Working from home is the norm for many people, but for those of us who are used to leaving our work at the office, it can be a bit of a shock to the system.
With governments around the world currently battling to control the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), lots of organisations are instructing their employees to self-isolate and work remotely where possible. Whether or not you've done this before, now is a great time to brush up on the do's and don'ts of working from home.
Challenges of Working from Home
If you've never worked from home before, the proposition might sound too good to be true: no morning commute, no meetings, no need to worry about ironing your shirt. A welcome relief from the stress of the office environment.
But home working comes with many unique challenges of its own. Depending on the type of work you do, you may find that:
- It's difficult to focus on work when you're at home and surrounded by distractions
- You work less effectively when you don't have access to certain pieces of software / equipment
- The people you live with - as much as you love them - don't make ideal work colleagues
- You get bored and lonely without any co-workers around
- It's far too easy to fall into unhealthy habits
But don't fret. It's perfectly possible to work from home - even for an extended period of time - and continue to put in an outstanding performance every single day, just like you always do.
If you're working from home right now and it's proving harder than you expected, here are ten top tips from the team here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions...
1. Get dressed.
The opportunity to stay in your pyjamas all day can seem like a great perk of working from home, but as any seasoned stay-at-home grafter will tell you, it's actually quite difficult to get into a productive, professional state of mind when you're still wearing the clothes you slept in.
Wear comfortable clothes, by all means - there's no need to put on a suit if nobody's going to see it - but changing out of your PJs and generally making yourself look presentable (that means showering, shaving, etc.) will go a long way to helping you maintain your normal work rate.
2. Stick to a consistent routine.
Moving your work from the office to the home is always disruptive - the trick is to minimise that disruption. Stick to your normal routine as much as you possibly can: continue going to bed and getting up at the usual times, have breakfast before you start work, and so forth. The more you deviate from your usual routine, the harder you'll find it to sustain your usual productivity.
Of course, some things will have to change, but try to incorporate those changes into a new routine that you can adhere to until you're back in the office. For example, if you usually start the day with a team meeting, conduct that meeting via conference call instead.
3. Shut out distractions.
Your home is probably where you keep all of your favourite things, and even when you've got a lot of work to do, it can be difficult to ignore the call of your games consoles, books, box sets, musical instruments, or whatever it is you tend to reach for when you're hanging around the house.
So willpower is critical when you're working from home. If you can't resist the temptation to play with your phone or watch TV, move those things to a different room so they're out of your reach during office hours. If you can't stop checking Twitter or Instagram, consider changing your password to something that's hard to remember. Put as many barriers as possible between you and those productivity-poisoning distractions!
And speaking of distractions...
4. Manage your contact with those around you.
If you live alone - or if the people you live with aren't home during the day - then you can skip this one. But if you're going to be working from home while your housemates or loved ones are also pottering about, it's important to lay out some ground rules right from the start.
This might mean asking them (nicely) to leave you alone during work hours, or at least keeping their fascinating conversation topics to themselves until you break for lunch. This can be an awkward conversation, especially if you're telling your children to keep out of the way, but interpersonal interruptions will do you no favours while you're doing your best to work.
5. Find a working space that works for you.
Working from home can be tricky if you don't have a dedicated workspace in your house or flat. The kitchen table can be a good substitute for a desk, but don't be afraid to try a variety of different places to find the location that's most suited to your productivity.
Four words of advice, though: don't work from bed! Everything we said about staying in your pyjamas all day goes double for staying in bed, plus it's far better for your posture to work in a place where you can sit up straight.
6. Stay in touch with the team.
Isolating yourself from your co-workers can be a depressing experience (or not, depending on what you think of your co-workers) - but just because you're not in the same room doesn't mean you can't stay in the loop.
While you're working from home, try to keep up the chatter via email or instant messages. Make sure every member of the team has a rough idea of what their colleagues are doing, and this will help to keep everyone singing in harmony even while separated from one other.
7. Don't let work bleed into your downtime...
Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you no longer have a right to free time and privacy. Stick to your usual working hours. Don't answer emails or work-related calls in the evening if you wouldn't normally be expected to do so. And make time to relax!
8. ...but don't let your downtime bleed into your work, either!
Of course, tip number seven goes both ways. During the times when you would normally be in the office, it's your responsibility to stay focused and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Try to keep a clearly-defined boundary between your office hours and your private time, and don't let activities from one side cross into the other.
9. Ask your employer for the things you need.
If your job is reliant on a specific piece of software or a line of communication with another department, your boss should strive to ensure that these things remain available to you. Don't let your employer tell you that you have to produce the same quantity and quality of work as usual if they're unwilling to meet you halfway.
That being said, you won't get anything you don't ask for, so don't be afraid to send your boss a polite email containing a list of everything you'll need to work effectively at home.
10. Stay healthy!
As we mentioned earlier, it's easy to fall into unhealthy habits when you're no longer leaving the house for work every day. There are kitchen cupboards to raid, comfy chairs to spend all day slouching in, and no co-workers around to pressure you into getting up and making a round of coffees. If you usually walk to work, that might be quite a bit of exercise you're no longer getting.
All of which means you may have to make an extra effort to stay healthy during this period. So, some final tips:
- Make time for regular exercise, even if you can't go outdoors
- Be mindful of your posture - sit up straight!
- Try not to stay remain seated for more than an hour at a time
- Stay hydrated
- Look after yourself both physically and mentally
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