Working from home hacks

While flexible work and working from home have become much more popular with employers recently, there will be many people out there that are new to it or who have only worked from home for short periods of time.

Working from home can take time to adapt to.  Humans are social animals, and we’re not designed to be isolated from one another. It’s critical that we learn from and support each other so that we can make this work for everyone.

As the COVID-19 situation continues, and more people are faced with working from home for an indefinite period, I wanted to share some tips and tricks that I learned while working remotely, full-time, for two years.

1. Get up and get moving

It’s important to get up and get ready for your day.  Tempting as it may be to roll out of bed and open your laptop while still in your PJs, you won’t be giving your mind or your body time to wake up, charge and focus for your day.

Try replacing your morning commute with some exercise.  If you can, get outside and go for a walk or a run.  If you need to stay home, there are plenty of free You Tube videos on everything from Yoga to HIIT or, if you’d prefer a program to follow you can check out the following apps:

The sooner you can get the blood pumping, the sooner you can dive into your to-do-list with energy and enthusiasm for your day.

2. Dress for Your Day

Research shows that how you dress can influence your behaviour.  I’m not suggesting you dust off your 80’s power-suit and wear it to your home office, but dressing in clothes you’d be comfortable to wear to a work video conference is likely to make you feel like you feel like you have something to do today.

3. Structure your day at home as you would a day in the office

Without your usual work routine and meeting schedule, it’s easy to lose focus.  Try to set up your day as you usually would, allocating set time to complete essential work tasks, scheduling in breaks and planning in time to catch up with colleagues.  Breaking up your day into clear sections will help you keep on track, on time and avoid your work day spilling into your home time.

4. Choose a dedicated work space

As with structuring your time, having a dedicated work space can help you to maintain a clear break between your home life and work life.  If you don’t have a home office, choose a place in your home that can be your work space and when you’re done for the day, close the door or shut your laptop and make a clear, physical and mental break.

Make sure that the space you choose has good ergonomics, and that you take regular breaks to stand, stretch and move.

5. Minimise distractions

For many, the current situation means we may have children or other family members at home with us.  It’s important to minimise other distractions so that you can focus on your work.  Simple measures like removing social media accounts and browser shortcuts from your work laptop or computer will help.

6. Design your day

One huge benefit of working from home is being able to work when you are most productive.  For me, that’s very early in the morning – I typically get up around 5 am and read the news and organise my to-do-list for the day.   If you are an early-bird or a night-owl, just make sure that you plan in the time you need to be available to customers and colleagues during normal working hours.

It’s also very important to plan in breaks.  Ensure that you get away from your workspace and move, stretch and hydrate.  It’s very easy to feel guilty, but if you were in the office you’d have frequent cognitive and physical breaks simply by interacting with colleagues, so try to replicate this at home.

 7. Keep Busy

You may find that you’re more productive when you work from home and get through more work than you would at the office.  Don’t rest on your laurels!  Boredom breeds loneliness and inertia, and will quickly erode any headway you’d made.  Ask for more work to do, or reach out to support a colleague that may have more to juggle at home than you do.

8. Stay Connected

 While the peace and quiet of home working might be welcome at first, once you remove the office chatter and banter it’s easy to feel bored and lonely.  There is also a risk that your team will be less likely to bounce ideas around or work together to problem-solve.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to stay connected to your colleagues when working from home and to use technology that supports instant communications in various forms.   There are many excellent free (or cheap) cloud-based team collaboration and communication tools out there, such as:

Remember too that these are uncertain times and people will be feeling anxious.  Many won’t have worked remotely before, and others only for short periods.  It takes a while to get into the groove of working from home, go easy on yourself and others and communicate: let people know what works for you and ask what you can do to make remote working work for them.

 9. Manage Expectations

It’s important that you agree with your manager when you’ll be working and available, and that you adhere to commitments made.  It’s also important that you do the same with people that share your home.  It’s important that your work time is respected, and that working from home does not become code for available for housework / Fortnite battles.

And while many of us know what it’s like to juggle children and work commitments and are fine with the odd interruption, for your own sanity, when you’re jumping on a video or voice call, try to let kids and other family members know when you need their help to be quiet.

We’ve all seen this one, but in case you need a smile today….

10. Switch off and Recharge

Try to finish your workday at the time you had planned and switch off for the evening. If you’ve been working from home all day, it’s important that you make time to socialise with friends and family, in person or via Skype / Facetime.  I’ve already seen some amazing examples of virtual catch-ups from friends in London, including film nights, charity poker and charades….. be creative!

11. Plan for tomorrow

Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult things about the COVID-19 situation is uncertainty.  Bring some predictability and certainty to your week by planning for each day the night before, think about your work and your personal needs, and set out what the following day will look like.

If you have children at home, set up a craft table or organise a timetable of activities for them to do the next day and talk them through it.

Not only will the routine help you and your family stay calm and focused, but it will also help you to be more productive each day.


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