Work from home like a pro

Working from home is not slacking off and do not believe those who say you can’t be as productive. Of course every job is different and for some working from home is challenging, but for many of us it is perfectly feasible. With tools like Facebook, Skype, Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams joining meetings and liaising with colleagues and clients should be easy.

Even before I was self-employed I found working from home at least a day a week very beneficial for lots of reasons. You save time on commuting and are less rushed to leave in the morning and get home, which for those with families and other commitments can make a big difference. Even if it’s just for a day a week, that’s one day a week you’re less stressed and of course it can save money as well. You gain a bit of self-care time – you could do a workout, put a wash on, call your mum, call the dentist and finally make that appointment you keep forgetting about – it could be anything. It’s just about giving you a little time back.

Personally, the biggest thing for me has always been the benefit of a little peace and quiet – that headspace to really get stuck into more intricate projects without the fear and disturbance of people constantly talking to you in an open plan office. It encourages a better work-life balance, which I think a lot of us need. I won’t deny that it’s also nice to not always have to dress smartly or wear makeup and having access to my Nespresso machine throughout the day is definitely a bonus.

It’s not all positive, of course. Working from home can be challenging not only because you’re not physically with colleagues or clients, but because it can be a little lonely, you can feel judged and worry that others will think you’re not being as productive. You can feel isolated and left out and of course there are lots of distractions at home. There is also a danger that work life and home life start to merge and the distinction between them becomes greyer.

So, I’ve put together some top tips for being both productive and also happy working at home:

  • Create a designated workspace – this won’t be easy for everyone, it depends on the layout of your home, but if you can, create an area that is just for work, so at the end of the day you can leave this space and unwind in a different zone of your home. Also, make it a space that you enjoy being in. You could jazz up your desk with a couple of plants or a bit of new stationary – whatever makes you smile.
  • Experiment with routines and find a good one that works for you. I like to get up, have my cuppa while checking the news and social media, and then I’ll pretty quickly have a shower and get dressed. I’ll also likely do a little housework in the morning if I have time.
  • Set yourself a realistic to do list and include one for home tasks too. Write down what you must get done each day and allocate a few home tasks if you want to. That way you won’t feel guilty for doing the ironing, but you also won’t be tempted to clean the bathroom either (if it’s not on your list that day).
  • Give yourself breaks and make these part of your routine. I know that midmorning I’ll make a coffee and I’ll do some kind of life-admin task or I’ll bung a wash on etc.
  • Have lunch – I don’t just mean grab a packet of crisps, I mean have a proper lunch break and eat something decent. I find planning this in advance helps, because I know when I’m busy with work I will just reach or anything that is quick and easy and doesn’t require any prep!
  • Check in with colleagues regularly, but not incessantly. This will give you a little peace of mind, but you also don’t want to be constantly interrupted.
  • Expect (in fact demand) trust from your colleagues or clients. If you’re working, you’re working. It doesn’t matter where you are – you should be judged on the work you produce at the end of the day.
  • Give yourself working hours the same way you would in an office and try as much as you can to stick to them. Shut down your computer when your work day is over.
  • Review what you’ve done each day. Feel good about what you’ve achieved and if there are incomplete tasks, rather than feeling bad about them, evaluate your routine that day, adapt and set yourself some more goals for tomorrow.
  • Lose the guilt – so you’re still in your pjs at midday and haven’t eaten anything decent yet, but you have been replying to emails on your phone and updating your social media channels. Sometimes if you actually review what you’ve done rather than what you haven’t done, you’ll realise you deserve more credit.
  • Exercise – this is a real risk associated with working from home. You must commit to getting up from your desk and get moving. Give yourself a designated time slot whether it’s for going to the gym, going for a walk or doing some zumba in your living room.
  • Fresh air – obviously at the moment it may not be possible for all to go out safely, but if it is safe to do so, go out EVERY DAY. Fresh air and green space are so important for our mental health. If you are self-isolating, see if you can get friends or family to drop off a few house plants and watch a nature documentary.
  • Talk to people! If you don’t have any calls or online meetings in a day, try to ring a friend or family member for a quick chat to flex those vocal chords if nothing else!
  • Mix it up – working from home can be boring, so as much as having a routine is helpful, a little variation can also be really good for us.
  • Music – try a little relaxing classical if you find working from home mind-numbingly quiet!

In the end it’s about finding a way of working that is best for you. It may take a little trial and error and a bit of getting used to, but the benefits can most definitely outweigh any apprehensions you may have.