A lot of people have recently found themselves plunged into the world of home working for the first time, in efforts for employers to limit the spread of Coronavirus. For some, the idea of working from home feels like hell on earth, and for others a welcome change, however for many it is simply something that requires some time to adjust to.
Here are our top tips for working from home, staying in the loop and staying sane!
1. Get the setup right
One of the most important things if you find yourself suddenly working from home is to find the perfect space to work in. Ideally, it should be:
- Comfortable, but a semi-formal spot that you associate with work
- You need somewhere that allows you to 'leave work' at the end of the day – this means it’s definitely not the sofa or your bed!
- A comfy chair, desk or table and ideally some natural light make the perfect work from home space - if after the first few days you're experiencing new back pain, re-think the setup - quick!
- Think about whether you'd be embarrassed for colleagues, clients or potential employers to see what's going on behind you (e.g. keep it tidy!)
- Think about the ambiance - make your home office space a nice place to be (who knows how long we'll be in our home offices!) - pictures, plants, fresh air, music snacks! Whatever it takes to make coming to 'work' in the morning a positive experience.
If you're lucky enough to have a separate room where you can shut out distractions and unsolicited interruptions you're winning... just make sure whoever is watching the kids knows when you're on a call or indeed live in the news!
2. Phone a friend
For many, regular breaks and a natter in the office kitchen make for a much more productive day, whilst others will be relishing the opportunity to get on without co-worker's distractions. But in these unprecedented times, it's important to remember social interactions are crucial and can prevent any feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The psychological effects of remote working for long periods of time have been studied by Dr Thuy-vy Nguyen, who found that these negative impacts are often ignored, even though they’re essential for the upkeep of our mental wellbeing.
For this reason, it’s a great idea to
- Schedule daily video calls with your team or a colleague to ensure you start the day seeing a friendly familiar face
- Use tools such as Skype or Teams that allow you for some human interaction whilst homeworking throughout the day
- Or buddy up with a friend who works elsewhere and is experiencing the same difficulties and book in a regular chat with them
- Keep the office banter going with memes, jokes and regular chats with your colleagues
Just remember Introverts, whilst you might be enjoying isolation... your extrovert colleagues might well be struggling right now!
3. Schedule your time
It's important to keep more of a scheduled day than you normally would at work whilst working from home. Because your days in the office are heavily influenced by others and what they’re doing, you might find that your day lacks structure when at home.
Structured time will make sure you
- Don’t end up feeling lost!
- Make time for regular comfort breaks (time to play with your dog/kids!)
- Taking a walk, and exercise, even if it’s in your living room!
Keeping communication levels high when you’re working from home is key to both ensuring yourself and colleagues are still on the same pathway and also maintaining some sanity! Going beyond email to replicate the in-person experience is a helpful way to retain some sense of normality, video calling through Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams is a great way to do this.
It’s normal to feel some sense of isolation during these strange times, but this can be counteracted by communicating with your team and amping up the normal levels of communication as much as possible.
But there's no need for all calls to be business focussed, Prithwiraj “Raj” Choudhury, from the Harvard Business School, who studies remote working, found that remote team lunches through video chat are a good way to boost camaraderie and productivity among teams, as well as giving them a chance to catch up and chat as you would in normal day-to-day office life.
You could also use apps such as House Party for Friday afternoon games, schedule coffee breaks together even have a virtual Friday beer!
5. Get dressed!
I know the idea of staying in your pyjamas at work is the stuff of dreams, but it’s sadly not the best way to ensure you’re being as productive as possible.
Ensuring you have a wash and get dressed each morning, as you usually would when heading to the office, will improve your state of mind and prepare you to start work.
Whether getting dressed for you means putting on formal business attire or just getting into some clean comfies, either option is a big help to ensure you get out of relaxation mode.
Just the same, changing out of ‘work clothes’ at the end of your working day should help you wind down and cross the boundary back into relaxation mode!
6. Set Boundaries
Speaking of boundaries, these certainly feel blurred whilst you’re not in your normal work setting, so it’s essential to set yourself some!
- Sticking to your normal work hours is the best option to allow you to get into a WFH routine.
- Start your day at the time you’d normally arrive at the office and clock off at your normal time too.
- Our Managing Director, Richard, is using the time he’d normally use for commuting in the morning to do some exercise – whether that be a run around the block or a HIIT workout in his front room, this is a great way to ensure you’re keeping active whilst confined to your own home.
Doing something repeatedly over and over establishes a habit. So, although the first week may be difficult, it will get easier as it becomes a part of your routine.
It’s important that you don’t overcompensate whilst working from home due to anxiety surrounding wanting to be seen to be working. As long as you know you’re on task, then don’t worry, there’s no need to go overboard!
7. Go outside
If you’re not self-isolating, getting outside at some point during each day is essential. As long as the government advice remains as is, going out for a walk or run is something that everybody should be doing locally.
Not only is getting fresh air good for you in general, but it can help undo any mental blocks and give you a fresh perspective on something you’re working on.
If you are self-isolating, it can be helpful to bring the office atmosphere to you, for example by playing sounds such as trains moving along or background chit chat, which should help you feel like work is finished when the sounds are turned off.
Look at the positives!
According to Forbes, working from home is the future and there are several positives to draw from it.
- Research shows that a lot of productivity is lost on long commutes and office gossiping and it appears that people are finding it more and more difficult to be productive in a traditional office environment. The answer to this predicament is working from home.
- A more productive day allows more time to look after personal mental and physical wellbeing.
- Another positive of more widespread working from home is that those who find commuting difficult will have more opportunities - with more and more people delaying their retirement and working well into their 70s, working from home means that this generation is able to continue working without participating in a hectic daily commute.
Although it's a strange and uncertain time for everybody at the moment, it's important to try and stay positive and look for the good news among the bad. If you're struggling, have a read through our blog on keeping your mind and body healthy whilst working from home.
You can also check out our tips on staying sane whilst being stuck at home with the kids!