portions at regular times can boost your gut health which can make you feel better in many ways.
Eating a regular lunch away from your workstation (even if your workstation is the kitchen table!) will also help you to switch off from work mode and have a proper break.
Remember, it’s called a lunch hour for a reason.
11. Avoid distractions
It can be tempting to try and multitask when you’re at home, but this is not an effective way of working. Are you really being productive if you’re waiting for a load of washing to finish?
Other members of your household can also be distractions, and for some people this will be especially true as housemates and family members are now at home too.
Make sure everyone knows that you’re working from home and need space and quiet.
12. Make your housemates your colleagues
More than one of you in the household working from home? Of course, you could work in different rooms but not all of us have enough space to do so.
Why not start treating your housemate as a colleague? Set up a joint workstation, share the tea-making duties and take breaks together. Having other people around you who are working can not only make you feel less isolated – it can actually make you more productive.
13. Remove digital distractions
You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be constantly checking your phone or taking personal calls in the office. You wouldn’t have the radio on full blast and you certainly wouldn’t be watching TV.
Work is one of the few places we disconnect from these digital distractions, so stick to your good habits while working from home.
14. If you’re sick, don’t work
Being at home is not the same as taking time off to rest. If you are unwell, don’t try and power through. You will likely take longer to recover – so you’ll feel worse for longer.
At the office, sickness is noticed because of your absence. If you need to take a sick day while working remotely, make sure your whole team knows so that they don’t bother you. And remember to send regular updates so that people don’t worry too much.
15. Call or video chat wherever possible
We are all guilty of emailing too much; during this time where possible pick up the phone to speak to each other instead of emailing constantly.
Make the most of technology and schedule online meetings and conference calls. And turn the video on as much as you can; seeing the person you are speaking to can really lift your mood.
Communicate with your colleagues as much as possible. Explain things more clearly than you would normally and use plain English as much as possible.
Emails, phone calls and video calls are fantastic, but they can’t replace face-to-face interactions. Certain things can be lost in translation, so it’s more important than ever to make sure everyone is following what you’re saying.
17. But don’t send hundreds of emails
If you need to email, try and be concise and collate all points into one email rather than sending lots. It can be overwhelming for the respondent.
18. Be conscious of your tone
Most of us have experienced the confusion that can arise when tone isn’t conveyed properly via digital communications. This is just as true when working remotely as it is when texting your friends.
Use exclamation points, use capital letters, use smileys, read and re-read your emails to make sure they properly convey the tone you want to.
Us Brits love sarcasm but it doesn’t always work when we’re not face to face. If you want to make a joke, draw attention to the fact you’re joking.
Try as hard as you can not to be negative right now. The tone of an email can genuinely and significantly impact the mood of the recipient.
19. Check in with your colleagues regularly
The same situation will cause very different reactions in different people, and the people who struggle most during isolation may not be the ones you expect.
Reach out to your colleagues via phone, email or instant message. Schedule virtual coffee breaks together. Pay more attention to their moods and let your other team members know if you think they could use a little more support.
20. Look after yourself
In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. Stay in regular contact with your loved ones. Don’t spend too much time scrolling through social media or watching the news. Make the most of your daily exercise allowance to take a brisk walk in the fresh air.
And if you feel like you are struggling, ask for help, whether from friends or via one of these free mental health helplines. We all need a helping hand sometimes.
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