As some of you will know, I have spent a lot of time working from home (WFH) over the past couple of years. As a result, I’ve – naturally – been on the receiving end of some comments.
“You don’t realise how good you have it.” (Even though I really do know.)
“Are you having another pyjama day?” (Only if I’m sick.)
“It’s alright for someone who can hit ‘snooze’ on the alarm and roll out of bed five minutes before you’re due to start work.” (I don’t do that.)
It’s important for me to stress that these comments have always been said as a joke, and I’ve taken them as such, but there does often seem to be a misunderstanding over what “work from home” actually means. Being 100% honest, I work harder at home than I ever have in an office (and if you know me, you’ll know how hard I’ve worked in an office before. I’m a workaholic). But there’s also a difference between WFH because you can, and WFH because you have to.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve received messages from friends asking about my daily working routine and how I have coped day-to-day, especially with being on my own, so I thought I’d share a few of the things I have learned over the past couple of years. It’s not meant to be patronising, and everyone is different so these tips won’t suit every single person, but I’ve read the sentence “we’re in this together” a lot over the past week and it’s true, we do need to help each other where and when we can at the moment, so hopefully this will help someone else.
Don’t get me wrong, working from home is great – but it isn’t for everyone. It’s not always an easy ride either; because while you might not have distractions from colleagues or the general goings-on from the office, there are different distractions in the home (like the photo on the right).
1. Assuming you are still working to your usual set hours (e.g. 9-5), try to stick to these hours. Outside of an office environment it is incredibly easy to get caught up in your workload and keep going. Those “just five more minutes” soon add up and you won’t notice the time going in. If you don’t believe me, ask my mum. On more than one occasion, she’s had to pull me away from my work.
2. Set alarms so you can take regular, structured breaks. Try to keep the alarms the same as the times of your usual morning coffee / lunch / afternoon break at the office. Also, try to move around during those breaks, whether it’s a short walk or doing some chores (housework honestly isn’t that bad if you can break it up throughout the day).
3. As nice as it sounds, and as tempting as it might be, do NOT work from bed if you don’t have to. Your productivity and quality of work will not thank you for staying in bed.
4. Similarly, get dressed as if you’re going to the office! Working in your pyjamas – while comfy – isn’t beneficial to work productivity. Also, if you need to hold important meetings via Skype or Zoom, business / smart casual wear is better than Disney or Avenger PJs. (Hard to believe, I know! ;))
5. Try to find a space in the house that is clean and spacious to work. It will help you to concentrate better. Clutter lying around will only add to your stress levels and leave you unable to think clearly. Tidy desk, tidy mind, as the old cliché goes. But it’s true. (<– this is my little office space; I love it!).
6. Keep something healthy to eat close by. It’s scary how easy it is to grab a snack every fifteen minutes when you’re working from home – just because you can. Your routine has already been disrupted, don’t add to it by making poor food choices and making yourself feel worse.
7. Also, drink plenty of water to stay focused and hydrated.
8. If you require background noise, try not to press play on the latest Netflix series you need to binge-watch. Instead, go for a show or movie you know by heart, so you don’t need to pay attention. Or pick a playlist from Spotify – or make your own – there’s so many great options on there!
9. Make lists for what you need to do. In a less formal setting than an office, it can be easy to overlook a simple task. Adhere to the tasks on your lists and mark them off as you complete them. It will help show you what you’re achieving – hour by hour, day by day.
10. Don’t go on social media for a “quick scroll” through your newsfeed. That goes for your favourite websites / personal blogs too. Save it for your breaks – otherwise you are just wasting precious time in your day and you will quickly create a backlog of work for yourself.
11. If there are others in your house – whether kids or adults – it is important that they know you need to be left alone to work. It’s best to set this ground rule very early on. You aren’t being mean; it’ll be an adjustment for everyone involved, but they will understand. Plus, they can always put the kettle on just before you’re about to start a coffee break. 😉
12. Lastly, and most importantly, working from home may provide more freedom than an office environment, but it’s also crucial to remember that it can be lonely and isolating too. If you work for a small company, or live alone, a few days could easily go by before you realise you haven’t really spoken with another person.
13. On that note, make sure you check in with colleagues, friends or family who are in the same position, and who might be struggling with being alone right now, or finding it difficult to adjust to the change. Working from home is great for some, but not others. Look out for each other.
If anyone else has any hints or tips that help you work from home, please feel free to share, I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll also leave you with this; one of my favourite ever clips of how unpredictable working from home can be…