Millions of us are now working from home, but while you might not miss your daily commute, the reality of working remotely is not without pitfalls. So how do you stay focused, productive and most importantly – sane – while you work from home? To help you navigate your new working environment we asked some of our favourite bloggers for their advice. Here’s how to work from home like a pro’.
1: Stick to your routine
Winston Churchill won a war while smoking cigars and swigging champagne in the bathtub. But if you’re tempted to follow in the great man’s wet footprints, you can forget it, because laptops and bathwater don’t mix. Neither, for that matter, do working and lounging.
Get up at your usual time, hop into the shower, have breakfast, and make sure you’re at your desk or dining table, ready to start on time. Avoid the temptation to indulge in too much office gossip via email and Skype – instead create a couple of “windows” in the day when everyone knows you’ll be available to deal with questions and have a quick chat.
2: Create a work room
“It’s very important to set aside an area that will become your office where you can work in peace and quiet,” says work-at-home dad Nigel who writes the popular DIY Daddy Blog. His advice is to “pick an area that is away from the family areas in your home”. Try to avoid using the kitchen or living rooms, particularly if other family members are at home during office hours. And try not to use your bedroom – bedrooms are for sleep.
With children off school, it’s very important to create psychological separation between work time and down time. John Adams, writer of Dad Blog UK and winner of ‘Best UK Dad Blog’ at the 2019 Online Influence Awards recommends “two or three outside breaks at the same time each day and serve lunch at midday”. Focus on learning activities in the mornings when everyone is at their most productive and make it clear that when you’re working, you’re not to be disturbed.
3: Maintain standards
“Staying in your pyjamas is really not the way forward”, Nigel adds. If you’re at work, you should be dressed for work, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean putting on your suit, shirt and tie, dressing smartly will help keep your mind on the task at hand. A pair of chinos paired with a shirt and pullover should do it – save your jeans for when you’re done.
Dressing for work, even while you’re at home, helps to maintain a professional mindset. But remember, however determined you are to conduct “business as usual”, nothing destroys productivity more than trying to meet targets and deadlines while sitting with cold trotters. A pair of leather slippers is the way to go – stylish, smart and yet comfy and warm. Winston would approve.
4: Take regular breaks
Stick to your regular coffee, lunch and tea breaks, but don’t let them leak into your work time. If at all possible it’s best to take your breaks away from your desk, and while lunching, switch off from work by reading, watching a bit of telly, or listening to the radio. Nice spring day? Take your break in the garden or enjoy a walk around the block. Do whatever it takes to refresh yourself ready for the afternoon work session.
As the afternoon wears on, the temptation to indulge in online distraction has a tendency to grow. Make use of tech that helps you stay focused, recommends John Adams: “Don’t be afraid to put your phone into airplane mode or use an app like Freedom which restricts access to social media when you want to stay off line and concentrate on a particular task.”
5: Finish on time
Make sure you knock-off on time. There’s always something you could finish or another project to gain a head start on, but failing to draw a firm line under your working day will drive you crazy in the end. At the end of the day, message colleagues to let them know you’re signing off, then switch off and leave the room.
You might find your commute home from work a bore or a waste of time but at least it forms a buffer between your work and home life. But when you work from home, it’s harder to create that break. Give yourself a way to decompress after your day – a quick shower, a run, or giving the dog a walk are just some of the ways to signal to yourself that the work day is over. When it’s time to stop, stop.
Nobody knows how long the current measures will last, but setting yourself a healthy home working routine will help you to weather the storm. Do you already work from home? We’d love to hear your tips for making it a success. Share your stories by tweeting us on Twitter @SamuelWindsor