With COVID-19 spreading across the globe, there is currently a rise in people heeding government advice to work from home, in order to protect themselves and others. For many workers, the phenomenon of working away from the office may be new, and working away from colleagues, resources, and office routines may take some getting used to.
Working from home certainly has its benefits, from saving money on the daily commute and lunch expenses to giving you a better chance at achieving a work-life balance. However, it also has its challenges, from deciding boundaries between personal and work life, to making sure you maintain good working relationships with colleagues, remote working can take some trial and error to master.
Here are our top tips on working from home and avoiding distractions unique to the home environment.
When working from home it can be easy to work more hours than you would in the typical office routine. It’s important to set yourself a start and end time to your working day to keep focus and avoid burnout. Of course, working hours may vary depending on your job, but regardless if you’re working a 9-5 day or have the flexibility to determine your hours it will boost productivity to schedule in tasks and calls as you would in the office to maintain structure and purpose. Task management tools such as Asana and Trello may be useful to plan out your day and include scheduled breaks.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is the lack of valuable face to face time with colleagues and senior leaders. Keep in regular contact with colleagues by scheduling either a phone or Skype call once a day or use messaging services such as Slack to keep each other updated with your work and have an open line of communication to be able to ask questions or advice as quickly as you would in the office.
One of the advantages of working in an office or space away from your home is that you have clear distinctions between personal and professional, when you work from home there is a risk that these boundaries may blur. Your surroundings can have an impact on your mindset, so investing some time and perhaps money into setting up space in your home where you go to work will be beneficial to your productivity levels in the long term.
Everyone works differently and whilst some prefer to work in silence, others may need some background noise such as a podcast, radio, or music. If you’re in the latter group then it may help you to create a playlist of music or select a podcast in advance before you start working. One of the biggest productivity killers is digital distractions such as the TV, so if your background noise is the TV try and make sure you are faced away from the screen.
Even if you’re working from home, it’s vital you take a break at some point in the day from your computer screen and to invigorate your posture. If working from home means you can save time on your morning commute that would usually rob you of an hour or so, then one way to get some fresh air is to go for a morning or evening walk. Taking your lunch away from your computer screen should also be encouraged because it’ll make for a more productive afternoon if you’ve taken a proper break. Fresh air and movement are important for boosting creativity and productivity both inside and out of the office.
Communicating your basic working schedule or your availability during the day to family and friends from the outset is something you can do to ensure your personal and work life are kept separate whilst working remotely. It can be especially distracting if your partner, family member, or housemate also works from home or is at home when you’re working to get carried away in non-work related discussions, and to an extent, a quick coffee break and chat isn’t harmful at all – most people would have this in the office anyway. However, if you feel like the balance is off then it’s important to communicate your boundaries to protect your productivity.