If there’s one positive thing that’s come out of the current virus pandemic, it is this – working from home has become an acceptable option to going into the office.
I’ve always been an advocate of working from home. It is my belief that in this day and age of modern technology, it is possible to get work done at home, in our own time, without needing or going into the office. For some of us, this even means we can do away with a physical office and save on overheads. Granted, this applies to work that is done in an office, as opposed to other types of work that needs a physical presence.
What I have found interesting is that companies that might otherwise refuse employees the ‘work from home’ option, are now forced to impose it, for everyone’s health and safety. It’s a good test, in my view, of this system, and how effective it is.
I have been working from home for a few years now, and if you’re new to it, I have a few tips to share with you. And I always welcome discussion or your own experiences too! 🙂
Before you begin your ‘work from home’ programme, I suggest that you make a few small changes to your home. This is important to ensure that your workflow is consistent, and that you actually get work done.
The most important thing to do is to establish a proper ‘work from home’ mindset.
Working from home – your mindset
It is easy to think that working from home is an easy or relaxing option. It can be, or it can actually be more stressful.
At the beginning, it took a little bit of adjustment for me.
Your mindset should be this – your work is at home, but your home is not only your workplace. You should not treat all spaces as work spaces, and similarly, not treat work spaces as home spaces.
So here’s your mindset when working from home:
- Keep work and living spaces separate, where possible
- Keep set working hours
- Get out of bed and change your clothes
- Don’t be tempted to do household chores or run errands
- Get up, take breaks, and move
- Be disciplined
Define your working space at home and keep it separate
If you have the luxury of a spare bedroom that you can turn into a home office, do it. What you need is a table and a comfortable chair, and some plug points.
When I moved house, I specifically turned a bedroom into a working room. It houses my bookcases and a long table for my desktop (yes, I perform best working on a desktop as opposed to a laptop – I’m old-fashioned) and papers and shelves for files and work.
This is where I do all my work, and all my blogging. When I enter my working room, I know it is purely because I need to get some work done. Once I close the door, it closes off this work area, and I can then enjoy the rest of my home in a more relaxed fashion.
If you don’t have this luxury, and are only working from home temporarily, designate a space in your home for work. It could be your dining table, for example. Use a corner of it for work.
It also helps the other members of your household understand that you are at work, and should not be disturbed once you enter your ‘work area’. If you blur the lines, others will too. Even my dog understands when I go into my home office, that I should not be disturbed. He goes off for his nap, and leaves me alone till I exit, and then he trots up to see what I’m up to, or if I might feed him something LOL! 😀
I do not suggest using the sofa/couch, living room or bed for this purpose, as it blurs your lines between work and home. It is very important that you keep this separate, both mentally and physically.
You could, of course, do up your work room prettily and make it Pinterest-friendly. I however, have a very utilitarian style of working, so my work space is purely for work. It is an organized mess, but it isn’t Pinterest friendly, so you’re not going to see what it looks like HAHA! 😛
Keep set working hours
For me, working at home meant that I found myself working longer hours than I would at the office.
It was easy. I’d be up in the morning, bright and early. I head to my home office, peep at the traffic jam downstairs (and say a little prayer of thanks that I’m not in it! 😛 ) and then turn on the PC and get started with my work day.
While it is also tempting to think you can have a lie-in, I find that when I work from home, it’s easier for me to wake up early. There is no stress of commuting to work, and I find it easier to work in the cooler hours of the day. Because I start my day very early, I also get far more done, and can end off earlier too!
There were many days when I’d find myself working far longer hours than I’d ever put in at the office. Granted, I also get more work done, which is a good thing, but it is very tiring and draining.
So, set your working hours. Make sure you turn off the PC or laptop at the end of every work day. Then, exit your work area, and if possible, close the door. Go back to your life.
If that isn’t an option, clear your working space, so you aren’t constantly reminded of work. It’s your home – take some time to relax.
The temptation is always there, to watch TV instead of working. I’ve seen many people say “Ooh I can just have Netflix on TV in the background” Personally, I find it distracting, and irresponsible.
This is why a defined work space is important. Keep the sofa for taking little breaks. Watch a little TV then if you must. But ultimately, stick to set working times so you maximise your output. You might even find yourself finishing your work more quickly or efficiently.
I know I do. I work far more efficiently at home than I do at an office, simply because distractions are far less.
Change out of your pyjamas
This is so important!
So often people say “Oh, yay! I can work from home in my pyjamas!” Yes, if it is more comfortable for you, you can.
But what I’d suggest is to change out of your pyjamas into clean ones 😛 Or into your house-wear. If it helps, put on some makeup. I don’t, because what’s the point really 😛 But if you have to make video calls or video conferencing, it’s professional to look groomed.
You don’t have to put on formal work clothing if you find it too much of a bother. I wear my most comfortable home clothes and revel in the fact that I can. You work most efficiently when you’re comfortable.
But why I say you should change out of your pyjamas is simply because it sets your mental state of mind. It changes your mental state from home to work, and puts you in a proper frame of mind.
If working in pyjamas is most comfortable for you, at least wear fresh ones, have a shower, wash your face, brush your teeth, and then get to work.
What you wear isn’t important. But it sets your mindset, and that is the most important thing.
Clearly define time for work and household chores
At the beginning, I found it tempting to do little chores while working from home. I’d do my laundry, or a little cleaning, and then I found that it was all starting to blur.
You could be doing your work, then your eye catching a pile of laundry that needs folding, and you think “Hey, a few minutes of folding laundry won’t go amiss” and then your day could end up being disrupted.
One of the benefits of working from home, is keeping a tidier, cleaner house. That much I’d agree. But you must have your lines properly drawn.
