How to survive working from home

March 24, 2020

Working from home has become the norm for many of us and for some this is unchartered territory. On the one hand, it is brilliant, a short ten foot commute to your workplace, a kettle within arm’s reach and plenty more time in the evening to spend with loved ones or undertake new (or old!) hobbies. However, on the flip side, it can be hard to self-motivate and you lose the social interaction you get while in an office and the support of your team throughout the day. For the past week, my team & I have been adjusting to working from home and I have compiled a list of tips on how I am surviving working from home and staying sane. I hope these are of help to you! 

1. Pretend you’re going into the office Get dressed into your ‘work clothes’ whether that’s business attire, smart causal or your usual go-to outfits for work, it will help you get into the mindset for the day. If you used to do a workout before work, keep this up! If you used to take your morning coffee to-go, make it in the same flask you usually use and take it to your workspace. It’s surprising how much difference it makes to your productivity when you stick to a routine. 

2. Stick to your normal schedule If you used to get up at 6am for work keep doing this. Don’t sleep in for an extra hour and then rush to your home office/workspace when it gets to your usual start time for work. Get up at 6am, and use the extra time to write your to-do list, get a workout in, prepare your meals for the day ahead and log off at the time you used to leave the office each day. 

3. Have a dedicated workspace Where possible, set yourself up with a work space that isn’t somewhere you would usually sit for other activities in your home i.e. the sofa. Set yourself up near a window and natural light, with a desk/table & chair. This helps to create separation from the places in your home which you use for relaxing and those you use for work. When it gets to the end of the day, go one step further and put away your laptop and work equipment so you get your home back – out of sight, out of mind. 

4. Prioritise your day around productivity Consider if you’re a morning person or a night owl and use this to structure your day and to-do list. There is an unconscious pressure we put on ourselves to consistently work at the same pace throughout the whole working day, whereas in reality, research shows that people’s concentration ebbs and flows so tackle the less appealing tasks when you have the most energy and save the more administrative tasks for when you are lagging. 

5.  Stay off social media It is much easier to get distracted by social media when you’re working from home. If social media isn’t part of your job, I recommend logging out of all accounts, both online and on the apps on your phone. This makes it much harder to log in and is enough of a deterrent for most. Then you can log back in at the end of your day in your own downtime. I recommend doing this on your personal email accounts too, especially when your mobile may now have become your ‘work phone’. 

6. Stay connected with your colleagues/friends/family This is so vital from a mental wellbeing standpoint. Usually, if you have a bad day, or you make a mistake at work, you will have a network who are there to support and help you to move on from it. Within the office environment, the ‘in jokes’, ‘banter’ or ‘fun conversations’ can also be sorely missed when working from home. Software like Microsoft Teams is fantastic to keep in touch with colleagues. It allows you to easily carry out one-to-one or group video calls, other software which many companies use such as Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype work well too. Stay connected via video conference at least once a day to your team, ideally at the beginning of the day, this increases motivation and it is really nice to catch up with everyone. My team and I have been doing morning coffee catch ups, and other teams have been doing team quizzes on Fridays. Don’t forget to keep in touch with friends and family at lunchtime too – don’t lock yourself off from the real world too much – it is important for your mental health and wellbeing to keep the conversations going.  

7. Procrastination It’s much easier to procrastinate when working from home. My top tip for minimising this is to write your to-do list/agenda for the following day, each evening, in actionable steps. By this I mean, don’t write sweeping statements like: “make 10 business development calls”, write “call…” and each individuals name and number. When you take the effort out of the harder tasks on your to-do list and put the ground work in the day before, you’re much more likely to be motivated to complete it.  Go one step further and number your to-do lists in order of priority and re-order this as needed throughout the day. Lastly, if this alone doesn’t help, or you catch yourself staring out of a window, try downloading apps such as Pomodoro, which are designed to help you focus on individuals tasks. 

8. Take breaks If you used to go outside at lunchtime and grab some food from the shop, a coffee, or check your personal emails/socials, then do this at the same time you would have done if you were at work. I always used to go out and grab a coffee at lunchtime, so now I replace this with a walk around the block with my coffee in a flask. This provides me with the same respite I am used to, and allows me to tackle the afternoon feeling refreshed.

9. Set a hard close to your day If you used to finish work and dash for your train at 6.20pm, then log off at 6.20pm, do not keep working if you don’t really need to. Try to not let the lines blur between your work and home life, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is imperative to keeping motivated for the following day. If you need a reminder of when to stop try setting an alarm with your favourite song, perhaps one you used to listen to on your commute, as a signal that it is the end of the day! 

10. Look after yourself! Maintaining your own health and wellbeing while working from home is paramount, my top tips for improving your mood are exercise & diet. Eating a balanced diet at regular intervals throughout the day prevents you from crashing. Also engaging in indoor/outdoor activities e.g. home workouts, dance, running, cycling, walking, will all improve your mood, as exercise stimulates the body’s production of endorphins which increase your mood and reduce the levels of the stress hormones in the body simultaneously – win-win! To further support your wellbeing, try apps like Headspace, which support you through guided meditations and add little mindful moments to your day. 

Lastly, ensure you give yourself a break, it is hard adjusting to something new like working from home and it takes a little time to settle in. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you find it difficult to work from home in the beginning. As with everything, practice makes perfect, and when it becomes the ‘new normal’ you will settle into a routine that works for you.  

A lot of my contacts have also looked at updating their CV now that they have the spare travel time in the day. I am open to assisting with this or even a phone call to touch base. It would be great to hear from you. 

If you have any tips for working from home, please do share them below, it would be great to hear your ideas too! Stay safe!