How to work better from home

Working from home can be challenging, especially for those with limited space, demanding children and disruptive housemates. What can you do to make it better?

The mass experiment in home working triggered by the pandemic has highlighted everything that’s good and bad about working remotely. For some, it has been a revelation: no daily commute, no travel between meetings, more interaction with clients in virtual meetings which are often more productive, and more independence. For others, it has led to poor mental and physical health, difficulty switching off, and a feeling of isolation. With a return to central offices unlikely for many workers, at least in the short-term, and with flexible working becoming the norm, how can we make home working more enjoyable and productive?

Here are six tips for better home working:

1. Improve your workspace

If you don’t have the luxury of a study, create a workspace away from the biggest distractions, preferably with a designated desk, comfortable chair and bright lamp. Be creative. Even the tiniest spaces can be adapted to allow a practical workspace. Ask your company to buy you an office chair with good back support if you don’t have one. Make sure you sit with a good posture to avoid back and neck pain. Take regular breaks. At the end of the day, put everything away or cover it so that it is out of sight and hopefully out of mind when you clock off.

2. Be organised

Set goals and times and try to stick to them. Try to start your day at the same time, just as you would in a central office, to get in the right mindset. Allocate times to do tasks including speaking to people and having meetings. Create structure to your day. When you finish a task, give yourself a little reward like a five-minute break or a cup of tea. This will help with motivation and a feeling of self-worth.

3. Don’t stress about distractions

How many times do you get distracted in a central office by colleagues who have nothing useful to say? You can’t ignore them or tell them to go away. Similarly, you can’t always ignore children, friends and family members who are sharing the same space. Try to accept that you will inevitably be distracted. Try to arrange virtual meetings and calls at times in the day when you will be least distracted. Be upfront with people. Let them know your situation. Chances are they are having to deal with similar distractions.

4. Communicate more

It’s easy to make assumptions when we work from home. If you manage a team, it’s difficult to trust people to do a job effectively and on time when you can’t see them. Regular, effective communication is paramount – with colleagues, customers and suppliers. Stay contactable, make sure you and the people you are working with know what is expected. Also, vary your communication. Don’t become a slave to the video camera or to one form of communication. Don’t become a Zoombie or a Teamster. Pick up the phone instead. You may find it more relaxing and rewarding.

5. Take breaks and exercise

You don’t need to become a fitness freak overnight. But it’s important to give yourself regular breaks and to do some form of exercise to free the mind and release endorphins believed to help brain power and concentration. If possible, go for a walk before starting work to clear your mind for the working day. Get up from your seat at regular intervals to stretch or have a short walk, even if it’s just to make a cup of tea. Give yourself a firm cut off point by doing some exercise at lunchtime and/or the end of your working day.

6. Switch off and stay off

One of the hardest things about working from home is switching off, especially if you are working with people across different time zones. It’s important to stick to your working day as much as possible and to make it clear that you are not free to respond to emails and calls 24/7. Don’t be pressured by others to work all hours. Discuss with them how you like to work and how and when you prefer to be contacted. When your working day has finished, turn off your laptop. Get up. Leave your work behind. Disconnect. Unless you’re up against a tight deadline, your emails and calls can wait until the next day.