As efforts continue to halt the spread of the Coronavirus, the UK is adjusting to a very new normal. For most people that means many weeks of working from home, as offices close and staff work remotely amid the ongoing lockdown. While working from home has its obvious perks, it also has many pitfalls.
For those more used to the bustle and buzz of an office environment, adjusting to a solitary 9-5 in the same four walls can be hard. It’s all too easy to lose momentum and start feeling your productivity tail off, with too many distractions and not enough routine to keep you motivated. To help, the WIPPD team has put together our top tips for working from home.
It’s easier said than done, but minimising distractions around the home can help you maintain your focus. It’s worth setting up a dedicated working space, which you can train your brain to see as separate from the rest of your living environment. If you can have a space for work and a space for play, you will be less tempted to do one when you should be doing the other. That works both ways. It’s also a good idea to recreate some of the regular office feel to your workspace, keeping it tidy and distraction-free. Elliot Harris, Community Associate at WeWork, suggests following the lead of professional office designers: “Try to add some plants to your workspace, ensure you are getting enough daylight and declutter your desk.”
On top of that, some minimising distractions is just common sense – don’t put a load in the washing machine when you need to concentrate, don’t stick a film on in the background. Keep domestic tasks and work tasks as far apart as you can, because you don’t have the headspace to manage both at the same time.
Dress Like You Mean Business
It’s amazing the impact clothes can have on your attitude. When you work from home, there’s always a temptation to stay in your PJs or slip into some comfy joggers, but overly-casual clothing can cultivate an overly-casual mindset.
This is advice Shruti Saujani, City Programmes Manager for the England and Wales Cricket Board, is entirely on-board with. She says: “It’s so important to get up and get dressed, this will help you mentally and physically look and feel good for the day ahead.” While we’re not suggesting you don the full shirt, tie and blazer combo, dressing in smart-casual workwear can really alter the way you approach your working day.
Just because you’re working alone doesn’t mean you can’t delegate. Stay in touch with your colleagues in the same way you would during regular office hours, and remember that some people will be better set up to handle some tasks than others.
Also remember that outsourcing is a valuable resource at these times. Routine tasks can add to the already high levels of distraction when you work from home, meaning you can’t focus on the more important tasks. If you outsource the little things to a professional company, it frees you up to whittle down your own to-do list and stay productive.
Take Regular Breaks
Regular breaks are important when you work from home, whether it’s a short walk around the garden or just popping for a cuppa and a quick chat with family. Upside’s Director and Head of Projects, Indy Hothi, recommends a timing structure such as the Pomodoro framework, with online tools such as https://tomato-timer.com/ to help. This involves deciding on a task to focus on, setting a timer for between 25 to 45 minutes and working until the timer goes off. Once the alarm has sounded, take a short three- to five-minute break and move onto the second stage. After four rounds of this, reward yourself with a longer break of 15 minutes to half an hour, then go back to the beginning.
Breaks are a valuable opportunity to hit the reset button and clear your head. While you can plan your work schedule on a larger scale, building in breaks has been proven to boost productivity. Don’t think of it as an indulgence, breaks are a necessity when you’re working from home!
Stick to Office Hours
While a lie-in here and there might be tempting, sticking to your standard working hours really will help in so many ways. When you work from home it’s all too easy to ‘redistribute’ your working time. Starting late or knocking off early can throw your usual pattern and productivity, especially if you shift some of that work to the evening with a glass of wine in hand.
While underworking is a danger, so is overworking. Don’t skip your weekends or family time, because trying to do too much might seem manageable for a couple of weeks, but soon results in burnout. One way to combat that temptation is to factor in those frequent breaks we’ve already discussed. Dara Chauhan, NatWest’s Director of Commercial Banking, encourages his team to use the 55-5 method – that means 55 minutes at your desk and 5 minutes of time-out. Use that five minutes of clear headspace to connect with something completely different, training your brain to switch off when you’re away from your desk.
Overall, working from home can be just as effective as working in a dynamic office environment. By trying to maintain your routine and building a wall between ‘family time’ and ‘work time’, you can maintain your productivity and motivation. For help with routine office tasks, consider outsourcing to an expert firm such as WIPPD.
Above all, see that you make time for yourself and those that matter in these challenging times. You’ll soon find the silver linings to working from home, and ensure you lose none of your enthusiasm for the job.