Top 10 tips for working from home

Working from home has been an option for many for numerous years, but what about government-mandated home working, how would that work ….. welcome to the new normal.

Working from home is so common now it almost borders on cliché.  Check out our top 10 tips from pre-planning your day to doing what feels right to you, but one thing we can all agree on is, we are all figuring things out one day at a time.

Top 10 Tips for working from homeSince Covid-19 started, the working from home culture has increased 10-fold and has been a completely new experience for many in the workforce, while at the same time, many have lived this work format for years and this isn’t even a blip on their radar.

The various work from home policies enacted by companies in a voluntary or mandatory fashion has been an interesting challenge for many, juggling family, making sure the kids are settled and have enough to keep them occupied, numerous people on the Wi-Fi, and distractions, all the while attempting to stay productive.

The coronavirus felt sudden and has completely changed the way organizations look at work patterns and workforce planning. The rise of virtual learning, working and video conference meetings 8 hours a day is a real change for people, and we are all continuing to learn the best way to deal with the situation day to day.

Here are 10 tips for you to implement into your working week to keep your mental well-being strong whilst remaining a productive member of your business.

Planning your day is one of the most important aspects of home working you can do. It is very easy to just say, “Ah I’ll get up when I can, take the laptop to bed and kind of just stay there”.

Make sure that at the end of each day you give yourself a plan, even if it’s in your calendar for both AM and PM the following day Giving yourself this plan allows tasks to be fully prepared for the day ahead and not feel like you are making things for yourself to do throughout the day.

With this in mind, there are various tools that you could use for this task, something as simple as Microsoft Outlook where you can add tasks to your calendar, color-code them and evaluate how much time you have given yourself for each task. Track your boards in a system like Trello, or an all-in-one time project management system like ClickUp.

Systems like these allow you to appropriately plan your time across days, weeks, and months

Planning your time and daily tasks put you in the best place to succeed when working from home. With this new way of working distractions are a constant that we deal with and having a well-made plan allows you to work around the household challenges whilst keeping you on task with what needs to be done. Remember planning is key, the more you plan, the better chance for a successful home working experience.

Remember to get dressed

Girl working from homeWhen I first started writing this paragraph I thought, surely this is not necessary for people to know, but then I opened my mind and realized this happens daily to all of us at some point, and to be honest it’s crucial to giving yourself the best possible start to your day.

The thought of staying in your pajamas all day is an enticing one, laptop on the bed, tv on in the background, absolutely living the dream right…well in reality not really.

Getting dressed gives you confidence, purpose, and meaning to your day and puts you into the right mindset for a productive day at work.

Remember, you don’t need to dress quite as formally for work as if you were going to the office but being presentable is important for your mental health and workflow.

As we all know, when you go to the office, the getting up process, having breakfast, getting dressed, and doing the morning commute allows you to prepare for the day ahead, but due to Coronavirus, this is no longer a possibility.

Due to the loneliness of working from home getting properly dressed allows your mind to distinguish what is work time and home time which is important to do to give you the break you need.

I don’t know about you, but I feel if I get dressed properly then I feel pumped for the day and my mental state is much more positive and I feel more invigorated, which is noticeable by other staff members.

Give it a go and see the positive results it brings.

Make sure to set up a designated home office

Although rolling out of bed straight to your laptop with your breakfast next to you sounds like a great plan, having a dedicated office workspace is of utmost importance to have a focused and purposeful working life. Keeping a good distance of your working and personal life is crucial, unfortunately, this line can become extremely blurry for a lot of people who are not used to the working from home format.

If going into the office each day is something that you have done for a long time, it is important to try to emulate this as much as possible in your work from home environment.

A lot of us don’t live in 3 bedroom detached homes and with that, don’t have a specific room or space for a home office, usually, this setup is within our living/dining space, but do you know what…that is completely fine and a viable option. Just make sure that you have separated your workspace from the rest of your home e.g. no working from the couch.

A really important point is to make your space as comfortable as possible, one way to do this and spend quite liberally on a comfy chair, this is a key element to creating a comfortable space.

A well-lit space is something you will want to have, this includes natural light, ceiling lights, and potentially a desk lamp. In the world of video conferencing, these are all considerations for a strong workspace in your home.

The lack of time outside in the open over time can take its toll, so the more you can gain natural light, the better you will feel and closer to normality.

A good home office should have the following considerations: a good spacious desk, comfortable chair, lamp, multiple screens if possible, to help with your workspace, space for your laptop on your desk. With these in place, it should provide the most resolute home workspace possible.

Remember, mentally turning on and off from work is something that everyone working from home must do to engage and disengage to keep a focused work ethic but also have good work/life balance.

Heading to the couch, whilst sounding good and comfy, will not help in keeping work and personal life separate.

