The essential guide to working from home
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How are you going to use the time you'd normally spend on a train, or driving to a meeting? Not travelling means you suddenly free up a few more hours in the day, so use that time to get on top of your inbox, enjoy a big breakfast with your family or do something that boosts your wellness – like meditating, reading a book or doing some exercise.
From an ironing board in your bedroom to a corner of the dining room table, a great way to improve productivity when working from home (WFH) is creating a workspace you can call your own. For starters, why not try using a mini white board to jot down inspiration as and when it strikes? Or use A4 folders to store those important documents. You can even bring a little of the outside in with a few house plants - they'll do wonders for your mood.
Seating's also important: avoid aches and pains by selecting a table and chair that are at the right height for you – there are plenty of online resources you can use to check your posture. Check in with yourself throughout the workday to make sure you aren’t leaning forward or slouching, as this can cause tension in your back and neck.
For those of us using a laptop, if you can try a standalone monitor - it'll mean you aren’t looking down all the time. And an ergonomic keyboard and mouse can reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury. If you plan to be on the phone a lot of the time, it might be worth channelling your favourite 90s boyband and try out a hands-free headset.
Noise cancelling headphones could also come in handy if you want to work in peace and quiet (we're looking at you, toddlers and noisy housemates).
It doesn’t matter how good you feel in your unicorn onesie, swapping leisurewear for a client-facing outfit can help you keep you focused on work. If you are used to the noise of people around you, you might find that playing music or turning on the radio helps you get down to business quicker. Or try a service like Coffitivity, which plays the ambient sounds of a range of social spaces – from a Parisian patisserie to a Brazilian coffeehouse.
But, remember to stick to a routine
Yes you don't need to leave the house at a certain time to catch that train, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on the time while working from home. Getting into a routine can help you keep focused, so plan to sit down at your desk at the same time each morning, take a regular lunch break and allocate blocks of time to particular projects. You could even try out a time management method like the Pomodoro Technique, where you break your workday into 25-minutes segments, punctuated by short (five minute) and longer (20 minute) breaks.
Scheduling in breaks is one thing, using them effectively is another. When it’s time to stop, stand up and move to another part of the house. Make yourself a coffee and take a walk around the garden or grab a yoga mat for a full-body stretch. Breaks should remove you from your workspace and reset your brain ready for the next chunk of work, so resist the urge to get sucked into the latest episode of Westworld.
... only work when it’s time to work
Tell the laundry basket it'll just have to wait, as multi-tasking with chores and work can damage your productivity levels. Avoid blurring the boundaries between work and home life by concentrating on professional tasks during office hours (even if you aren’t sticking to a traditional 9-5 day) and keeping personal tasks to outside of those office hours. At the end of your day, sign out or turn off notifications for your work-related email and instant messaging accounts, especially if you are using your personal device to WFH.
Where possible, ask family and friends to try and avoid disturbing you during your workday. It might be useful to put up a sign on your door when you really need to concentrate. Silencing or switching off your social media notifications can also help prevent you from reaching for your phone every few minutes – Instagram will still be there at the end of the day.
If you're used to collaborating with a team in a busy office, you might feel a little isolated. But you're not alone. Keep the channels of communication open with software like Skype and Slack, schedule remote meetings via Zoom, and continue to grow your network by connecting with other people in your industry via LinkedIn.
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