Working from home during the uncertainty around COVID-19 may not be as easy as you might think
Modern tech and cloud-based software simplified the recent need for more workplaces to adopt a temporary work at home policy, due to COVID 19. But you need more than just the right tech and internet speed to remain productive and happy once you’re there.
Self-discipline is crucial when you work at home. If you find it hard to stay on track, without the familiar structure of office life, you’re going to have to work at building good habits, and quickly. At the end of the day, your boss will still expect you to complete your tasks and projects.
In the same way, if you thrive on regular interactions throughout the day, even with your cat purring behind your laptop screen, your home environment may make you feel a little isolated after a few weeks. So you do still need regular interaction.
The key to working at home successfully is to stay in touch, stay structured and stay productive.
Here are a few ways to help you smash this working at home lark!
Staying healthy when you’re working from home
A healthy body automatically improves your emotional health, so make sure you get some exercise every day. Working at home can take its toll on your physical and mental health if you don’t look after yourself.
So, take the dog – or just yourself – for a brisk walk before you start work, or at lunch time. If you prefer to get your heart rate pumping faster, go for a run or hop on your bike. Just make sure that you do something EVERY day.
Rise and shine
Treat your days just as you would if you were going to work. Set your alarm and get up early. Shower and get dressed as you would do normally so when you start work you feel fresh and ready to go. Avoid lounging in bed with your laptop, this really is a recipe for disaster. It’s far too easy to drift in and out of mental productivity if your body is lounging.
Create a designated work-space
Having a home office, or some area of your house that you can go to during work hours, helps to keep you focused and less likely to be distracted by home life. It also helps remind family members or housemates that although you are at home, you are still working.
Before you start working from home, take a bit of time to create yourself a nice environment to work in. You’ll be far happier and far more productive if you aren’t surrounded by clutter or sharing a desk with your 8 year old. Ideally, close a door between you and the rest of the house. When you’re in your work-space, it’s work time. When you leave, work is over. This also makes it easy to switch off at the end of the day.
Structuring your workload
It helps to work through a clear to-do list each day when you work alone. This keeps you task orientated and less likely to procrastinate.
Depending on your priorities, you may want to structure your tasks into blocks of time so that you work on certain tasks for a short time or block out larger time slots to complete tasks.
- You might check and reply to emails first thing in the morning and again just after lunch but only spend 20 minutes each time, so you can get on with higher priority projects.
- If you have a blog to write, it’s usually easier to research the content and then write the blog immediately afterwards so the information is fresh in your mind.
You’ll soon learn how to structure your days to achieve your own optimum productivity but be sure to start your good habits from the very first day of your home-based work period so bad ones don’t creep in before your good habits have taken hold.
Stay on track
It’s easy to become distracted when you work from home, so you do need to be aware of the dangers. Domestic tasks like washing, cleaning and general life admin can quickly eat into your day. And sitting in front of the TV to ‘Just watch something while you eat your breakfast’ is asking for trouble.
So make a conscious effort to time you breaks and only focus on work during your work hours. Everything else can be done before or after, just as it is when you are in the office every day.
And then of course, there’s your phone! We all know how watching a ‘crazy fails’ video posted by your best mate can lead you onto a slippery slope into social media and chat for hours. So put your phone away. If you need it to log into work systems, keep it in a draw nearby but make sure it’s out of sight. If you let it draw you in, you will lose hours off your working week.
Take a break
It’s actually pretty easy to skip breaks when you’re working at home, which may sound like an awesome way to get more work done but it’s usually not the case. Our brains need to take a break to be able to stay focused. When we don’t give them a rest, we start making mistakes, without realising it.
Do take a lunch break and do take a couple of micro breaks during the day. Get up and go away from your computer, go outside, get in touch with a friend or your partner. Just stop thinking about your work for a while. You’ll feel all the better for it when you return to your work zone.
When family, friends or neighbours discover that you work from home, it’s tempting for them to just drop round or interrupt you during the day. It’s important to be clear with them from the start that you need to work. Tell them to limit interruptions to a particular time of day when you take a break or after you have finished for the day.
Obviously this is not so easy if you are a parent with children at home, so for extra help for work at home parents, read our blog: Work at home mum – the ultimate balancing act. It has some useful ideas and advice, like ‘time banking’.
Remember, you are not alone when you work at home
This is probably the most important tip in this post. It’s vital that you remember that although you need to work from home while COVID-19 is still a threat, you do still work for the same company and with the same team-mates. So, keep in touch with them. It’s likely they are all feeling the same way as you are.
You’ll also feel better and more included if you keep up to date with what’s going on in your team, and to chat about any issues you’re having.
Remember your HR department are there too, if you want to talk about anything on a more emotional or personal level that you don’t feel you can talk to your boss or work-mates about. It really is crucial to know that you are still supported.