By Jacyln Stoker, Iluminet
As concerns over Coronavirus rise and we try to balance health and economic priorities many people will need to consider alternative working arrangements – and working from home will become the obvious choice.
Working from home is something that I’ve done for many years and is certainly my preferred way of working. However, it doesn’t come without its challenges! But with a few adaptations, and the right mindset, it can be a positive and productive way to work.
If you find yourself working from home over the next few weeks or months, here are some tips to help you.
7 tips to make working from home ‘work’.
Set a designated space
It’s all about planning and mindset. Try to give yourself a designated space to work. Ideally this should be away from your main living area (or bedroom!!). If you don’t have a home office, can you adapt a spare bedroom, a corner of the dining room or even a cupboard? For many years my office space was in the wardrobe in the spare bedroom! What’s important is that you can walk away from it. It’s also an area that you go to in order to go to work – one that you will come to associate with working.
There is, of course, the temptation to sit on the sofa or lounge in bed while doing your work. Whist that is fine if you are doing the occasional bit of work, it’s not ideal when you are a home worker. Not only is it likely to lead to health problems (back and neck issues in particular), but there is also the danger that you will not, psychologically, be in ‘work mode’. Which,of course, will mean you are not as productive.
Turn laptops off/put paperwork away
Set yourself clear hours that you are going to work. Once your working day is over make sure you turn your laptop off and clear away your papers. If you leave things out there is always the temptation to go back to them – and the danger is that you’ll just answer this one last email. And 3 hours later you’re still working!! Trust me, I’ve done it many times!!
That’s not to say that you need to stick to a strict 9-5 routine. Personally I like to split my day so I have a few set times when I work with time off in between. I find I’m more productive and I get a better work / life balance. The key is to find what works for you – and stick to it.
Get ready to work
I know of many people who will sit around in their pyjamas working, but for most of us getting dressed will help put us in the right frame of mind. I even know of someone who puts his shirt and tie on before starting work in his home office! For him, he’s then in ‘work mode’.
Other people need to follow some of the same morning routines that they did when they had to go to the office. I know many people who will go for a short walk then, when they come home they have, psychologically, arrived at work.
For me, my ‘commute time’ is spent taking the dogs for a walk. It gives me structure whilst at the same time relaxing me and clearing my head ready for the day ahead.
Whatever you do, give yourself a morning routine.
I’m not here, I’m at work
For me this is one of the most important things to get right. Successful home working is not just about your mindset. Family and friends need to understand that, whilst you may be in the house, you are ‘at work’. So No, it’s not ok to pop in for coffee and a catch up. And No, you won’t have done the housework, etc.
You will need to become very good at saying “No” and managing the expectations of others.
Of course, there will be times when you can be more flexible and change your work routine. But again, plan that into your diary and make sure you reschedule your work time. Working from home has meant that I’ve never missed my daughters school events – and have never had to use my precious holiday entitlement to go to them.
Limit the “I’ll just …” moments
There is a real danger of falling into the “I’ll just …” trap. I’ll just pop the washing in / run the hoover round / watch this TV programme… I could go on! But really this is just procrastination and it will invariably lead to a more stressful and less productive working day.
It all comes back to getting into the mindset of “I’m not at home, I’m at work”.
Linked to this of course are those people who follows the sensible work routine beautifully. But then fill every break with household tasks. Taking a break should be exactly that – a chance to go for a walk, have a cuppa, turn off and recharge your batteries. Otherwise you are going to be exhausted and unproductive
Make time to talk
Whilst we go to work to do a job, there is much more to it than that.
One of the things I most commonly find people struggling with when working from home is the lack of social interaction. You no longer have someone sitting at the desk next to you who you can bounce ideas around with. Someone who you can ask for help if you are struggling. Gone are the water cooler conversations about what was on TV last night, your plans for the weekend etc.
It is therefore vital that you make time to interact with your colleagues, on both work related matters and just for a general chat. Pick up the phone and stay in touch – a lot!
You may find that your reporting systems (either formally or informally) will change. Make sure your manager knows how your workload is going. Once again, communication is key.
In these times where working from home may have been thrust upon you, this is particularly important. You will both need to get used to this new way of working.
As someone who has lead remote teams for many years I always made a point of speaking to those in my team most days. This was never about checking up on them – but about checking in to make sure they were ok. About knowing if they needed any support. And, if I’m honest, about me getting some social interaction with the team – something that was important to me.
A great way to work
Whether working from home is a conscious choice or something that has been thrust upon you, it can be a fantastic way to work. There are so many advantages. Gone are the days of long commutes, busy offices, shop bought lunches.
Instead you have much more autonomy and flexibility. It can give you a much better work life balance and time to spend on those things that really matter to you. For those of you who a concerned about the environment, there are huge benefits. You’ll save a fortune on travel and parking costs. You can be around to do the school run. The list is endless – I love that I get to work whilst being with my dogs (although it can get quite tricky when I’m typing and they are trying to sit in my knee!!).
As I said, successful home working is all about planning and mindset. If you get these right both you and your business will reap the rewards.
Give it a go – you never know, you might just love it.
About the Author – Jaclyn Stoker
Jaclyn’s career has been varied – from college lecturer to national training manager; from working with staff to offering coaching, advice and training to customers; from developing strategies and processes to being ‘hands on’ and leading teams; from working locally to travelling the country; from starting a career with small local companies to spending 16 years with a major FTSE 100 international organisation. All of this experience has led her to her career today as a coach, trainer and NLP Practitioner.