Not everyone finds working from home as easy as it sounds. For many people there are many distractions and physical restrictions that can make it tricky, leaving you at risk of being far less productive than in the workplace. Others may find it slightly easier. They may have a spare room or even a home office already, or a house to themselves.
A common problem for all home-workers is resisting the temptation to check emails late at night, or work way beyond the hours expected of them.
In the first of our blog series on working from home, we've put together some tips for a smoother and more productive work-from-home experience. Follow this simple guide and you should be able to maintain that all-important work-life balance, too.
Tip 1: Get dressed!
Getting dressed should be the cue to follow your usual routine, as if you were going to work. Sure, you might not need to get into a suit or any formal clothes you'd wear at the office. You do need to resist the urge to pad around in your PJs all day, though.
Wash, dress, have breakfast, brush your teeth. Doing the morning routine helps break sleep from work and will set you up for the day.
Tip 2: Set your boundaries
Boundaries can be physical (which room to work in) and in terms of timing (ie, 9 to 5). Avoid working in a room where you normally spend a lot of down-time, if you can. If you have a spare bedroom, that's a good place to set up. If not, a dining room. If you're able, avoid the lounge and the kitchen. They're the rooms where the most distractions are likely and if they're places you spend lots of time in the evening, you risk getting cabin fever.
If you normally stop at 5pm, stop at 5pm. Set an alarm clock or some other timer that will alert you. Copying a routine from work can help create a boundary between work-time and home-time. Tidy your desk or table, switch your computer off. If it's a laptop, close the lid. Putting a laptop away in a cupboard will help draw your work day to a close, too.
Tip 3: Take short breaks
At work you might go to a staff kitchen to make a drink or get up from your desk to see a colleague in another department. There are also those impromptu conversations you enjoy that you can't now that you're working for home. So make sure you include little breaks in your working day. Use them to perform household tasks, such as loading up the washing machine, making the bed, or otherwise sit somewhere else with a cup of tea or coffee. Screen-breaks help you avoid eye strain.
Tip 4: Talk to someone
Working from home can be a lonely, solitary experience. Make sure you schedule a phone or video call with work, whether it's a team call, with a line manager, or a colleague or team you manage yourself.
When remote working it's a good idea to schedule catch-up calls anyway, once a week at least and more if required.
Video calls can be more sociable than phone calls, as you can see others laugh and smile - interaction you can easily miss while working at home.
Tip 5: Get out and about
No, we're not saying here that you can jump in your car and head to your nearest national park for the day! However, a 20-minute walk with the dog, or just a short walk round the block, is a great idea to help clear your head. If you're in a creative role, sometimes the best ideas can come to you when you're not staring at a computer screen.
Of course, getting out and about is subject to the coronavirus restrictions in place. At the time of writing this should only be for short period of exercise.
Tip 6: Keep work and personal IT separate
If you can, keep work apps, communication groups and data well away from your personal IT equipment. It is all too easy to add work contacts to your own Skype, or import browser bookmarks to your own personal browser. Apart from increasing the chances of breaching data protection rules - which in the GDPR era come with significant penalties - it becomes too easy to mix your work into your own time, messing up your work-life balance.
Tip 7: Turn IT equipment off
Unplug your IT after work if you're too tempted to look at work emails at 10pm at night. Turn off your phone if you're not normally expected to answer calls out of hours.
Now that you've got the means to make working from home productive for both you and your business, what tools do you need to make the work happen? That's the subject of our next blog on working from home.
Do you work from home? What tips would you like to share with our readers?
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