During a hectic rush-hour commute, or sitting in a noisy, unpleasant office, working from home might seem like the dream. You’d be in control of your own time and environment, you can daydream, work in your PJs, eat ice cream for breakfast, or listen to your favorite tunes all day… However, as many people are currently finding out, making the shift to WFH can actually be stressful, frustrating, and bewildering. It can be lonely being away from colleagues, it can be difficult getting your day started, and just as hard to switch off at the end in the evening as routine goes out the window.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Although there are challenges to making home-working productive and enjoyable, there are benefits to it too. It’s all about addressing the challenges and making the most of the benefits. Here, we’ve collected tried-and-tested tips from people who have managed to make home-working work for them.
Make Space for Work…
If you have the space at home, it’s a good idea to set up a dedicated workspace. However, don’t fall into the trap of spending so long setting up the perfect, Pinterest-worthy work nook that you don’t have any time for your actual work! Unless you’re doing something complicated that requires multiple screens or specialist equipment, your workspace doesn’t need to be large or fancy. You just need a surface as separated from hustle and bustle as possible, a comfy seat, and an uncluttered background if you need to make video calls.
…But Don’t Be Afraid to Leave It
If you’ve spent a few hours sitting at your dedicated workspace but feel like you’re losing concentration, don’t be afraid to switch it up. Put your laptop on the kitchen counter and work standing up for a bit. Pull a chair over to the window, balance your laptop on your knees, and soak in the view while you write that difficult email. Change devices if possible, and write out a list or plan on your phone or tablet instead. As the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest.
Break Up Periods of Concentration
At home, we expect ourselves to somehow be able to concentrate for hours at a time, then get frustrated when we can’t. But think about it: in an office, your time tends to be more broken up, and you would rarely expect to concentrate for long without a phone call, a walk to the printer, or a colleague coming over with a query.
You can recreate these micro-breaks at home by setting timers for when you concentrate and when you stop. Google has inbuilt timers and stopwatches, or there are a number of apps that have more features, such as little plants that grow larger the longer you concentrate. If you’re having trouble getting started, start with just 10 minutes: 9 times out of 10, when that is up, you will have gotten into your task and want to continue.
Good things to do during these micro-breaks include physical activities, like stretching, running up and down the stairs, or doing a few minutes of yoga. Alternatively, try a quick task that is easily completed, like putting on a load of laundry, making the bed, or wiping down the surfaces. This will give you a sense of accomplishment that you’ll want to maintain.
Have a Pre-Work Ritual
Working from home has its benefits, and one of these is no commuting! However, that also means that you miss out on an important part of your routine that helps you get into “work mode”. Many people say that when working from home, getting started is the most difficult thing. Take a few minutes for yourself in the morning before you start working to establish a new routine to help get yourself into the right mindset.
This could be something as simple as making sure you get dressed in professional clothes – or even just switching your “night sweatpants” for “day sweatpants.” Some people swear by “walking to work” – going out into the street or the garden, walking around, then “arriving” at your desk. Alternatively, if you like to grab a coffee on the way to work in the morning, why not start your work-at-home day by crafting an elaborate brain-boosting coffee for yourself at home, and savoring it before you sit down to work?
Work With Your Circadian Rhythms
Another benefit of not being in an office is that you’re likely to have more control over your time. Sure, you may still be expected to be available certain hours, but no one is standing over you, so you’re measured more on output than just your presence in an office. That makes this the perfect time to pay attention to your circadian rhythm, and to work with it, not against it.
Do this by paying attention to the times of day when you are more productive, creative, decisive, able to concentrate, and so on, then plan tasks accordingly. On the other side of the coin, try to avoid forcing yourself to do tasks when you know it isn’t a good time.
For example, you might find that you are more able to focus first thing in the morning, making this a good time for writing-based tasks like compiling reports, drafting complicated emails, etc. Maybe you’re more creative later in the evening, so leave tasks that involve planning or problem-solving for this time. Many people find themselves sleepy and less creative after lunch – this can be a good time to schedule calls or meetings, to avoid eating into your more productive time. It’s all about listening to your body and finding a schedule that works for you.
Allow Yourself to Switch Off
Just as getting started can be difficult when you’re working from home, stopping can also be tough. After all, there isn’t a separation between home and work now. That’s why it’s extra important to set yourself boundaries and try to stick to them, even if you weren’t as productive as you wanted to be that day.
Take lunch breaks and make time to eat real food, not just grazing from the refrigerator. If you don’t normally work evenings or weekends at the office, don’t do it when you work from home either. Allow yourself time to spend with families or friends (virtually, if necessary) and make space for exercise and hobbies. Try not to check business emails outside of your work hours. No one is able to work 24/7, and just because your home is now your office, that isn’t going to magically change.
Be Kind to Yourself
Making the switch to working from home is difficult at the best of times, and usually involves a period of adjustment where you’re figuring out what works and what doesn’t – especially if you share your living space with others who are also trying to figure out the same thing. Be patient with yourself and others, and remember that no matter how important your job is to you, your productivity is not a measure of your worth.