In the UK, there were a reported 1.3 million people working from home as of 2019. In recent weeks, we’ve seen more #remoteworking #wfh #stayathome trending on social media because of the coronavirus outbreak. But what does this mean for you?
Bloomberg recently released information on ‘getting used to working from home’ and stating ‘working from home isn’t easy’. The article also provides key factors to consider from a global perspective regarding the current pandemic. A challenge which everyone is currently facing is that you all have a different surrounding you’re now ‘isolated in’, living with various people from family, partners, friends, children as well as pets. With the increase of homeworking, we have put together 10 top tips and ideas which could help you be more productive, aware and create a better, efficient ‘home’ workplace you can settle into during this unprecedented time ahead.
Update: If you’re keen to see what we’ve learnt from the past year of working from home, scroll down a little further, where we have 7 brand new tips for you, based upon on our experiences.
Top 10 working from home tips:
1. Routine and time (regular to keep the norm)
Let’s be honest, it’s hard enough to keep to a routine being stuck indoors and with limited space available. One of the key things here is to manage your own time as well as your team’s work. Workload management is so important, so using Kanban boards can be good to track progress through the week and provides a top-level view for managers. Another method is keeping it simple with regular weekly catch-ups via a call, team conference, Trello board or group chat, or a simple Google doc which is shareable.
Below I have noted some factors to consider in your new home-work setup:
- When your boss needs you to be available
- Communication with your co-workers and clients
- Time of day when you are most productive
- When you’re not available or busy (either out of the office or for appointments/childcare)
Whatever works best, ensure you keep to a healthy balance of what you would do in the office and how you work with your team and business.
2. Keep personal and professional time separate
Easier said than done but don’t be tempted to check your emails on a night or go back to your home-work station. It is easy to get distracted and risk burning yourself out without switching off so keep to your work hours and timings.
Keeping work time and personal time separate promotes a productive environment and helps reduces stress. Generally, we all will have our diaries loaded with meetings and projects. Ensure you communicate and plan when you will not be available to work – make your team aware of this and hold yourself to that commitment!
3. Communication with your teams is KEY
According to the cloud communications company, Fuze: “Businesses must adopt a fluid approach, embracing the ‘Work-as-a-Service’ model, rather than attempting to define when and where people should feel their most productive.”
It is hard to remote manage but it’s so important to keep your communication on point with your team as well as all other colleagues. Using platforms like Fuze, Slack, Google Hangouts is a great way to respond quickly and efficiently as well as sending across work that needs to be completed.
It is also important to mention that informal chat groups are handy for your team to regularly check in on each other, even if it’s just asking someone what cereal they ate this morning. Keep communicating and checking up on everyone in an effort to keep office ‘normality’ as much as possible.
4. Create a work-desk space environment
I would highly recommend creating a specific workstation which you will predominantly be based at. Alternatively, if you have space in your house, flat or apartment, allocate various areas so you can break-up your working style.
You need to split any challenges you could face such as sharing space with your kids or partner. It is advised to avoid using your bedroom as a space to work, purely as this is a place for relaxing and sleeping – not for a day’s work.
Using any spare space around your home (kitchen table, living room) where work can be undisturbed and undistracted is a bonus when you’re stuck working indoors. When you are finished for the day, I would recommend packing up each evening as you would do in an office. Keeping to this routine will help you focus, feel more alert and keep your mind clear and organised.
5. Set rules with the people you’re living with (no interruptions during calls)
Being in the comfort in your home, it’s easy to assume they might know how you work but the truth is they don’t. You could be working on figures and reports, wanting peace and quiet and the person you’re living with could have a completely different approach.
Sometimes setting ground-rules at the start with anyone you are living with always helps set the precedent. Make everyone aware of whether you have a meeting and what type it will be (video-call, voice-call, conference, etc). I find this helpful as then I am mindful of whether to have my laptop volume on if I have a call or whether the individual living with you has their phone on loudspeaker for a friendly work chat.
Grab your headsets/earphones and take calls privately. When it comes to sensitive calls, be extremely mindful as there’s nothing worse than coming across as unprofessional during a private call if someone in the background can be heard talking about something irrelevant and not work-related.
6. Plan your day/week ahead
Try and shorten your meetings where possible, leaving a 15-minute gap between them if you can. A few people have mentioned getting headaches from their headsets, so this should help that a little bit. Alternatively, another suggestion is using the Pomodoro technique to help you manage tasks and have regular breaks.
You want to ensure your time is best utilised, efficient and successful in completing your projects. Smart planning is key for you and your teams’ productivity. The best approach is pre-planning your day and week ahead. Knowing what your key priorities are for the day, potentially how long you think it will take you to get it done, and any future projects you might have time to complete should be considered. Taking a few minutes to plan before your day starts can help in numerous ways; you may find that you sleep better without stressing of work and planning looming at the back of your mind for instance.
Some of you might prefer to plan on the day which is also fine. Making a plan for the day while you eat breakfast or exercise before work can help as long as you are planning your schedule efficiently. Block out your diary on key projects and set your meeting requests early so others are also aligned to your schedule.
