8 tips for better home working
8 tips for better home working
While some of us will be familiar with working from home now and then, full-time home working will be a first for many. This style of working brings with it a whole new mindset and can take some clever planning.
So, how to stay productive, keep connected with colleagues and manage family life too? Here are some useful tips…
Home working and finding the right balance
Many job roles don’t lend themselves to working from home but - for those that do - home working can be a revelation. On one hand you may have extra time and a sense of freedom, on the other you have no clear divide between home life and work.
1. Get into the work frame of mind
With blurred lines between work life and home life, you’ll need to put some markers in for yourself. Experts debunk the staying-in-your-pyjamas myth and suggest getting showered and dressed every day as a minimum. This is even more important if you have video calls with colleagues and customers.
Although being fully suited-and-booted may be a step too far, many people find it helpful to wear work clothes during working hours. That way, your brain gets a clear message that it’s time to switch off when you slip into your jogging bottoms at 5pm.
Other tips for getting into the work frame of mind include having a separate, dedicated workspace, if this is possible.
2. Divide your day
Being in charge of your own time can be bliss for some, and a disaster for others. Professional home workers recommend dividing your day into blocks of time – 40 minutes is a good place to start. And productivity experts recommend starting each day with your most tricky or complex task – this is known as “eating the frog”.
Another nice tip is to pretend to do your normal commute to or from work. So, at the beginning or end of your working day, you pledge to take your daily exercise – a walk, run or cycle for half an hour or so. Equally, if you’re not feeling very energetic, you could sit in a separate part of the house and read a book or do the crossword until you’re ‘home’.
3. Implement clear boundaries
It’s important to have clear boundaries, including:
- Starting work at the same time every day
- Switching off in the evening
- Blocking out weekends, even if you aren’t able to go anywhere
- Likewise, taking annual leave to avoid burnout
- Limiting your use of social media during work hours
- Letting friends and family who may not be working know when you are and aren’t available for catch-ups
- Set clear boundaries with family members, flatmates, partners and children.
4. Ignore household tasks
This is a tricky one for many new home workers to get their heads around, but it’s one that seasoned freelancers swear by. The secret to success is to become blinkered to household tasks, like emptying the dishwasher and taking out the bins. This is obviously easier to do if you have a dedicated work environment. If these chores really have to get done today, you can allocate a designated time for them when you divide your day into blocks.
One tip for avoiding having to look at any mess is to work with a flask of coffee or tea and some snacks, so you can do a stint of work without having to visit the kitchen.
5. Get enough exercise
Exercise is as important as it’s ever been right now, maybe even more so. Your usual routines are likely to be completely disrupted, especially if you’re used to going to the gym or exercising on the way to or from your workplace. However, you can start to put new routines into place that will help you be a more efficient and happy home worker.
The best tip is to get out early for your exercise, if you can. If not, make sure you have a lunch break blocked in your calendar and use it to do a workout video or sit in the garden and soak up some vitamin D. If you really can’t get out during the day, a walk around the block at dusk is a great way to switch off from work.
6. Get to grips with the tech
Home working can be really successful, with a few tools up your sleeve. If you have an IT department, don’t be shy about asking them all your technology-related questions such as why is my broadband so slow? Or how can I access the work server and which video-calling apps are the most secure? Remember, you won’t be the only one grappling with all this new technology. It will take a while for home working to become second nature for us all.
Popular apps and tools for productive home working include Asana, Google Drive, Evernote, Pocket and Trello.
7. Keep in touch with colleagues
It’s imperative to stay connected to others during this time, both for business reasons and for your general wellbeing. Try different tools to see what works best for you, your colleagues, customers and suppliers. Many of the most popular apps, such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, will be free or have free trials.
Your communication style, job role and sector, and your home life circumstances, will dictate how connected you need to be. If you live alone and are self-isolating, you may be keen to have regular, short catch-ups with colleagues to replicate a normal working day in the office. It’s a good idea to respect other’s style of working too and plan chats in advance rather than calling out of the blue.
8. Expect the unexpected
The current times are worrying and changeable, so being flexible can be a huge asset. This goes for business leaders as well as employees. It’s tricky to be fully productive and focused if you’re worried about friends and family.
Likewise, if you’re fretting about your children, parents or flatmates coming into the room while you’re on a video conference, why not bite the bullet and introduce them to everyone? It might make others feel more relaxed about home working too.