Working from home - hints and tips
- Day One working from home… this is exciting, I can wear my PJs all day and no one will know
- Day Twenty working from home… I’m bored now, I miss the office…
Over the next few weeks many people will begin to work from home in order to attempt to limit the exposure to the coronavirus outbreak & to help minimise the risk of carrying the disease.
We've pulled together some handy and helpful hints and tips to keep you motivated, stay happy, healthy and productive.
Get up and get dressed
Sounds obvious, right? If Ron Burgundy taught us anything it is that the newsreader look – suit jacket paired with boxer shorts beneath the desk – is a fool’s errand.
Try and stick to your normal work day routine, get up, make your bed, have a shower, step out of those Pjs and put on something you feel comfortable wearing – lounge-wear or smasual (smart/casual) attire is king right now. Why not check out the following Instagram account for some stylish working from home inspiration
Have a space to work in
As much as it might seem tempting, you do need to get out of bed and stay off the sofa.
Try and set boundaries and have a dedicated place to work, even if it is just the end of your kitchen table. This will help you switch off when the working day is over.
Think about the essentials you need to help do your job and make sure you have all the technology you need to set up already.
Having a screen, stand, keyboard and mouse will help create the best environment possible.
Establish ground rules
Set the tone from the beginning for how you and your team are going to work from home, schedule regular one-to-one check ins and explain how you’d like people to report back.
Decide on the communication channels for the different messages for tasks and actions, workload and chit-chat and agree realistic times to respond on email, Whatsapp, Microsoft Teams, phones calls, video calls, etc so that everyone is clear of this procedure.
Whatever kind of communications system you're using to keep in touch with your team, turn it on when you start and turn it off when you stop. Working outside of these hours will just grind you down.
You need to clock in and clock out. The working day for anyone in an office has commutes either side of it, but these aren't there if you're working from home and the risk is that the time between when you're on-shift and when you're off will merge into each other.
There should be clear expectations about how performance will differ from a normal day, whether it is because the office processes are a bit different or because particular jobs are going to be delegated to different teams.
Remember to work
Again, this sounds pretty obvious but it's an important point to remember - whilst you shouldn't put yourself under ridiculous pressure - you are still working. Try where possible to stick to your normal working hours and days.
To help manage your time try downloading a time management app to help keep track of what you are working on and when.
Remember, working from home isn't an opportunity to run errands during the day that you wouldn't be able to do normally. Try and keep this to your lunch break or before/after work.
Keep in contact with your manager, and ask them to keep in contact with you too. If you need more work or if you can't cope with your current workload, let them know as they are there to help you.
At the end of each day, take some time to consider these three things:
- What went well?
- Where can you improve?
- What one activity are you’re looking forward to doing the next day?
Time for reflection in this way is proven to improve mindset and mental health.
Use this as an opportunity to look towards the day ahead and write a list of what you want to get done. Writing this down on paper can often be better than online to-do lists. You might find it useful to add the time for completion of each activity next to each item (e.g. 45 mins). There is also nothing more satisfying than crossing items off when you complete them, for a measurable sense of progress and achievement.
Remember to eat and take breaks
Don’t neglect your well-being. With the reality for some of no longer having a daily commute to work for the next few weeks, why not protect that time and use it for some yoga or morning meditation. This will set you up well for the day whilst being proven to improve your health and mental well-being.
People can worry that they're not being seen as productive when they're working from home, but nobody is productive when they're hungry. Tell your co-workers that you are logging off for lunch to avoid being disturbed.
Without access to your normal work lunch café, you're almost certainly going to have to make yourself something for lunch. So, remember to eat properly, stay hydrated and get ready to have something healthy for lunch. This does require some planning if you're not going to find yourself dipping into the biscuit tin. Most of us should have mastered the skill of forward-planning their meals, but the interruption to normal plans by working from home can undo that for even the most competent.
Working from home is going to have added pressures on your weekly food shop, but please be considerate and kind to others. Don’t be a bulk buying hoarder and try to support your local suppliers where possible and order online. Following the latest public guidelines only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, please stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
You can't work and parent at the same time
We all remember this classic, right?
If you have children then you will need to realise that you cannot both parent and work at the same time, you simply won't manage to get any work done.
Speak to your line manager about flexible working hours and follow the companies HR guidance.
Here are some helpful tips for home schooling:
- Establish a routine - both children and adults alike thrive on routines, so it is important to set out some kind of structure for the day.
- Communicate with your partner - If you live in a two-parent household, it is important to discuss your workload with one another so that you can establish how your working days are going to run alongside taking care of your children.
- Make the most of nap time (the kid's, not yours) - If your children are still taking naps during the day, then this can free up an hour – or two or three – of uninterrupted time to focus.
- Use technology to your advantage - with children now at home during what was once the traditional working and school week, parents are expected to become part professional entertainers and teachers, as well as fulfilling their work commitments. There are many apps and games that are both entertaining and educational, but also plenty of programmes on TV and Netflix. Take part in Joe Wick’s free online PE classes. Go to The Body Coach TV on YouTube and simply join in the 30-minute workout session from 9am Monday to Friday.
- Be honest with your employer - during such an uncertain time, it is important to be honest with yourself and those you work with. Once you have established a schedule that works, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your boss and let them know that you are keen to find a way for this to work for both of you.
- Focus on the positives - It can be easy for work to seep into home life but, now more than ever, mastering a work-life balance is key to maintain a healthy lifestyle and fully enjoying the parenting experience with your children.
- Check out these top tips for minimising stress for new home-school teachers
How to handle conference calls
Group meetings in-person can be difficult, but over the phone/video they can be absolute chaos. Without any visual cues to signal where attention is focused, participants on group calls can end up speaking over each other for minutes on end and lead to amplifying misunderstandings.
It is absolutely vital that someone is chairing or leading the meeting.
This person needs to determine the speaking order and call people to speak, as well as pick up again when the speaking is finished.
This can be done via Whatsapp, through conference calls system software or via platforms like Microsoft Teams.
All participants need to join the call at the right time, and most crucially - their phones need to be on mute when they're not talking.
Try and keep in touch with colleagues
The worst aspect of working from home is feeling lonely and ignored.
Don’t suffer in silence, sharing how you feel with your co-worker and line manager really helps.
Set up video calls during your lunch for non-work-related catch ups with colleagues via the Houseparty App.
Use Microsoft Teams to set up a video call while working on a shared project. You might spend the majority of your time working in silence, but the tele-presence of a colleague and the familiar taps of their fingers on the keyboard might offer some pleasant companionship.
Make the effort to call whenever you can, it is very easy to just send an email.
Why not set up an end of the working week drinks get together video call with your team.
Also don’t forget the old adage “links and memes help the world go round”