2020 has proven to be a difficult year for small businesses so far, with the impact of COVID-19 changing our daily lives. The government have put measures in place to help slow the spread of the virus, asking people to work from home where possible is one of these.
To help with this transition, we have produced this guide which features some handy tips to help you be productive, get comfortable, and protect your mental health while working from home.
If you normally work in an office, you might not realise straight away that you’re missing some of the comforts that make working life run smoothly. Having lots of desk space, a comfortable chair, stable internet connection and the right machinery to do the task at hand are things we seemingly take for granted in the office - but we might not always have them at home.
Our home-life situations are varied; with some of us living alone or with friends, and others having a family to look after. Making the transition from working in an office to working from home will always require a little adjustment time before it seems normal.
What’s more - your workmates are missing. This might mean you have to make lonely coffee runs for a while, and the days might seem quieter. But there’s no need to despair. By putting in place the right working habits, building the right routines, and creating a good home-office environment, you can make working from home productive and fun.
Let’s start with routines.
Even though you aren’t heading to the office every day, you are still working. Working is different to relaxing, and at home it’s easy to forget to make that distinction. So, why not make getting ready for work a part of your daily routine.
Wake up thirty minutes before you start work, shower, get dressed - prepare yourself for the day as though you were going into an office and you may find this helps to boost your productivity and attentiveness. While waking up from a heavy sleep, grabbing your laptop and cracking straight on with your job may work for a few people, the chances are that this habit could leave many of us feeling sluggish.
Pretending you’re going to work each day could allow you to feel productive from the moment you sit down at your desk. Speaking of which, try to set up a good office environment. Unlike working from your bed, sitting comfortably in a chair could make you more alert and ready to tackle tough tasks. Making sure that chair is correctly adjusted will support your back, and help to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
Try to recreate the office environment you’re familiar with. Where you can, make sure you have enough space to fit the right technology in; perhaps a keyboard, mouse, laptop and even an extra monitor. If you’re able to designate a workspace which you associate with being focused and in-the-zone, it may help you hit your deadlines and power through your work better than if you were to use the same space both for relaxing and working.
Also, getting used to the noise levels when working at home can be a big change for some. Creating the illusion of office background noise, such as chatter, meetings or even the general sounds made by coffee machines and doors opening/closing, may help recreate the office environment you’re used to.
Background music is a great way to achieve this. You could inject some variety into your day by matching your music choices to your mood; if you’re feeling energetic and productive then put something high-energy on, or if you’re in a more relaxed, focused state, maybe switch to a more classical/jazz soundtrack or playlist.
Another handy tip is to create a to-do list. This simple but effective tactic has been popular for years and has been modernised by productivity apps - but a pen-and-paper sticky note or the free ‘Sticky Notes’ program in Windows can still be great options.
Equally as important as planning and organising your workload is taking regular breaks. Research has shown shorter breaks to be effective in boosting productivity, so consider matching chunks of work with planned breaks and cleverly structuring your day. It’s not good to stare at screens for too long, either. Focusing on the LEDs in your screen often means you blink less, which could dehydrate your eyes – potentially causing damage to them when repeated consistently over long periods of time.
You may have saved some time from not having to commute, so why not repurpose that time to start your day properly - and feel good about working from home?
Last but not least, it’s important to take good care of your mental health while working from home. Moving into a home environment while keeping your day-to-day work responsibilities can cause stress, especially as the people around you change.
For those who live alone or in quiet households, loneliness could become a real problem- and it can creep into your life quite suddenly after just a few days or weeks of working at home.
Being alone affects different personalities in different ways, but we all enjoy a little company. Investing extra effort into connecting with your team by setting up video calls and planning frequent meetings to stay in touch could help keep them motivated. You don’t have to talk exclusively about work, either, and having regular contact over a messaging service such as Skype could help build a strong, informal connection that brings teams closer together.
On the other hand, many people find themselves looking after family members when working from home- such as children when schools are closed. Juggling jobs such as home-schooling whilst tackling your usual workload can be difficult, so finding a healthy balance between these duties is essential. Eating well, sleeping well and sticking to a routine could help make this process run more smoothly.
There are plenty of free resources available online to help you keep the kids entertained; from exercise ideas, such as Joe Wick’s popular P.E classes, to different teaching tools- for which the BBC has a great selection.
We’ve mentioned taking regular breaks, but ensure you’re letting plenty of fresh air into your house, too. As a business owner, or if you’re in a leadership role, encourage your team to put these practices in place and talk to your team about mental health so that they feel supported, even if it’s virtually.
Each person reacts to working from home differently, so take some time to experiment with different routines and habits to find what works for you. With a little effort, and after a small period of adjustment, you could see yourself becoming productive, energised and thriving while working in your home environment.