During your planning process, it might be worth thinking about the following:
- Set your highest priority tasks first to complete
- Plan and begin your hardest work when you have the most energy
- Treat yourself on completion of a task. This could be a reward or a break
7. Take breaks and look after yourself
Similar to the Pomodoro technique mentioned above but this is more for your mental and physical wellbeing. Taking time out from your computer screens, meetings and calls is important.
This joins up with your ‘planning your day’ so knowing your diary and schedule will allow you to look after yourself throughout the day. Another working from home idea is installing a reminder such as the ‘Smartbreak’ app to your laptop which encourages and prompts you to take breaks.
I recommend a few tips here, make it a priority to get up from your desk during those breaks. Whether it’s a quick yoga stretch, meditate or a walk, or you can grab or make a healthy snack, and talk to anyone you’re living with (if that is possible).
During a lunch break, you can even do a quick workout or join a challenge (a few fitness challenges are being promoted at the moment). I have personally started to take out 20 minutes of my lunch break to do a quick yoga class via YouTube (there are so many on there). If being a yogi isn’t quite your thing and you prefer something a little more physical, maybe a quick outdoor run will help you to keep you awake and refreshed.
The whole idea here is that these activities will help you to reset and prepare you for the next tasks you have on your list.
8. Dress the part
Dressing the part is important, even if you won’t be having physical meetings or interaction in general. It is vital to dress for success! This is so important for you to get into the routine of making your brain think and be aware that this is still a normal working day and not a day to relax. Your normal daily routine will provide you with more energy. Loungewear, in general, gives everyone that comfortable feel, but the last thing you’ll want is to feel sleepy, relaxed and unmotivated. Getting ready in the morning will keep you fresh and ready to tackle the day ahead productively!
If you struggle to motivate yourself, why not try planning your outfit out the night before? If you’re going out for a walk during a break, have your clothes ready the day before so that you train your mind that you will need to get dressed
9. Tuning into inspiration (training/webinars)
We’ve got amazing technology at our fingertips; we should use this to our advantage!
This is a perfect opportunity to sign up for webinars and online training courses you’ve been meaning to schedule in. With some peace, quiet (hopefully) and no distraction from co-workers, this should be easy to do. If you’re doing repetitive tasks, an audiobook or podcast may even be what you need to keep moving forward.
Alternatively, it’s a great chance to play your favourite radio station or music playlist! This can help lift your mood and motivate you to complete your work. There are also some great TV and news channels you can put on in the background that can keep you alert and aware of timings.
Try a few things to find what works best for you within your new work environment.
10. Cleaning and maintenance, household chores (clean place, clear mind)
A quote by Lailah Gifty Akita which I live by “when your environment is clean, you feel happy, motived and clean.”
You won’t have the office cleaner picking up any dishes so this one is key to keep on top of. Keeping your workstation/home office clean not only helps you stay focused, but it will help keep you motivated, organised and more productive. Some will say the phrase ‘organised chaos’ with a messy desk which is fine, but general cups of coffee and stacks of paperwork should be limited. Procrastination can happen in a messy environment so take some time keeping your space tidy and clean.
Why not set a weekly cleaning schedule with those you’re living with so you can keep on top of cleaning your home (this can also avoid your temptation of cleaning during work hours!)
1 year later, and 7 more tips!
It has now been over a year since we all started working from home, and it is fair to say that life has become more difficult, and our work/life balance has taken a hit. We want to take this opportunity to share a few more tips and tricks based on our working from home experiences from the last year. If put into practice, these simple tips should help you feel more productive and support your mental health when working at home.
1. Block Out ‘Working Time’
Make sure you book in time to do your daily tasks. It helps you visualise what needs to be done within that day, whilst also informing those in the business the time you are “truly available”.
2. Routine Reaps Rewards
Without a consistent routine, it is easy for the lines between work and personal time to get blurred. Our advice is to create a steady schedule; get up at the same time, eat breakfast, have a warm shower and sadly, get out of your pyjamas. Having this consistent routine will for sure allow you to wake up steadily and get into that working mindset.
3. Book In Your Lunch Hour
Taking a lunch break allows your mind to rest, recharge, realign and refocus, improving productivity for the rest of the day. Grab yourself a sandwich, pop on the tv and give yourself that well-deserved time to STOP and refuel.
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Water keeps your heart rate and blood pressure stable, improves mental performance, and helps combat tiredness and fatigue, alongside a myriad of other important benefits. So make sure to stay hydrated; on average we should be drinking 2L of fluid daily!
5. Set Boundaries with Yourself
It’s important to keep a good work-life balance, even more so now we’re working from home. Maintaining work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. So when you finish work, turn OFF your laptop, turn OFF your work brain and enjoy your own time.
6. Book in 15 Daily Mindfulness Minutes
It may feel like you must be available every second of the day but being present is no use to anyone if your productivity and mental health are suffering. Give yourself time to pause. Put Microsoft Teams on BRB and take a walk – breaking up the day and moving your body enables you to refresh and can increase your productivity when you return to your work.
7. Where Possible, Put Your Camera On
In a world where face-to-face communication has been limited, it’s important to ensure where possible that you have your camera on. It shows that you’re engaged and putting in an effort and is also great for building better relationships due to making the meeting more personal and fun. On top of this, face-to-face communication is vital for mental health and ensuring people don’t feel lonely in a world of such uncertainty.