For most people, the experience of working from home is going to be a new one. It sounds great (or terrifying) on the surface, but unless managed correctly it can quickly make you feel isolated, lethargic and depressed. Prior to opening our office I worked from home for 3 years, and these tips are the lessons I learned during that time:
1. Stick to your normal routine
Now that you’ve lost your daily commute it’s tempting to set the alarm clock to a later time. It’s vital that this doesn’t happen as you’ll find that your wake up time slowly creeps further and further into the day.
Now you may be thinking ‘my commute was 2 hours, so what am I going to do whilst I wait for work to start?’. In this case, sure, set your alarm clock forward an hour and take your time getting ready – but just make sure this is your new routine that isn’t flexible.
Also, make sure that you get to work ‘on-time’. If you’re usually there 15 minutes early to make your coffee, turn on your computer and open your day to day software, make sure you do that at home.
2. Get dressed and ready for work
Do you usually dress smartly to go to work? Then it should be no different when you’re working from home. By getting dressed, doing your hair and make-up you are mentally preparing for a day at work.
If you find yourself sat at your computer in your pants, with your hair a mess and without brushed teeth you’re going to quickly find yourself feeling down in the dumps about your day – and this is dangerous as it can be when lethargy and depression kick in.
3. Have a hangout hour
If you work in a team you’ll be used to the daily interactions – those little conversations that pop up, the jokes, the smiles (the disagreements) have all been part of your work life and it’s vital that they don’t stop.
Pick a time in the day where you all have your mics and webcams turned on. This doesn’t mean you have to fill that hour with conversation – but knowing that your team is ‘around’ you as you work will help remove the isolation you might feel.
4. Have a team chat
When you’re working in an office together you hear what is going on – the phone call that ‘Trev’ just had with a customer, the problem that a customer is facing, the idea that someone just had. All these conversations keep people on the same page and moving together as a team.
Set up a group chat on Slack, WhatsApp (using their desktop client) or Microsoft Teams and make sure when something happens in your day that you keep people updated.
5. Pick up the phone
It’s tempting to move all communication to a chat platform such as Slack. However, this does three things:
- Kills productivity (it takes ages to have a typed conversation)
- Increases the risk of miscommunication (it’s hard to understand someone’s tone and misunderstandings become common, increasing friction)
- It isolates people
Instead, add all your colleagues numbers to your favourites and give them a quick call when you need to discuss something, no matter how small. If you use WhatsApp for your calls, it’s also quick and easy to group call your colleagues.
The biggest productivity killer and frustration you’ll find working remotely is trying to describe what’s on your screen to someone (or worse yet, trying to explain what to do on someone else’s screen). Make sure you have a screen-sharing facility in place, ideally with one that allows you to take control of your colleague’s computer.
This will save time, confusion and create the zen you need to collaborate.
7. Have a ‘work zone’
We don’t know how long you’ll be working from home but assume it’s for the long run. Setup a ‘work zone’ in your home. Make it your work oasis free from distraction, and also have it as a place that you go to and leave at the start and end of each day.
It’s vital that you don’t spend your work and leisure time in the same space as you can quickly go stir-crazy. Even if you have limited space, you can create a zone within another room (e.g. your lounge) which you have a routine of turning ‘on’ or ‘off’ at the start and end of each day, and that you don’t engage with outside of work hours.
8. Stay active and hydrated
It’s easy to do – you’re sat in your zone all day and you forget to get up and move around. Make sure that you remember to get up, stretch your legs and perhaps even head into the garden for a few minutes to pick up a few fleeting rays of sunshine.
And of course, drink lots of water (or coffee!) as per normal. One little trick that ticks off both boxes is to not get a jug of water or water bottle on your desk – forcing you to get up and refill it (just make sure you do!).
9. Finish on time
Contrary to popular belief, people who work from home often end up working more. It’s easy to jump back on your computer or miss the end of the day.
From an employers perspective that might seem like a great thing – more work being done! But in the long-term, this can be damaging for your health and you need to make sure you keep your work/life balance in check.
Make sure you go through your usual ‘shut down’, such as tidying your desk, cleaning your coffee mug and turning off your computer.
10. Setup a shared Spotify playlist
This might sound like a silly one, but it’s actually hugely helpful at keeping people’s spirits high. Knowing that your team is all listening to the same thing makes you feel more connected to them. Even if you see this as an opportunity to go off-piste and listen to something you actually like, make sure to add your colleagues as friends on Spotify as you’ll be able to see what they’re listening to.
So when someone says ‘what a tune’ on the group chat, you can join in with them.
Exercise might be a bad word to you, but working from home means you’re going to be less active. It’s vital that you find ways to exercise in and around the home – perhaps it’s an opportunity to finally try out yoga, or maybe it’s time to take on the ‘100 push-ups per day’ challenge (I tried this once, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll get to 100 push-ups if you do ten each time you get up from your desk!).
By moving your body you’ll also be keeping your mind sharp – and you’ll be releasing endorphins at the same time.
12. Don’t lose sight of those around you
It’s easy to get so sucked into working from home that you start to ignore everything else that is happening around you, and to get annoyed if you get interrupted. Remember to take time to engage with your family (or pets) if they’re also stuck at home with you.
But remember to also set boundaries – remind people that you are at work and that you need to focus, but that you do have breaks where you can hang out.