Top tips for working from home
Date published: 22 April 2020
How to stay motivated and inspired when working from home
Working from home might do away with the daily commute but if you’re not prepared, the novelty can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of home-working from a few local businesses.
Danny Simpson is the CEO of Rochdale-headquartered MID Communications, which is an independent franchise of 02, and has produced a list of home-working advice for his staff.
Somebody else who knows better than most about solo working is Sam Eastwood who is the only member of staff at his online North West business selling traffic products, which has just topped a £1m turnover.
The 24-year-old launched Street Solutions UK from his kitchen table and says the key is being prepared.
And finally David Brereton, director of Rochdale-based MysonPages, has chipped in with some advice on avoiding distractions.
1. Create your own office
Try not to work in the same room you relax in during the evening. If you can, create an ‘office zone’.
Danny Simpson said: “Even if it’s the kitchen table, try to keep it organised and think of it as your place of work.”
Make sure anyone else at home with you while you are working understands you are at work. Start with this boundary from day one and it will help.
3. Stick to a normal routine where possible
Having a routine is vital if you are to work from home successfully.
Danny Simpson said: “Set your alarm, get your coffee and breakfast sorted. If you have a little extra time in the morning thanks to the lack of a commute, think about filling it with something you’ve always wanted to do using focus time.”
Sam Eastwood added: “Getting up at a reasonable time to be awake, dressed and fed BEFORE starting the working day does great things to getting the day off to a strong start.”
4. Dress to impress
Staying in your pyjamas all day is definitely not conducive to being productive.
Danny Simpson said: “Your PJs and jogging bottoms are comfy, but you’d be surprised the impact getting properly dressed can have on your attitude. Still dress like you’re going into the office.”
Sam Eastwood: “When working at home I made a point of looking presentable, getting dressed (not in my PJs) and fixing up my hair. I'd want to treat my efforts at work exactly the same as if I was in the office. In working that way I'd be dressing and presented in the same way.”
5. Plan your day
We’ve all heard the phrase: “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. It’s never more true than when discussing home-working.
Sam Eastwood said: “I start every day by writing down the tasks that I know need completing, focusing on the income generating/high impact ones first as early as possible. This is when I'm least distracted and most efficient.”
6. Avoid unwelcome distractions
Keeping focussed and avoiding distractions is critical if you want to be productive.
David Brereton, director of MysonPages, said: “Routine is key, but because you are at home the routine of home is screaming at you too, so it’s easy to get distracted. Divide your day into 25-minute segments with a five-minute break at the end. Identify what you want to do in that slot. Stick to it. At the end of the day you’ll have lots ticked off.”
Danny Simpson said: “Background noise is great, listen to the radio, a well known album, a podcast or the local radio station. Avoid the temptation to binge the latest series on Netflix or other streaming services. The hours will soon disappear but your to-do list won’t get any shorter.”
7. Beware loneliness
Swapping a busy office to working from home can cause loneliness. If you're the only one at home all day, every day, put the telly on, put it on mute and put it on a news channel or another channel where most of the time the view is of an individual's face.
The important bit is there will be an approximately life-sized head and face in a fixed position in your new workplace. If you're used to seeing a lot of different faces during a working day your brain needs this as a replacement to combat feelings of loneliness.
8. Separate work and home life
‘Home sweet home’ will quickly lose its magic if you work and relax in the same room but what else can you do?
If you're having to work from home on a computer you usually use to relax and play games and watch music videos and films etc, create a second login user. Keep work in the work login and home in the home login.
Sam Eastwood said: A lot of people use productivity apps like Slack and Trello. My advice is they’re essential for keeping a clear split between work and personal relationships.
Going to the gym might be off limits because of coronavirus but that shouldn’t be the end of exercising.
Danny Simpson said: “Make time to exercise and keep energised. Perhaps it’s a quick walk outside (remember social distancing) or maybe just a few laps of the living room or round the garden, if you can monitor steps using smart phone do so and keep setting daily weekly goals.”
10. Have a break
Scheduling in proper breaks – especially at lunch – is vital if you’re not going to go stir crazy.
Danny Simpson said: “When it’s time for lunch, it’s time for lunch. Take yourself out of your ‘office zone’ and munch your food away from your laptop and same with other snack breaks use fruit, or healthy snacks.”
Sam Eastwood said: “Working from home or on your own doesn’t need to feel like Groundhog Day. Adding in short organised breaks between completing and starting a new task is a great way to work through the day. I find that stretching my legs and getting a drink lets me refresh. Getting outside for some fresh air throughout the day helps reduce the onset of the dreaded 'cabin fever'.”
11. Keep communicating
Technology means that working from home doesn’t mean you have to be cut off from the world.
Danny Simpson said: “Communicating is probably the most important thing. Phone your colleagues and friends, have a laugh and joke, just like you would do at the office. It’s important to keep social and maintain those relationships, after all we are social creatures.”
Sam Eastwood said: “Getting on the phone/video call is a great way to work through issues in a clear and concise way. I find people too often hide behind the slow process of emails back and forth.”
If your home suddenly becomes your place of work, switching off can become a problem especially at the end of the day. The ‘journey’ home is often the easiest one to ignore so mark it by doing a non-work activity. It could be as simple as washing the dishes or vacuuming the house.
Danny Simpson said: “Once the working day is over, turn off your notifications, mute your laptop and walk away from the inbox. It’s important to keep work and home time for a good work life balance, it’s all too easy to just do an extra hour of work or ‘nip and check your email’. Don’t do it.”
Sam Eastwood said: “Switching-off is easier said than done when you’re running your own business (and I know) but you do need some ‘down time’. Keeping the work to a specific room in the house i.e kitchen/office and not bringing it into your social areas like the living room will help.”
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