Working from home is not a choice all of us would make, but in recent times, it’s become compulsory for much of the country. Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing while homeworking is key to remaining productive and positive throughout what might prove to be a challenging time for many. We’ve pulled together some top tips on how to thrive when working in the home environment – especially if it’s new to you.
Your work station
Lots of us don’t have a separate office at home, but it’s important to try and create an area that is your designated homeworking station. Even if this needs to be put up and taken down at the beginning and end of every day, it’s worth creating a clear distinction as it’s important to separate home and work life as much as possible.
It’s also a good idea to create a view or environment which isn’t intertwined with your homelife. The kitchen table may be an obvious choice for you to set up your laptop, but if you can see last night’s washing up or are at risk of being constantly interrupted by other members of your household, it might be a better idea to find a more secluded spot so you can concentrate on your day job.
If the space you have chosen has a different purpose after office hours, be strict with yourself about packing everything away and out of sight when you clock off. Those who work from home can run the risk of never really leaving work, and this can lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed and resentful.
Starting your day
It might be tempting to have a lie in, crawl out of bed at 8.55 and log into your email in your pyjamas, but resist the temptation! To help create a clear distinction between home and work, it’s important to get up, showered and dressed ready to begin your day as though you were going into an office where you need to adopt your professional persona.
Make the most of the time you’ll be saving on your commute by doing something productive that you wouldn’t normally have time to do. This could be going for a jog or doing some yoga, or perhaps reading with your children or baking yourself something delicious to enjoy for your morning or afternoon break. If, like many, working at home isn’t your preferred choice, one of the secrets to making it for you to do something, every day, that you couldn’t do if you were still working in the office.
If you’re finding it hard to adjust to the new routine, you could always continue to ’commute’ to work. Simply leave the house, walk around the block and come back in and go straight to your workstation. If it helps to wear a suit/smart work attire, then don’t be afraid to go the whole hog.
Your family or housemates
Try to impress upon other members of your household, that your workspace and time needs to be respected – as much as if you were in an office outside of the home. Create specific and clear boundaries about your working hours, and communicate as early as possible if you need to work late, just as you would if you were still in the office.
Of course, this isn’t always easy to uphold, especially when there are children in the house who are too young to understand the rules. In this case you could consider not letting the little ones know you’ve come back into the house after you leave on your ‘commute’.
If you work in an office, life can be pretty sedentary - even more so if you don’t even get to leave the house in the morning. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t stay fit and healthy whilst working from home. Going for a morning jog, committing to a daily online work-out, taking a lunchtime bike ride or even just going for a brisk walk at the end of your working day – you actually have more time to yourself now you are working from home, so take the opportunity to up your fitness levels rather than let them slide.
Unhealthy snacking isn’t a problem exclusive to working from home, but the temptations are often greater as you know full well what treats were in your weekly shop and that they are less than a 30-second walk away from your desk.
Creating a meal plan - including snacks - for the entire week will help you keep track of what you’re eating. It may seem a little OTT, but by making a weekly, balanced plan, (including some indulgences, of course) removes the element of choice on a day-to-day basis. This is half the battle won as you won’t be sitting at your desk weighing up whether or not you should have a piece of cake or an apple at your morning break. Removing the ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ inner monologue will keep you eating well and give you more head space for getting on with your work.
Drinking lots of water is something we should all do, every day, wherever we work and whatever we do. But sometimes a change in routine can see even some of the most basic habits going out of the window as we adjust to a new environment.
If you’re working from home for the first time and are trying to get to grips with all of the logistical and emotional challenges it can bring up, the last thing you need is a headache or a lack of energy because you’re dehydrated. Lots of us rely on the good habits of others to help us remember to drink water throughout the day, so working in isolation can mean that these good habits slip quickly. Fill a large jug of water at the beginning of every day and leave it in view, preferably on your desk, and have a glass that you constantly refill throughout your working day. Reward yourself with a tea or coffee at regular intervals if you’ve had a certain amount of your daily intake.
Managing a team
Lots of managers will be nervous about looking after the welfare and productivity of a team if everyone is working from home. It’s important that you make it clear what your expectations are from the beginning, but also that you have individual conversations with your staff about their specific circumstances, any challenges they may face and worries they might have.
Help set welfare goals for individuals and the whole team using some of the ideas above. Perhaps a weekly workout together, a water drinking challenge or just a share a snap of your daily burst of fresh air. These will not only help keep everyone happy and healthy, but will help with team bonding and morale.
Working from home can make individuals feel cut off from the ‘real’ world. Most of us spend a lot of our day emailing colleagues, clients and contacts and it’s easy to forget how important it is to see and hear other human beings. Pick up the phone or make a video call several times a day to make sure you get that buzz of human-human contact (albeit one step removed). It’s not the same as being with someone in person, but you’d be surprised at how much it will lift your day by making the effort to connect in a more personal way.
Socialising with colleagues or clients is also something that can go out the window when you’re working from home. Why not arrange a video ‘conference’ with a small group of people at 5pm on a Friday after work and enjoy a cup of tea or glass of wine together? It will help give everyone closure for the week and give everyone a lift and hopefully a laugh.
…remember, working from home is like any part of your life. You will have good days and bad days and it’s important to accept this. Use the weekends to regroup when necessary and refocus on your individual goals on Sunday night, ready for a fresh start on Monday morning.