Top 10 Tips for Working from Home
As the situation around novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, more and more of us world-wide are either choosing to or being asked to work remotely. For some of you this is a familiar way of working, however for a great deal of people working from home is quite foreign and somewhat daunting.
Though the social benefits of a workplace can be a challenge if you’re easily distracted, they are a good way to stay engaged. These ‘water-cooler’ conversations and group lunches have many advantages, including getting you out of your own head, and bouncing ideas off someone removed from what you’re working on. At the home office, however, it can be easy to become your own worst enemy. Let’s face it, less distractions can make it easier to focus on the task at hand, but for some, the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming. And it’s all too easy to develop some very bad habits!
With the help of some of my SpinMe colleagues who often work remotely, whether it be from home, a hotel room, or the occasional airport terminal, I’ve put together my top 10 helpful tips and advice for those of you who are new to working from home.
1. Pretend like you are going into the office
Getting into a good routine early is key. Though it might be tempting to sit around in your PJs all day, getting up, having a shower and putting on some clean clothes will put you in a positive mindset for the day. Not to say that you should put on your best suit and tie but consider something comfortable yet presentable. If you end up on a last-minute client video call, you won’t be left red-faced.
2. Choose a dedicated workspace
Having a place you go specifically to work will help keep your work and personal life separate. It’s healthy to have boundaries. Make sure to have a comfortable and supportive chair and desk, the same as you would in your workplace. Camped out on the sofa with laptop in hand may seem like a good idea but having a place that’s consistently your ‘workspace’ helps you get into the right frame of mind. And your back will thank you for it!
3. Structure your day like you would in the office
When you work from home you become your own manager to some extent. Without face-to-face meetings to break up the day you can quickly lose focus or burn out. Too keep things on track, break down what you need to achieve over the course of the day. Use a calendar or reminder tool to allocate chunks of time to certain tasks. This structure will help keep you focused and productive.
4. Don’t be a mushroom
Not everyone has the luxury of having a dedicated home-office but do make sure you find a space with some natural light (or at the very least good lighting) and good ventilation. Open those curtains and windows, if it’s not raining of course. It’ll be easier on the eye and the fresh air will do wonders to keep you alert.
5. Take regular breaks
It can be easy to get so distracted when you’re working from home that you avoid taking breaks altogether. You need to make time. Take five minutes at least every hour to relax, and don’t forget to schedule a lunch break. Avoid the temptation of opening YouTube and watching those hilarious cat videos, get up and get moving. Go outside for some fresh air or chat with someone who might also be in the house. Getting away from your desk and stretching your legs will help you to recharge and refocus.
6. Communicate expectations
Sharing a house with other people can be challenging at the best of times but when you’re trying to work it can be a nightmare. It’s important to set clear boundaries. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re home. Whether you close the door to your workspace or wear a headset, have a plan so that other people in the house know when you’re not available. If you share your home with multiple people working from the same home, chances are that you have different jobs that require different levels of concentration. Setting these clear boundaries early on will prevent any conflict that may arise.
7. Use technology to stay connected
Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off the rest of your coworkers. Part and parcel of a healthy workplace culture is social interaction. Working from home shouldn’t change this. Check in with your coworkers regularly and maintain those relationships that you’ve created. Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make this easy to stay in touch and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture. Familiarise yourself with screen sharing and group calling technology, there are loads of tools to make remote working easy and productive.
8. Find music that motivates
Whether it’s jazz and blues, golden oldies, or the latest dance track, find a radio or playlist that matches your tasks. Finding what music motivates and keeps you focused on different tasks can completely change your productivity levels. Not only will it help to keep you energised, it will be amazing for your mental well-being.
9. Keep the TV on in the background
It’s not something that works for everyone but having the TV on in the background at a low volume can mimic the sounds of a normal office environment. The trick is to set the volume to a level that’s just low enough that you can’t quite make out what people are saying, and make sure that it’s in another room. Some people might find this too much of a distraction but it’s my hot tip. Just make sure that it works for any other people you may be at home with.
10. Don’t overdo it
For those of you who are not self-employed, you will have standard office hours that you are expected to work. In most cases, working from home won’t change these expectations. Be prepared to keep a routine of starting and finishing work at the times you would normally arrive and leave the office. It’s all too easy to become consumed by a task and let time get away from you. Set an alarm for the end of the day to indicate your normal working day is coming to an end. You don’t have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the work day is technically over can prevent you from working late into the evening without realising it.