Working from Home - Making it Work

23/06/2020

If you're still working from home, then you may well be fed up with it by now, or you may have decided that you never want to commute again.  In today's blog, we look at tips to work from home effectively. 

I've worked from home most of the time for around 5 years. These are some of the strategies I've learned. I might also add, that I regularly revisit them, and make tweaks and changes where needed, or look for more efficient ways to manage. 

1) Environment

It's easy to be distracted and unfocused when you're not in a work environment, so the first strategy is to make a work space - a spot that you use only for work if possible.  (PS if you want to claim against tax for your home office, it does have to be a separate room) This helps you to focus when you take your seat, but also to keep work and home life separate. This is very important to prevent you from feeling you never get away from work. 

Set your work space up so you can work comfortably for long periods of time ie, with a good chair, your computer and keyboard at the right height, so you don't land up with a sore neck. 

2) Schedule

Create a work schedule, that encompasses all of your responsibilities, carving out the day into chunks of time. Get up and go to bed at the same time each day, schedule time for family, exercise (home schooling if necessary) Keep a To-Do List, so when you finish one task, you don't waste time before starting the next. If there are several of you in the same space, then you may need to work out your schedule with the others in the house, so everyone does their part, and has space to work. 

I have a broad outline of my week, broken down into days where I work on different jobs, but with time for various activities. I have reminders in my calendar for tasks I have to do each week / day, and a weekly to-do list, along with one for longer term projects. I have online meetings that I work around, and slot into my schedule. 

I spend time every Monday morning working out the detail for each day, and then try to stick to it as closely as possible. Changes are inevitable, so I usually have tasks I can fit into a few few moments, or leave aside if something pressing comes up. 

My day usually starts with time for coffee and reflection, feeding the cats, chores, such as putting on the washing, then exercise, and then settling down to work. 

3) Make time for Breaks

It's easy to settle into work, and then not stop for hours. Even working at home, it's good to stop, and take regular breaks. Move away from the screen, make a cuppa, take a lunch break. If the weather is good, I often have lunch in the garden - a perk of being at home. 

Equally, exercise is essential, both for physical and mental well being, and is especially important in lockdown. If at all possible, get out of the house for a walk or cycle, or for some form of exercise. 

4) Connect with others

Working from home can feel very isolating. It's good to check in with work colleagues online or over the phone. Communication is particularly important when you are working remotely - in an office setting, it's easy to check details with colleagues frequently, but less so working remotely. Make sure you check in regularly, to ensure everyone is working together. 

If you're not going out to work, then you are likely to see far fewer people, which is of course compounded by lockdown. Try to call a friend, or talk to a neighbour often, to help ease the sense of isolation. 

5) Communicate your boundaries

If you have others in the house, it's important that they know when you're working, and when you're available. If this is not clear, you may find yourself dealing with a never ending stream of distractions. The general idea is if it is something about which they would not call you at the office, then it can wait until 'after work.'

Equally, friends may think 'working from home' means not working, or being available at any time. It's important to be clear with them, and ensure that social calls happen outside of work time. 

I love working from home, and would never want to go back to commuting. Even so, I have found lockdown tougher than I expected, because I lost a lot of my regular brief contacts with others. But, I have also learned enough to know that you do have to adapt with changing circumstances, and to adjust my schedule and work in response. 

Denice Penrose