Thanks to the unfolding coronavirus crisis, more and more people are being forced to work from home, many of whom perhaps aren't used to some of the unique challenges that this can bring. Well, at Freethought we are dab hands at working from home as we've been doing it for a long time, so we're going to share our top tips on getting stuff done, and staying sane at the same time.
1. Create a work space
When working from home it is very tempting to simply grab your laptop and work from bed or the living room sofa, but this is going to really hinder your productivity and may become uncomfortable for extended periods of time.
Find a suitable space in your home such as a spare room that can be repurposed as a home office. Make this your place of work so you can get up in the morning and "go to work" - this is good as it creates a clear separation between work and home life when the two are basically the same thing. If it can be a different room that you don't otherwise need then this is perfect as it means you can close the door and not go in the room when you're done for the day.
2. Prepare what you need for work
Once you have identified where you are going to work, you need to prepare the space appropriately. Clear away any junk that is piled up in the room if you're using a spare room and make sure that it has good lighting from a desk or side lamp as well as the main ceiling light.
If you can, get a desk or a table to work at. Check out Gumtree or local community groups for anyone giving a desk away or selling one cheap. Remember to clean it thoroughly and wash your hands etc when going to collect your desk from someone though.
Remember to keep your work space clean and tidy; a nice tidy desk is a lot more welcoming in the morning and unfortunately the office cleaners are unlikely to come and clean your home for you.
You're going to need certain equipment to work, here is what we'd recommend you have on your desk.
- Laptop or desktop computer
- An extension lead for your laptop and phone chargers
- A desk lamp of some type
- Pens and paper for writing down quick notes
- A proper computer monitor if you can, or a laptop stand (or a big pile of books) to put your laptop higher up than desk level to save your neck.
- USB or wireless keyboard and mouse.
The last two items are really key; you can't be working for an extended period looking down at a laptop on your desk, or using a laptop track pad and keyboard. You need to get your laptop elevated if you don't have a monitor - your neck will thank you! An external keyboard and mouse is really important so that you are not getting painful wrists and risking RSI or carpal tunnel on top of coronavirus!
4. Maintain a schedule
The chances are your employer still expects you to work regular hours, but even if they don't you should still try to maintain a schedule. Having a routine is going to make working from home a lot easier, ensure that you remain productive, and help maintain work/life balance when the lines are in danger of becoming blurred.
Have a set time to start work, make sure you are at your desk and ready for work. Don't be tempted to grab some breakfast and eat at your desk, that blurs the lines. Have a morning routine, then go to work, albeit in another room. Likewise at the end of the day, shut down your computer, walk out the room, and close the door behind you. It's really important during an isolation period to maintain that balance and seperation between work and home.
The key when working at home, especially if you are home alone is to communicate. We work alone routinely at Freethought and if you're not careful you can go entire days without talking to anyone during your working day. If you've got someone you usually sit with at work in the office, give them a call from your new home work space, put them on speaker and chat away. Even if you are just sat in silence for quite a while typing away doing your work, you can still chatter if you want to as you would if you were sat together. We do this all the time at Freethought and it's not uncommon to have an internal call on speaker for 2 hours or more just chatting about work and life whilst we go about our days.
If you don't currently use something like Slack or Microsoft Teams, then suggest to your company that they set it up as it will make things a lot easier to communicate during the working day when everyone is seperated and working remotely. Plus it can be a lot more fun if you have a steady stream of animated gifs to entertain you and your colleagues!
6. Remember to eat and drink
This isn't an office, people aren't likely to be offering you tea perodically. Remember to eat and drink, consider getting a jug of water on your desk.
In our experience it is very easy to forget to eat and drink, you'd think being at home with a whole kitchen of food you'd have some amazing lunches but often you just forget entirely - particularly if you are busy or get wrapped up in your work. Set an alarm to remember to stop for a lunch break, or even an alarm every hour or so to stretch your legs and get a drink. You're going to consume a lot more tea than usual at home so be sure to buy enough tea bags (but don't panic buy, leave some for the rest of your fellow home workers).
7. Get dressed!
This may sound silly, but you'd be surprised how tempting it is to simply lounge around doing your work in your pyjamas, but trust us, you're never as productive in your pyjamas as you are properly dressed. Set an alarm in the morning, grab a shower, get dressed properly as you would normally (perhaps you can forgo the suit mind!) and go to work in your home office. Trust us, you'll get more done dressed for the job.
8. Noise cancelling headphones
There is a good chance you're going to have other people in the house at the same time during this coronavirus pandemic, possibly even other people trying to work from home. Get some headphones (noise cancelling ones if you can) so you can block out all the noise.
9. Be kind to one another
There is a good chance that you are not the only one trying to work from home, or at least not the only one isolated at home. You need to be kind to one another, being in an enclosed space unable to go out for a long time can be a real test of mental health and relationships.
If you have children, take turns to look after them. Even if your partner isn't working don't be tempted to let them do all the childcare because you have work to do, give them a break and take time off work to look after the children as well or do things together in the home like playing a board game or watching a family film.
Also, remember to do the chores, share them out. The house is going to get messy fast and will need to be kept on top of, share out the chores so when you're done in your work office you've got a nice house to relax in.
If you've got pets, love them all the more. Your pets don't know or care that it's an isolation, they are just thrilled that all their humans are around them all day long. Love every second of it, pet them, cuddle them, enjoy them lying on feet as you try to work. Your pets are going to be sources of immense joy and comfort if you're stuck at home so show them all the love they show you, especially as they may not be getting their outside times and walks.
Watch out for the cats on your keyboard though, maybe change your signature to something like "Excuse the typos, I'm working from home and my cat is trying to get me fired"
Reader Tip 1 - Exercise
Working from home means sitting down a lot more, you aren't likely to be walking to speak to a colleague, or commuting obviously, nor are you going to be walking to the corner shop or workplace canteen so you can become a lot more sedentery than before. Exercise is really good for you (obviously), it invigorates you, gets you ready for the day, and keeps you heathy which lets face it we all need.
Added bonus, exercise releases chemicals called endorphins which can improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, reduce feelings of depression, and even reduce pain. Often people describe the high of going for a good run or a hard session at the gym, a so called "runner's high" - you can get that at home as well with just a quick 5 minute workout using an app on your phone or perhaps some exercise YouTube videos.
The Body Coach has lots of great home exercise plans that don't require equipment and even some you can do with your children.
Need help working from home?
If you're working from home for the first time and need help getting setup or advice on how best to do things give us a call. Perhaps you're having trouble setting up your email, or need advice on video calling, we'd be happy to chat it over with you for free.
We of course have a range of products and services that might be able to help you, but importantly we have expertise so even if it's just to give some advice and not to sell something to you, give us a shout on 03300 882130