Working at home can come as quite a shock to the system – particularly if you’re used to working in a highly managed office environment.
With this new convergence between work and home life, the edges become less distinct and lifestyle issues can easily spill over into work and work issues can spill over into your personal life.
Here are a few hints to help you establish practices and routines to help you work at home and remain healthy, productive and happy out – or at least as happy out as possible in present circumstances.
Organise the best possible Work Space
If at all possible, please try to identify a place in your home from which you can work in peace and quiet, away from distractions and where you can leave your work equipment and documents undisturbed between work sessions.
As well as being essential for your own convenience and productivity, having a physically separate dedicated workspace will assist in mentally separating work and personal activities.
Make Sure you have all the Information/Equipment/Supplies
Make a check list of the information, equipment and supplies you will need now and over coming weeks to ensure that your workflow is as smooth as possible. Discuss with your manager how you will access essential supplies or have them delivered.
Such needs can be a simple as having enough printer paper – if using a printer, enough ink and access to the information which you require for your work. Sounds obvious, but people often get caught out on these little details.
Set a Start and a Stop Time
Developing a general routine will help you to define the borders between your work and personal life. This can also be important for practical reasons – for example, communications with managers and colleagues
Take Regular Breaks
Don’t forget to take regular breaks – about 5 minutes every hour is recommended, with of course a longer break for lunch —- try to have a proper lunch at your ususal time. This will help you avoid the continous snacking to which many home based workers fall prey!
Get Some Exercise
This is important for your health and well-being. Simple stretching exercises work for many – and do not require complex arrangements or space. Even moving around the room e.g. when on the ‘phone, can also help. Do yoga, Pilates or whatever you do. Anything to counteract the impact of a sedentary workstyle and many hours working at a screen.
Child Care – This is Difficult!
Now here is a really difficult issue for people who are working at home due to Corona Virus restrictions – which include schools and creches closing down. Also with the restrictions on outdoor activities, it’s not possible to ask a family member or friend to take the children out to the playground or forest for a little while.
The general rule is that looking after children while working (and vice versa) is a strict No, No. But in current circumstances, I guess we all need to adapt to current circumstances as best we can.
See some suggestions for managing work and childcare here.
Develop Good Working Procedures –
Try to keep your workspace as orderly as possible.
As well as helping with clarity of mind, this will make your work time more productive and cut out wasted time and the distraction and frustration of looking for files, documents or notes.
Develop a habit of making a total back up of all your files at fixed periods. This of course would always be good working practice but something which you, the home-based worker, may be solely responsible for in the home-working environment.
Develop Routines for Routine Tasks
Have a system and some sort of regular basis on which routine tasks are carried out, for example, check your e-mail every hour, early morning or afternoon – whatever is appropriate to your particular circumstances. As is the case with their office-bound counterparts, the home-based worker can waste time and sometimes distract themselves by a lack of focus and organisation of their working time.
Avoid Task Avoidance
We are all faced from time to time with tasks that we do not want to do, or that we simply cannot get into. This is frequently due as much to a lack of understanding of the task, or the lack of the knowledge or resources to carry it out satisfactorily as to a lack of willingness or enthusiasm for the job.
If you find yourself with such a task – communicate and get help!
Let your manager or appropriate colleague know of your dilemma and work with them to find a solution. Home working does not mean that you are on your own or that you have to work without advice and support.
Clear communication and problem solving will accelerate progress, increase productivity and help to minimise missed deadlines.
Communicate – Communicate – Communicate
It is impossible to overstate the importance of clear communications when you and your colleagues are working from a home base. In these circumstances, you cannot communicate in the informal and spontaneous way which we are accustomed to in an office environment. A quick ‘phone call, video call or video conference will almost invariable help to inform, share information and views, and motivate home based workers who may feel discouraged or demoralised by working in isolation in a relatively unsupported environment
Develop Habits that Work for You
Some people find that simple rituals help them to settle down to work – and move out of the work zone mentally when your work is done.
A common suggestion is to dress as if you were going to work to get you in the working mindset – putting on a suit, high heels or tie, if that’s what you usually do. This may work for some or many – though this not my personal experience. I find that I often get my best work done while still in the jim jams – but whatever works for you.
Going for a walk and getting some fresh air – within current confines – may certainly help … and remind you that there is still a world (though in a modified verion) out there – and get some healthy exercise.
Smokers/Vapers – Don’t Smoke or Vape While Working
It is very easy to slip into bad habits which wouldn’t event occur to you in the office, particularly if working at home alone.
Try to avoid this happening to you. And if you smoke or vape, do so only at your breaks to help maintain your health and keep some structure to your work/life balance.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up!
It takes time to get used to working at home, even when the move to working from home is carefully planned and considered in advance. In current conditions, many of us are working from home on an unplanned and ad hoc basis. Many are also trying the almost impossible task of doing their job and looking after their family – literally at the same time!
If it gets too much for you take a break – get some excercise – take a shower – ‘phone or Zoom a friend… whatever it takes!
Taking a little break really can help and you may come back to your desk refreshed and in a more productive frame of mind.
I hope that this advice is helpful! Please contact me for further advice/assistance.