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Working from home tips and tricks

Man working from home on laptop

Julie Bassett A Career in IT

While remote working has been slowly becoming more common in the modern world over the last few years, the coronavirus outbreak of 2020 has kept more people at home than ever before. If you’re new to working from home full time, it can mean getting to grips with a whole new set of skills, habits and routines to make a success of your role. Even if you’ve been working remotely in pre-Covid days, this might be the first time you’ve not had the opportunity to head to an office to deliver a project or have a meeting, for example. Being at home all the time, indefinitely, can still be a shock to the system.

Everyone copes differently when it comes to remote working. Some thrive; some don’t. Some have a good workspace that helps with productivity; others have limited space and a busy household to contend with. How do you then create boundaries between your home life and work life when they’re in the same place? How do you build meaningful relationships with your work team, and develop your career?

It’s certainly a steep learning curve, but with the future looking distinctly remote, learning how to be a motivated and productive worker from home will certainly pay dividends. Here are some of our top tips for home working.

Set your hours

Having a schedule of when you’re working and when you’re not helps you gain some structure to your working-from-home life. It’s easy for the lines between your work time and leisure time to blur with remote working, so you need to be strict. It might not tally up exactly with the hours you would do if you were in the office, but you should have an expectation of when you are going to start and finish. Make sure you communicate these working hours clearly to your team, and don’t get caught in the trap of answering queries out of hours (unless this is part of your job role). Your employer may dictate the hours you need to work each day, in which case structure your day around these. If you can set your own hours, think about when you’re most productive – we’re all different. Schedule more difficult tasks at your best times, and when you know you are less productive, use that time to make calls or clear emails. You might find it useful to use a time-tracking app to help you stay on track. Have a look at RescueTime or Clockify as two examples of what’s available.  

Maximise your mornings

Not having to travel to a workplace means you gain back time in the mornings. While it might be tempting to have a lie in, a long leisurely breakfast and catch up on some TV, this will only make it harder to get on with your working day. Try and set up a morning routine that puts you in a productive mindset. Some people like to exercise or go for a walk first thing to help wake them up, in lieu of a physical commute. Others like to focus on the day’s tasks over coffee, making a to-do list to stayed focused. It can help to ‘get ready’ for work, even if you’re not going anywhere. Having a shower and getting dressed can signal to your brain the difference between work life and home life. 

Take regular breaks

It can be harder to take a proper break when you’re working from home, but it is important to get away from the screen. Set yourself specific times to have a tea break and lunchbreak, and then try and stick to them. At lunchtime, eat your lunch away from your workspace so you’re not tempted to keep working through. It helps refresh your brain and body ready for your afternoon tasks. You might even like to go for a walk around the block, or sit in the garden if weather allows, for a change of scenery. Check your company policy for what breaks you’re entitled to when working from home if relevant, and be sure to enforce it.

Create a productive workspace

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated office space at home, make it an environment that helps you get on with your work. Clear out distractions and make sure everything you need is to hand. If you don’t have a workspace, try and dedicate an area to where you will work. This might be on the dining table or a small desk in a shared space – you have to work with what you have, but it can help you stay productive to know where your working space is and where your home space is. Sitting on the sofa with your laptop in the day makes it harder to switch off from work after hours. Ideally you want a decent chair that supports your back, something solid to put your computer or laptop on, at the right level for your eyes and hands. Ask your company for what you need – they should ensure you have a suitable remote working set-up for your role. It’s also important to set boundaries with other people you live with, especially if you have children at home, or a partner also trying to navigate home working. Explain where you’re working and when, and ask them to respect that so you can spend more quality time with them outside of working hours.

Communicate with your team regularly

It’s easy to get stuck in your own bubble when remote working, but try and have regularly check-ins with your team. There are many different apps available now to help with homeworking and project planning, so it’s worth getting used to using them as part of your regular workflow. Whether it’s brainstorming on Slack, video calling on Zoom, collaborating on Microsoft Teams or any number of other systems your company might use, these tools can help you maintain a good level of interaction throughout your working day. This can, in turn, help you stay motivated on your current project, knowing that you’re not alone working on it. 

Change the scenery

If you’re able to, try and occasionally work outside the home for a change of scene. This can mean grabbing your laptop and heading to a coffee shop for a couple of hours. As well as giving you a bit of mental headspace away from home, it can be a good way to focus on one specific task for a bit without having all systems go at home, with notes, planners and to-do lists right in front of you. You may even be able to arrange a meeting with a colleague over coffee to discuss a project in person – while you can do it on a video conference, don’t underestimate how much more productive you can be face to face.