Lastly, at the end of the day, you should close all tabs, windows, programs relating to work. By doing this it will allow you to “turn off” from your working life and engage in your family or free time.

Let’s not forget, striking this balance is something a lot of people struggle with, but is something we all should do for our mental health.

Also, make sure that when the opportunity arises you take the time to head outside and enjoy the sunshine. With not having the structure which comes with an office-based workday, adding the equivalent of a specific lunch break or break throughout the day will add value and health benefits to all workers based at home.

Mitigating distractions

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes and we must find a way to limit the bigger distractions and work alongside the smaller ones. An example of a bigger distraction is having the television turned onto your favorite program. Although a lot of people feel they can multitask watching and working, evidence shows that this generally is not possible, or can work but with limited productivity.

Other distractions that happen daily are personal calls, communicating with family, problems with keeping children engaged, noises from neighbors, construction outside amongst many others.

During this Covid-19 pandemic, watching the news or accessing it via your phone is something we all end up doing in the hope things will revert to normal asap. Although this may be a way off, finding ways to not let news items distract you from your everyday duties is pretty important. Remember don’t let the Coronavirus distract you too much, but please keep yourself informed with what is happening locally and, in the rest of the world.

Setting social activities

Due to the Pandemic, most of us are finding ourselves housebound for our work, we are on video conference most of the day and for some, social isolation is a new and unintended reality of our days. With these aspects in mind, it is more important than ever to make sure that we get out of the house and meet coworkers’ but also family and friends but remember…social distancing.

Man and woman meeting in a park

With a lack of social activity if you are anything like me, the days seem to blend into one another, it seems as if we long for the weekends more than we have ever done in the past, and the ability to safely go about our days in a way that doesn’t put ourselves or others at risk of COVID-19 schedule.

I have found this myself when attempting to schedule or be part of the conversation of scheduling activities with coworkers it is a lot more complex than you initially may think. Certain colleagues will be more or less comfortable with the thought of meeting people, not in their circle of family and friends, let’s stay in our bubble where we know we are safe.

So why should we try and set social activities then?

Having social activities on video conference is while fun, not anywhere near the same as actual human interaction face to face. Being able to see people’s facial expressions, inflections, and reactions to conversations are so key to being human that when it is taken away from us, it takes a long time to come to terms with.

There are huge positives to physical meetups as well, interactions, conversing in a way that gives us aa rush of energy, and allows us to enjoy time with people.

Remember though, safely doing this is crucial, and by no means are we suggesting go to very busy places. What we suggest is to find places with wide-open spaces like parks where you can spread yourselves out, social distance properly, be safe, and enjoy meeting up when you can.

Additional Learning Opportunities

Throughout this time, it is really easy to just sit back, think about nicer times, and explore the status quo, the thing is though, that in this pandemic one great thing to come out of it, is the opportunity for you to grow your skills and abilities in a way which is much simpler than when in the office.

The sheer number of tools out there now to learn including LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Treehouse, and Udemy amongst many others gives you almost unlimited scope to learn new subjects, understand different perspectives, increase your knowledge on systems, and expand your professional development.

Remember when everyone was in the office it seemed very easy to attend a face to face training programs or sessions, but the downside is this method does not put you as a learner in control of your  own learning and is not self-directed. Being able to access content online and access it “when you need it” is extremely powerful and something you should try to take advantage of when necessary.

Need to up your Excel skills, want to be a better communicator, what to learn how to code, all of these topics, and many more are all available online and to be honest, the world is your oyster.

If you would like access to these platforms and opportunities, ask your employer what their professional development budget is, and what the process would be to start your learning journey today.

If your company has an L&D team, get in touch with them, and ask questions. Maybe your company uses an LMS or LXP which may have heaps of content, courses, information for you to explore which can be curated for your specific needs.

The last word on this is, just take advantage of this amazing opportunity so that when we do go back to the office you are pumped and ready to go, armed with lots of new knowledge and abilities.

Video conferencing

How is everyone enjoying video conferencing for all meetings throughout the day…tougher than you expected?

There are numerous platforms to choose from, Zoom, WebEx, Go to Meeting, Microsoft teams to name a few. We need to make sure we know how to use the features, what the process is for gaining access to virtual meetings etc.

Related: Zoom vs WebEx vs Teams Comparison

Video conferencing can bring many people together in so many ways, global teams, family, and friends, but when having to do video conference meetings 8 hours a day, it can take a toll.

Remember when video conferencing there are a few things which we need to consider that we typically don’t even think about when having a face to face meeting.

  • Zoom Fatigue
  • Making sure we’re dressed properly
  • Engaging with the meetings
  • Knowing when to speak without interrupting
  • Being able to listen effectively.

