Working from home has a lot of benefits, both personal and environmental. Consider all that time, money, and carbon emissions you’re saving by not commuting to the office each day! For many, compulsory work from home programmes will allow you to experience the freedom of flexible hours and remote work.
But, working from home has its drawbacks too. Without a manager looking over your shoulder, you might find it hard to stay motivated and meet deadlines. Some people will struggle with the loneliness that comes with working alone instead of working in a shared office space.
Even freelancers, who regularly work remotely, may have trouble staying focused when their favourite co-working spaces and coffee shops are closed. And employees who normally work from a home office have to adapt to the presence of housemates or family members who would usually be at school, work, or living at a university campus.
In any case, there’s no use complaining. Until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, working from home will be the norm. Use these helpful tips to help you ease the transition and stay positive whilst working from home.
Create a Routine
Wake up at normal times
When working from home it’s tempting to hit snooze and sleep a little extra. After all, it only takes a minute to commute from the bedroom to your home office and there’s no one to tell you off for arriving late. With that mentality, however, you’ll end up taking extra time at breakfast, enjoying a long shower, checking social media, and catching up on work in the evening which will impact your sleep pattern. Until you’re familiar with the discipline of working from home it’s better to wake up at normal times.
Since the lockdown began, neighbours going to the market in pyjamas has been a common sight. It’s tempting to stay in comfy clothes and what’s more comfortable than your PJ’s? However, getting dressed sends a signal to your brain that the day has begun and it’s time to do something productive.
Since you don’t need to travel to the office you can use that extra time for morning exercise. It’s well known that starting the day with a walk, run, yoga, or a workout boosts your mood and sets you up for the day. Remember to take a reusable water bottle so you don’t need to go into a shop on the way.
Set working hours
Although working from home offers more flexibility, it’s helpful to set yourself working hours. This will help to minimise distractions. You might choose to match your home working hours to your office working hours or adapt them to suit you better. Either way, your work hours should be consistent throughout the week.
Take regular breaks
It’s may sound counterproductive but taking breaks can help you stay focused. After an hour or two seated in front of a screen, a short walk, even just around your apartment or garden, can prevent stiffness, back pain, and sore eyes. You can set yourself a challenge of completing a 5-10-minute stretch sequence whilst your waiting for the coffee to brew.
Prepare a home workspace
If COVID-19 is forcing you to work from home for the first time then you probably don’t have a designated workplace set up. Those lucky enough to have a home office space or a private desk can get started on day one. Other’s will need to put together a productive home office from scratch.
If you have a spare bedroom in the house, convert it into a temporary office space. Stack the bed in a corner and replace it with a table and a supportive chair. Sitting in the right position is essential for avoiding back and shoulder pain. Working on the sofa is not a good idea. Likewise, you can order a laptop stand or full-sized keyboard from an online store, both are relatively inexpensive and improve sitting posture.
Even if you don’t have a separate room to use as your home office during the Coronavirus pandemic, you can designate a section of the kitchen table or a corner of the living room as your workspace. Use headphones to drown out background noises and negotiate with your housemates, spouse and pets for exclusive access to your workspace during working hours.
Keep strict office hours
When you’re bored in your home office, everything becomes a distraction, especially positive actions such as housework and DIY jobs. Combat these distractions with strict office hours. No jobs, aside from your normal office work, can be completed between these set hours. Laundry, cleaning, and everything else can wait, as it usually would.
Limit social media
One of the biggest challenges for remote workers is social media. These sites claim hours without you even noticing. If you don’t yet have the will power to stay off of social medial while working from home then I recommend installing a social media blocking app for your web browser, such as Cold Turkey.
Check the news in the evening
During these strange times, headlines and news alerts become more overwhelming by the day. Particularly when you’re self-isolating. A two-minute article can leave your mind spinning for a full hour or more. For this reason, avoid reading the news in the morning, when a new statistic or report is most likely to distract from your work schedule.
Make personal calls in personal time
Checking in on friends and relatives in more important now than ever but personal calls can, and will, distract from daily assignments. Instead, treat your home office hours as you would treat normal office hours. That means checking up on mum and dad during your lunch or coffee break or making a long call in the evening, not mid-afternoon.
Some people work best with loud music, others with silence or the gentle nature soundtracks. One of the best things about working from home is that you can stay motivated with your preferred motivational background sounds. I recommend setting up your music on a separate electronic device and putting it a few metres away from your laptop or computer so you're not tempted to browse YouTube videos.
Set up online support groups
Working from home can be lonely and stress related to the current pandemic may intensify feelings of isolation. Fortunately, the internet allows us to stay connected with family and colleagues whilst in lockdown. Tools, such as Slack and Zoom, help us to stay connected.
Try setting up a support group with colleagues who are also working from home. Use the groups to check in during your coffee break or ask for advice on work assignments.
Schedule Video Meetings
For employers, video meetings are an excellent way to keep the team motivated and engaged with company goals. You can schedule a weekly video meeting to check up on the health of employees as well as project status. This is particularly important for companies that operate creative and collaborative workspaces.
Although an email to a colleague or manager is generally formal, you can sign your email with a personal note. Stay safe, take care, etc. to spread kindness in these grim times.
Adapt to a Shared Household
Adjust your timetable
If you’re lucky enough to have full reign over your home then you can set your timetable to whatever suits you. But for those in shared households, military-style planning and diplomatic compromise might be needed. For example, if you and your spouse are both working from home, who gets to use the desk and who should work from the kitchen table? Draw up a rota, if needed.
I’ve found that getting up extra early is the best solution, I can complete my hardest tasks before my household wakes up. You might find that working late is better in your home. Discuss the situation with your household and plan a functional timetable.
Set the rules
Avoid conflict with housemates and rows with your spouse by laying out the ‘home office rules’. Those rules will depend on who’s living in your household. It might mean setting up playtimes and self-study hours for children so you can stay focused or scheduling social hours with housemates who are currently out of work.
What we eat greatly impacts our mood as well as our health. It’s all too easy to slip into bad habits while we're away from the office and caught up in the uncertainty of the pandemic. To stay positive, challenge yourself to maintain a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid excess snacking or consuming too much alcohol. Instead, remember to drink more water, staying hydrated helps the brain to function and stay focused. Working from home will also give you more time to try out new plant-based recipes.
Exercise every day
Exercise benefits both your mind and your body. If you can, get outside each day for a walk, run, or cycle. If there’s a strict lockdown in your area, then try a home workout instead. There are countless free workout videos on YouTube that you can do in small spaces, without equipment.
Keep tabs on your mood
Mental health is just as important as physical health. If you feel your mood slipping, don’t panic, but do reach out to friends, family, colleagues, your employer, or support groups.
When the workweek is over, use your free time in lockdown to get creative. Aside from household chores and spring cleaning why not use your extra time at home to become more sustainable or go zero-waste. Get the kids involved with upcycling used packaging.
Using your time wisely and helping the environment will add meaning to your working from home experience.
Remember that this situation is only temporary, before long you can return to the office and normal daily life. In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunity to work remotely and use these tips to create a productive workspace in your home.
Stay safe. Stay home.