Making a success of working from home

It’s likely that many of us will have to carry on working home for a bit longer until we combat covid-19. For many people, WFH might become a permanent feature for two or three days a week as they – and their employer – found that it actually improved productivity and reduced overheads. 

Working primarily or partially from home can be a big transition, however, and if you’re still adapting to this big lifestyle change, then this guide is for you.

Clock in early

One thing new home workers might find is that the usual nine to–five routine doesn’t mesh all that well with a home life. If kids are back home from school in the mid–afternoon, if the dog needs walking or the garden needs watering…you get the picture. 

The best way to get around this is to bite the bullet and get a couple of hours in before 8.00am. Think about it, if you’d usually be commuting between 7.30am and 9.00am, you’d be awake anyway. The temptation to replace your commute with a lie–in might be strong, but what will probably happen is that you’ll end up working into the evening and becoming fatigued. Get a head–start early on and you’ll be “home” before the kids.

Bump up your internet speed

If your broadband isn’t quite up to you doing a video conference call while the children are streaming incomprehensible memes upstairs, then no–one’s going to be happy or productive.

Make it a priority to look at new broadband plans so that you’re all operating at lightning speeds. There are lots of NBN plans out there that aren’t eye–wateringly expensive and you can write off some of your broadband expenses against your tax return if you’re WFH.

Turn off the TV

You think you can work whilst watching Never Have I Ever, but you can’t. You just can’t. Your attention will flip back and forth but not actually settle on anything and, even worse, you might fall into the “just one more episode” trap.

Make work calls while taking a walk

If it’s a fairly informal team catch–up, then take a walk around the block while you’re chatting. You’ll get some daylight, fresh air and physical exercise and this can help you to stay energetic and focused when you’re back at your desk.

Give yourself realistic goals

If your partner is also working from home and you have children, this confusion only increases, so it’s vital that you have clear and defined boundaries. These boundaries need to be physical and well as chronological.

Aim to block out at least five hours each day during which nothing home–related can creep in. This includes doing the washing–up, cleaning out the guinea pigs and weeding. If you’ve got these core hours nailed down, then you’ll be able to think about other issues. One good idea is to set a 15–minute break in the mid–afternoon to load the dishwasher while making coffee or prepping the evening meal. 

Be on–call 

If you’re an employee then you’ll still most likely be working with your usual team, so make sure you’re just as available while you’re at home as you are when you’re in the office.

This doesn’t mean you have to break off what you’re doing, however. You could set an auto–response with the day’s date and a quick explanation of why you’ll have to get back to your colleague later. “I’m finishing the Big Important Supplier report today so I’ll get back to you after 3.30pm,” will do nicely.

Modern employers “get” working from home now, but you still need to show that you’re present and engaged because they can’t see you!

Keep your work and home online environments separate

As any WFH veteran will tell you, people have a tendency to think you’re available while you’re working from home because you’re at home and therefore not really working. 

Use different email and messaging platforms for work and personal use so that you’re not distracted by photos of your friend’s new puppy. It might be a good idea to have a separate phone for work, too, as this can reinforce the message that your job isn’t actually a paying hobby.

Keep your work and home physical environments separate

Making sure that you delineate work and home is essential. Making sure that friends, children and significant others know that the hours between 8.00am and 1.00pm are knuckle-down time really matters.

Similarly, when you’re spotted sitting at your special new working desk in your special new working corner, it means you’re working. Even if it literally is the corner of the sitting room, if you’re there, you’re not to be disturbed. You’re not to be disturbed if the doorbell rings or if the dog does something really funny. Not even if it’s really, really funny because it's the dog who’s ringing the doorbell…

Don’t overwork and burn out

One psychological effect of moving your workplace into your home is that there’s no barrier or separation anymore. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional half–hour evening stint, especially if it it’ll save you some time the next day, but if you’re routinely checking emails at 10.00pm, then you’re out of whack.

Losing your work–life balance can corrode relationships and eat into the time you have with your family. It can also lead to you never switching off, which is detrimental to your physical and emotional health.

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