Updated: Apr 24
When I left the corporate world 3 years ago working from home was a real culture shock for me. There are so many distractions around the house, work life can easily overflow into your home environment and, at times, it can leave you feeling pretty isolated.
With so much going on at the moment it is going to be harder than ever to focus so I thought I’d share some of my tried and tested working from home tips to help people that are doing it full time for the first time.
Working From Home Ground Rules
1. Get dressed and show up at your desk!
It will put you in the right frame of mind and help you focus on the tasks in hand.
2. Resist the temptation to work from your bed.
Firstly, it’s flipping uncomfortable - after a couple of days your back won’t thank you for it.
Secondly, your bed is for sleeping in, your brain associates it with winding down and relaxing. If you spend the day working in that space you won’t be very productive and you may find it more difficult to switch off when you go to bed at night.
3. Take breaks.It’s important to get up, move around and stay hydrated.
Create A Productive Working Environment
Ideally you’d be able to keep your home “office” separate to your living space but realistically this is easier said than done, especially when everyone is likely to be at home. Try out the following tips to maximise your productivity :
Choose a low traffic area such as a dining room where you can shut a door if possible. If not, find a table or desk to sit at and let other people (plus the dog/cat/parrot) know when you have important calls or video conferences.
Having flowers or a plant on the table is good for your wellbeing (that’s why they have them in offices) so place some greenery close to where you are working.
Academic studies have proven that clutter increases cortisol (stress) levels so it's important to keep your workspace clutter free. Some top tips are...
> You don’t need to have everything out all the time! Think about what you access or use regularly and store these things close to hand. Try keeping stationery, staplers etc together in a box rather than scattered around the room.
> Use your laptop bag to store your work files and documents and only get out the paperwork that you need to work on at that point in time – keeping your work area as clear as possible will help you focus.
> If you don’t have a dedicated “office” space pack your laptop and documents away in your work bag at the end of each day, this will keep your home free of work reminders in the evening.
> If you have a lot of paperwork use magazine or A4 files to store your documents – keeping them safe from being ‘tidied’ away by someone else and reducing the paper clutter in the house.
Maintain A Regular Routine
1. Decide on your working hours and stick to them.
2. Get some exercise at the start of the day, a quick walk, run or doing some weights replaces your normal commute and ensures you arrive at your desk awake and ready to get started.
3. What do you normally do when you get to the office…grab a coffee, catch up on emails? Do exactly the same when working from home, arrive at your desk with your coffee, check in with colleagues and log on to read your emails.
4. Write a “to do” list for the day – even if you don’t normally do this give it a go as having a plan for the day will help you focus on what needs to be done and will stop you from flitting around. Plus it’s really satisfying to tick things off as you achieve them. Having a planner like the one below may be useful.
Put your Phone Away
Number 1 rule - avoid social media unless you are on a break. It’s very easy to lose 45 minutes catching up on news and gossip, especially with the ever changing Covid 19 situation.
I use the Bear Focus Timer App to help me concentrate when I work from home.
It’s based around the Pomodoro time management technique which splits your working day in to 25 minutes chunks.
You can choose a variety of white noise options to play during your work session and an alert sounds at the end – giving you the choice to either take a short break or continue working.
The Bear Focus Timer app uses Tom (the Bear) to hold the 25 minute timer and the countdown only starts once you turn the phone over, if you cheat and pick up your phone Tom looks less than pleased.
The physical action of turning my phone over really helped me to distance myself from it during the working sessions and I’m much more productive when I use it.
It's really worth a try if you're struggling to stay focused whilst working from home.
Keep in touch with your network
You’re missing out on the coffee machine/water cooler catch ups which help you keep up to speed with what’s happening around the business so it’s important to keep in touch with your network.
1. You can’t communicate too much, stay in the loop and don’t assume that colleagues know what you know. Always confirm your understanding and ask questions about things – it shows you are logged on, engaged and working.
2. Skype and Zoom calls are great for this as you get all the visual and non-verbal cues and can clarify things straight away. Far better than emails that can be misunderstood or lost in an overflowing inbox.
3. If you can, join a virtual local network of people in the same situation as yourself and share ideas – there’s so much creativity buzzing around out there.
4. Talking to people will also help to relieve any anxiety in this time of uncertainty - this is (almost) as important as getting the work done.
I’d love to hear about your working from home experiences so do get in touch.
Stay home & stay safe.
m: 07740 782575