Do your dirty dishes or laundry as part of your little break from work. Or set a few minutes every other hour to do a little chore. Don’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes. Treat it as your watercooler break.
This way, you won’t end up feeling overwhelmed with doing household chores when you should be working. Yet, you can get household chores done, so you don’t end up with a big task on the weekend.
Take Breaks, Move and EAT!
Just like being in an office, when you work from home, you will find that you don’t move around very much. It is important therefore to ensure that you get up periodically, stretch and move.
I find it helpful to get up to get cups of water every hour or so. Not only does it keep you hydrated, it forces you to get up and move.
You could also use a few minutes every hour or so to do some simple chores or to just have a little break from work. I pop in my laundry first thing in the morning, then take a break after about an hour, when the machine stops, to hang up the laundry. Working from home allows me to take advantage of the sun, so laundry dries more quickly 😀
The other thing I found myself slacking on was meals. I’d actually forget to eat, working all the way through lunch, and then wondering at 2.30pm why I was starving. It isn’t exactly healthy this way.
While I enjoy cooking, it does take up more time and creates more distraction than necessary in the middle of the day. So, it’s useful to have simple meals like sandwiches or salads, or to just reheat leftovers. It doesn’t take you too long, it allows you to have a little break, and you can have your lunch in the comfort of your home. Maybe even watch a little TV for a break 🙂
It is also tempting to stock up on snacks and chips or carbonated drinks, and treat it like a little holiday. But my advise is not to. It’s unhealthy, and slows you down.
Stock up instead on fresh fruits or healthy snacks like nuts or dried fruit. Remember, you now have the luxury of having your refrigerator at ‘work’, so make the most of it! Also, a nice cool piece of fruit makes for a nice break in the middle of the day, especially in the middle of a HOT day.
Ultimately, what working at home comes down to is self-discipline.
You still have to do your job. You just don’t have to go into an office to do it.
I’ve always advocated the concept of working from home. But I understand that it involves a lot of self-discipline to ensure that it is workable. Some people prefer the structure and physical detachment of an office, because it is easier for them to separate work and home.
But what this modern pandemic has shown us is that sometimes, we must be pushed out of our comfort zones, to do things we may not otherwise want to do.
For employers who have always balked at the idea of allowing employees to work from home, fearing that work doesn’t get done, this is the best time to see if it might be a viable option.
For employees, this is a good time to show that you can have a better work-life balance by doing your work remotely. You just have to have enough self discipline to separate your work from your home, and to know when and where to draw the line. Maybe, if you can show that you can get your work done as efficiently, companies might even be more willing to implement it as a permanent option.
Do you work from home? Do you have tips to share if you do?
I enjoy working from home, and not having to dress up to go to work. It’s liberating, comfortable, and importantly, I get all my work done more quickly, and can spend the rest of the day doing what I like! 😀
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I’ve been working from home permanently for close to a year now and it’s honestly the best thing. I’ve always got pretty good self-discipline so it’s not an issue.
My other tips are:
1) check in with your team often. It could be once a day at the end for a 15-30 min thing. It can be very isolating working from home. I thrive in it because I’m an introvert and do my work best when I’m left to my own devices but I recognise not everyone enjoys it. I have weekly team checkins where we dial into video conference with our coffee or tea or wine (Friday checkins!) and just chat away to unwind. I love those.
2) Make technology work for you. It’s 2020. Video conferencing tools are cheap and efficient. A word of caution – just make sure you’re using tools that are sanctioned by your company. The last thing you want is to end up introducing a plethora of new tools into the organisation to the wrath of your IT dept.
3) as for food – stick to your routine as much as possible. I’ve never had time to snack and I’d realised I still don’t when I’m working from home despite having a pantry filled with chocolates and cookies. I’ve bulk-cooked since before meal prep was made popular by Instagram so I’ve kept with it. Lunch is usually reheating food up, having it at the dining table with my dog at my feet. Sometimes I do virtual lunch dates with my team in other states and we have our usual food envy sessions.
4) I agree with PB on clothes. I’d been caught a few times by last minute phone calls from the team getting me to dial in to a meeting to provide input and thoughts. I had 5 mins to brush my hair, change into a top and at least slick on a layer of lip colour. I don’t want to be caught out again! Of course if you must, keep the PJ bottoms and have a respectable top. Business at the top, party time at the bottom. Just make sure you don’t stand up during the meeting ?
Geek’s comment is spot on, especially for people who are still working in a corporate environment but have to work from home. I think these are the people who would probably struggle the most to keep to a working schedule because they’re now at home (even more so if schools are closed and children are also at home with them) and home is a place where they separate from work.
I’ve been working from home for the better part of a decade and the nature of my current business (I make planner stickers for those who don’t know :)) means that I don’t have to go out and interact with people to do my job. Come to think of it, I self isolate for most of the week (except for times when I have to mail orders at the post office)! If there’s one tip I can offer – other than the ones you’ve already suggested, which are great btw – is to go outdoors. Self-isolation means social distancing from people. It doesn’t mean you need to be contained in the house the whole time. If you live in an apartment, go to the balcony. If you live in a house on land, go to your garden. If you have a dog, go walk your dog early in the morning when there’s less people on the road. Apartment living with a balcony means you can try working on the balcony if all you need is a laptop. One of the reasons people go stir-crazy during self-isolation is cabin fever.
Wow, Paris. This blog describes what exactly I am going through. I love working from home when nobody is around, but it can be disastrous if kids are around. But thanks to the pandemic I have to survive through this disaster. As I don’t have a luxury of a spare room, I have kept a corner of my home with a table and chair. And, I love that space more than anything. Thank you so much for the post, which is the need of the hour.