My tips for working from home

Since the nationwide lockdown, you may find yourself needing to work from home. For some of you, it may be something you’re used to doing but for a lot of people, it’s a new and challenging experience.

I’ve been working from home on and off for the last four years. I’ve always been employed by an organisation but I’ve had opportunities to work from home because I’ve been unwell or if I have an appointment and want to avoid commuting from work or if it’s just company policy to work from home once a week!

The idea of working from home seems to be the ultimate goal for a lot of people and I admit, it is awesome and I do enjoy it. However, it can be challenging because of technology limitations, distractions or just a general loss of motivation but it can work! To be honest, I find I get a lot more done when I’m working from home than when I’m in the office because I get distracted by colleagues or the train going past my window.

I’ve learnt some handy tips and tricks over the years on how to keep focused and how to make working from home work for me. I know there are lots of blogs and vlogs out there at the moment on tips and tricks on how to work from home so a lot of what I’ve got to share is probably not revolutionary but nonetheless, I thought I’d still share them as you may find it helpful. With that being said, here are my tips!

Get up at the same time and get ready!

I think what a lot of people are struggling with is making the distinction between home and work because after all, you’re not commuting, there’s no need to get out of your PJ’s and you feel like there’s no point in getting up at the same time. But having this attitude can obstruct your daily routine.

For me, having a routine is important especially since I’m someone who likes to plan their day and be organised (even if it’s just knowing I’m going to spend the day in bed playing The Sims 4 or binge watching something…) By getting up at the same time during the week, having a coffee, washing my face and brushing my teeth or having a shower and getting into some clean clothes (even if it’s just lounge wear or another pair of PJs) I feel like my day has got structure and purpose and I’m ready to tackle whatever is thrown at me.

To be honest, I used to work from my bed a lot so I’ll wake up, have a coffee and then sit up in bed with my laptop and then work right through to lunch where I would grab my food, hop back into bed and continue working until it’s time to clock out. This is definitely something I would not recommend doing particularly since you’re doing it five or so days a week.

Create a workspace

It’s important to create a workspace especially since it helps makes the distinction between work and home. I know not all of us are fortunate enough to have a spare room or a separate area but even if you used the corner of your room as a workspace, it would make a major difference. You could even decorate the space to make it feel more like an office e.g. hang up a mood board or whiteboard with notes, put a succulent in the corner of your desk or even just have your stationary out.

Structure your day as if you were in the office

Along with getting up at the same time and getting ready for your work day, I think it’s really helpful in terms of routine to structure your day as if you were in the office. I spend my first 30 minutes in the morning writing out lists, going through my emails and checking my calendar to see what tasks I need to do, what meetings I have that day and any upcoming deadline so I know what needs to be prioritised.

Take regular breaks

I’m useless when it comes to taking regular breaks, even when I was in the office. I’d always get into ‘the zone’ and would treat a break as a reward to completing the task at hand. I have a colleague who would always say to me “Breaks aren’t rewards Michelle” and as I type this, I can hear her voice echoing in my head. And you know what? She has a point.

Taking regular breaks is great for your mental wellbeing. It’s especially important if your workspace is in your bedroom. How you treat your breaks is entirely up to you. I know some people prefer to use a lunch break to go out for a walk to get some fresh air and some people prefer to have smaller breaks during the day. I tend to have my breaks when my flatmate does and he has smaller breaks during the day.

If you need a helping hand with ensuring you’re taking regular breaks, Workrave is a great free programme to try out. It’s originally intended to prevent computer users from developing repetitive strain injuries or carpal tunnel but I think it works well in ensuring you take breaks throughout your day. A reminder will pop up that a break is coming up and once it’s break time, your computer will lock up so you can’t avoid taking that much needed break. It’s completely configurable to suit you so you’re not getting random reminders! This programme is something my flatmate swears by.

It’s okay to be distracted

A lot of people beat themselves up when they get distracted and have a less than productive day. I think it’s totally okay to have those days where you’ve spent some time connecting with co-workers, chatting with friends or you’ve spent a whole afternoon watching Netflix instead of getting on with your tasks. I’ve been there!

It’s normal for us to get into a slump, particularly in the afternoons. As we’re not in an office environment and no one is holding you accountable for not working, it’s easier to get distracted and do non-work related things and get away with it!

It helps to know when you’re going to be at your most productive and use that time to ensure you get everything on your list checked off. As much as I hate waking up in the mornings, I also know that between 9am and 2pm is when I’m at my most productive. So I use that time to get down to the nitty gritty and get things done. Once I hit the slump period, it’s always a lot harder to stay focused so I leave the menial tasks until then.

Have a clear finish time

This is so, so important. Knowing when you’re going to sign off means that you’re clear on when you stop working for the day. It also means that your colleagues are clear on when you stop working and are less likely to call or expect a response from you after this time. It also gives you something to look forward to, just like when you’re in the office!

Don’t work or check your emails outside your regular hours

Another really important point – please don’t check your emails outside of your normal ‘working hours’. It becomes a distraction and sometimes you might see something that may, in your mind, require urgent attention so you head straight for your work desk to get things done. Don’t do that. Your mind and body will think it’s work time when it should be relax time. I know this is easier said than done but if you’ve clearly outlined your working hours, then it’s not going to be an urgent request unless your manager calls you to say it is. If it’s an email, it can definitely wait until morning.

So that’s it! Those are my tips on working from home. I hope this is helpful to at least one person out there.

Are you working from home during this pandemic? If so, what are your tips? Take care and stay safe!

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