Top Tips for Working from Home
By Pamela Carvell, April 2020
I had almost completed writing this article when the whole of the UK went into lockdown thanks to the Coronavirus Covid-19. This meant that the challenge of working from home changed very drastically. None of us can pop to the gym or a yoga class or the pub, as a break from working. Some people are now totally isolated, as they live alone, while others are having to share their ‘work place’ with hyperactive children. Add to that the increased stress that so many people are feeling, and the concept of working from home has radically changed in a matter of weeks.
I have made major changes to my original article, to make some allowance for the unique situation in which we find ourselves. My tips are based on many years of working successfully from home, and at times that did include having my young son (at the time) home with me. Also, some of the tips are based on NLP * principles, which I mention, as appropriate. These tips work for me and are based on jobs that are typically done from a desk or office. I hope they give you some inspiration too.
I am currently writing further articles on Maintaining Optimal Wellbeing while Working from Home and The Value (or otherwise) of Social Media in Lockdown. These will be published soon.
For anyone with a short attention span, here is the list, without further explanation!
- Wake up, and get up, at your usual time.
- Have a clearly defined, and properly equipped, workspace.
- Set yourself objectives each day and stick to a schedule, very much as you would at work.
- Take a break at least once per hour and ensure it includes moving about.
- Take a proper lunch break.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily schedule.
- Dress smartly and keep yourself well-groomed!
- Communicate with others by some form of video call at least once per day.
- Accept the fact that you are allowed to enjoy working from home.
- Be grateful that the nature of your work enables you to work from home.
Wake up, and get up, at your usual time.
Your brain is programmed to think along the lines of ‘Work day = wake up at 6am. Weekend = wake up at 9am.’ So don’t break the habit of a lifetime. Anything that sends your brain mixed messages is going to make the situation even more challenging for you. Now you’re probably thinking ‘Ah but I don’t have that 45 mins commute to do, so I can have a lie-in.’ Of course you could, but far better use of that extra time would be to take frequent small breaks during the day, for your own physical and mental wellbeing. Also, if you have children at home, it’s best if they continue to get up at their usual time: not holiday time! That simple action of getting up at your usual time sends a very powerful message to your brain that it is a work day.
Have a clearly defined, and properly equipped, workspace.
Your employer probably spent a lot of money on your office furniture, and here you are perched on a £2 Ikea stool at the kitchen table, currently covered in cereal bowls and spilt milk! Or even worse, you are still in bed with your Ipad perched on a spare pillow. Neither situation is ideal if you suddenly receive an unexpected video call from your boss. But it matters for more reasons than that. You are a business professional and your workspace at home should reflect that. You will possibly be spending many months working from home, so the sooner you get things set up, the better. It also helps family members respect that space and appreciate that when you are sitting there, you are working. And, very powerfully, it sends the message to your brain that you are ‘at work’.
You need to be comfortable, you need to have space for your computer, printer, papers etc, you need great lighting, and in some cases you may need privacy.
You also need to set boundaries, if you live with others, so that they respect it as your place of work. My son always understood that if I was in my office he could only disturb me in a real emergency, but that I would emerge for breaks once an hour and deal with anything then.
For those of you home-schooling, this approach is also important with children. Try and give them a dedicated place that they sit when they are doing schoolwork: not slouching on the sofa!
Set yourself objectives each day and stick to a schedule, very much as you would at work.
It is very easy to just drift along when you are working from home. And even easier to lose your motivation. Use some of that time you are saving, by not commuting, to plan both your objectives and your schedule for the day. And start each week with a weekly plan. Do likewise for children, if you have them. Deep down most of us love structure and most importantly we like a sense of achievement. Plan what time you will have lunch and take breaks, and what time you will finish work. This is especially important if you aren’t alone in the house. Your children wouldn’t disturb you if you were at work, and it’s important for them to respect that at home too, in the knowledge that they can join you at lunchtime or during scheduled breaks.
Take a break at least once per hour and ensure it includes moving about.