I can speak for all of the above with personal experience, they all have an impact on our meetings and the more we mitigate them, the better our meetings will become.

Lastly, although this blog post is aimed at a corporate setting, video conferencing is great to keep in touch with family, especially if they are in different areas of the country or abroad.

Our pick here would be Zoom, for their ease of use and the 40-minute limit for their free version.

Communication is key

When we were all working from the office, we would have conversations at the water cooler (cliché I know), at coworkers’ desk, at impromptu meetings among other scenarios we would have day to day.

The thing is though when working in isolation at home these things are not possible, so what do we do?

Over-communication is the answer.

Now there is a limit of course, but, if you have points that need to be stated that maybe we assume people may know or would presume, we now cannot make that assumption. We have to explain more, we have to sum up and conclude more, to make sure there is a strong understanding across all participants in the meeting.

When we talk about over-communicating though, we are not necessarily talking about dictating war and peace and giving a 30-minute conclusion, but maybe we need to double-check that everyone knows their role in a given project by just going over things in finer detail.

It may mean you need to repeat yourself a few times and that is fine. It is much better to repeat a topic a few times and everyone understands than believe everyone gets it and something goes wrong.

Be clear, concise, repeat if necessary, and make sure everyone has what they need to succeed.

Lastly, if you need help, make sure to ask for it. We often have a habit of sitting there and try to not bother people because “we’re all busy”. But the thing is if we don’t ask, we probably won’t get what we require and that could be detrimental to our workflow and productivity.

Do you need a laptop, dual screens, microphone, advice on systems, apps, headset…all of these things are key to successful home working and are valid asks from your company.

Saying that, some businesses can provide these for you, others will give advice on where you can acquire them some will offer you reviews on the best items in a given area, only you will know what your company can provide, but at the very least always ask as you may be surprised on the outcome.

Stay positive

For seasoned professionals who are experienced with the working from home format this will not be as much of an issue, but for the millions of people who are completely new to this framework, staying positive in light of all the negative pandemic news is so important.

It is really easy to get yourself down, not being able to see people, not able to mix and interact in person with co-workers and some cases family and friends, but remember this is temporary for many, we have to ride out this unexpected occurrence, make the best of it, find the positives in the situation and we will all come out the other side.

Another perspective of staying positive is in your business writing. I think we can all relate to an email we receive from someone at work which sounds snarky, sarcastic, and passive-aggressive. If we then confront that person about it we then find out it was not meant in that way at all, and their tone wasn’t reiterated in the email.

This is normal.

Tone and emotions are not translated well through email and messaging, so when writing, try to write in the most positive manner you can, use words with positive connotations, that provide the recipient exactly what you are trying to portray which in turn will reduce translation issues.

If we all take this away, these niggly little issues at work will be minimized as we will always know what each other means in our communications. If we don’t understand what someone’s email or message means, don’t be afraid to ask.

Do what suits you

In this world of increased home working, finding a method that works for you will make this experience much easier and potentially more enjoyable.

The amazing part of home working is we are not tied to a static 9-5 day with a lunch break in the middle. Depending on your company’s policies and structure you may be able to start later, go to appointments, deal with the kids, or drop your partner at work, with the most important part of the equation is getting the work done.

Getting work done can be achieved in a variety of methods, and flexible working can be worked into your days very easily. If you are more productive from 10 or 11 onward then maybe start your day then, we need to be available to your colleagues, but arrange your work schedule around what your requirements, and what gives you the best opportunity to succeed.

This can all be prearranged with your manager, and unless you are in an industry where you are tied to certain hours, e.g. customer service your manager should be able to accommodate you in this venture.

The other part of the equation is family which can take up a lot of your time when home working. How many times have we witnessed a stakeholder holding a video conference and their son Tommy runs across the screen asking why he cannot play Fortnite.

This is all very common and acceptable in this day and age, and t be honest if you need to spend time with them for an hour to give you the best springboard for the rest of your day, then do it.

To give some personal experience, when in our meetings at work, we have numerous occasions where someone’s newborn baby is crying or where the internet is a bit sketchy due to the kid’s gaming in their rooms, and do you know what…it’s completely fine. We just need to do what we can to refine the processes at home, spend time with family when we can, and fit work around our schedules in whatever way possible.

The last thing to say is to try not to make things humdrum or routine. An actual daily routine is great to have and adds structure to your working day, but…when things become stale, shake things up.

Maybe one day you go for a walk to the park at lunchtime, or you go out for lunch to your favorite local eatery (social distancing in mind), maybe go and work on the patio or in the garden and get some vitamin c.

All of these ways of working can be a great addition and can allow you to gain enjoyment from working from home.

We’ll get there one step at a time.

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