In a work environment there are natural distractions, such as other people coming and going and meetings. In comparison, working at home can be very intense. You don’t want to emerge from this lockdown with a bad back and poor eyesight! There are proven benefits to taking your eyes off your computer screen and standing up once an hour. My Fitbit vibrates on my wrist each hour to remind me to move, and most devices have alarms that you can set. If you have young children, why not tell them that once an hour you will emerge from your ‘office’ and run around the house with them?! Tell them to listen out for the alarm.
Take a Proper Lunch Break
One of the temptations of working from home is that you can become a compulsive snacker! As a nation, the UK is very bad at taking proper lunch breaks i.e. away from their desks. Not only does eating at your desk get crumbs in your keyboard and grease on your touch-screen, but has been shown to be bad for productivity! Take a one hour break at a time agreed with the rest of your family, if relevant. Eat healthily, have some exercise and fresh air (open a window or go in the garden) & phone a friend! You’ll be amazed at how productive you are in the afternoon.
For some people lunchtime may be the best time to leave the house for their one session of exercise, but others may find that unsettles them, and prefer to do it at the end of the day’s work to clear their head. Personally, in these new circumstances, I am enjoying going out first thing in the morning, and then settling down in my office. Try different times and see what works best for you.
Incorporate Exercise into Your Daily Routine
Exercise is so important for physical and mental wellbeing. For some people their daily commute may have been their only exercise, but they nevertheless clocked up 10,000 steps. And now they find themselves house-bound. Others are frustrated by the closure of gyms and exercise studios, or the inability to go for a run, once they’ve used up their daily outing to walk the dog! So you have to adapt and embrace the change and find alternative ways of exercising. There are so many options available online such as Joe Wicks, Yoga Burn and even the NHS has a 10 minute home cardio workout. Just Google ‘exercise at home’. Make exercise part of your new daily routine.
Dress smartly and keep yourself well-groomed!
Working from home provides the temptation to throw on a tracksuit and not shave / brush your hair/ put make up on etc. From an NLP perspective that is a very bad idea. For as long as you have been working your brain has received a subconscious message that when you put on your suit / dress / smart shirt & jeans etc you are a business professional. I am a great believer in ‘dress smart, think smart’ and most certainly to dress appropriately for your profession. Of course that doesn’t mean wearing your suit or dress at home, but it does mean still being well groomed and wearing smart clothes. You would do well to have a new style that is your ‘WFH’ style which is very different to what you’ll wear when the weekend comes around. Also, we will find ourselves on a lot of video calls, and impressions do count! (says the person who accidently left a roller in her fringe for one!!)
Communicate with others by some form of video call at least once per day.
Working from home can very isolating, especially if you are used to working in a large business or office. But the good news is that we are all in the same boat right now and all the people you work with are probably feeling isolated too. There are so many apps available for hooking up with others, and you simply need to make it part of your daily routine, especially those in your team who live completely alone. Now is the time to reach out to others and to schedule group conference calls. It maintains the sense of belonging, which is so important at a time when many people are isolated from their friends and family. And it means that when normality resumes, you will still be a team.
Accept the fact that you are allowed to enjoy working from home.
Working from home is very different to just catching up with your work emails every Sunday evening. It will take time to get used to and it will take time to adjust to a new routine and a new way of working. Human beings don’t like change, especially when it is forced upon us, and especially when we are having to deal with all the additional stresses of these exceptional times. WFH will be the norm for many people for the foreseeable future, so the sooner you can embrace it the better. There are many advantages, as anyone who is self-employed will tell you, but it does require self-discipline & self-motivation, which brings me to my final point………..
Be grateful that the nature of your work enables you to work from home.
Feeling gratitude is proven to have a positive impact on mental health. In these tough times when many of the population are putting their lives on the line by going to work, and many people can’t work from home, which may mean losing a significant part of their income, it is so important to be grateful for the fact that you can work from home.
Be grateful. And embrace it.
This article was written by Pamela Carvell, Lifestyle Consultant, April 2020.
It may be reproduced in part or in full, so long as full credit is given to her and her blog: https://www.happyhypno.wordpress.com
*NLP = Neuro Linguistic Programming