Thought Pieces

How to work from home*

How to work from home*

How to work from home* banner image

(*hint, it’s not as easy as you think)

It seems as if Coronavirus has changed the fabric of the world overnight. As a nation, we are now using words like ‘isolation’, ‘contamination’ and ‘pandemic’ regularly, words which have not been part of the common vernacular in the last 100 years.

This virus is forcing us all to think very differently and very quickly about how to keep ourselves and each other safe. At the time of writing, many staff who have never routinely worked at home are now suddenly entering their fourth or fifth week of home working. This is around the time when the appeal of working in your pyjamas, mainlining digestives and tea starts to wane.

Discipline is vitally important when approaching home working and so here are my best tips to support you in the coming months until life returns to some normality:

Be presentable

There is no need to be “suited and booted” whilst working at home. However, it is important to get showered and dressed so you continue to feel like you are at work. We are using Microsoft Teams or Zoom more frequently and you might be joining a video call at short notice! Be prepared!

Stick to a daily routine

Structure and routine are important when working at home. Write a daily “To do” list to keep you focused. Keep your work diary up to date. Tackle more challenging pieces of work during the time of day when you know you are at your best.

Workspace

By now you will have all identified a suitable workspace within your home. That might be the kitchen table, an office or a desk in the hall. It needs to be somewhere you can work uninterrupted if need be. At the end of each working day tidy your workspace up and follow the clear desk policy. It is important to “step away” from work and close down your laptop when you work from home. The boundaries between work and home can easily get blurred.

Output

Working from home is no different to working in the office in as far as we are all still expected to meet deadlines and deliver on outputs. The rapidly changing advice for Covid-19 may affect our project deadlines but we need to be responsive and continue to work in a productive manner.

Keep in contact

Keep in contact with colleagues, your line-manager and clients on a regular basis. It is a good idea to have one or two calls booked each day or to make contact with others at some point every day. Be supportive towards others. Ask colleagues if they need you to work on anything with them. Ideas like a virtual ‘café’ are great for informal interactions.

We recognise that we will all go “stir crazy” at some point during the coming weeks. Increase the contact with colleagues and managers by phone and email throughout the coming weeks.

Press print

In the workplace we often print documents but it may not be possible to print documents to the same extent at home. Home printers are not as effective as those in the office! However, you can still often print relevant sections of long documents at home. Most employers should allow you to claim for expenses incurred working from home, agree this in advance.

Stay hydrated and take your lunch break:

Look after yourself whilst working at home. Remember to stay hydrated and take short tea breaks! Have a lunch break and take time out to eat and relax.

Boundaries

Working from home requires trust between your business and team members. Some interruptions are inevitable if you are working from home. In addition, these are very worrying and rapidly changing times. Family and friends might message / call as a result of the latest update they have watched on the news about Covid-19 or just to have a chat. You will need to use your judgement at the time in relation to how to respond. Do you have a deadline? Is the call urgent? Can the call wait until after work? Are you feeling isolated? Will taking a short call cheer you up? You may have elderly family members who are in isolation. It might be very important for you to keep in contact with them during the working day.

Exercise

Stand up and walk about at home during the day. Go out for a walk at lunchtime. You don’t need to spend the whole day sitting or standing at a desk / table. Going for a short walk can really help (if you are not self- isolating). Sometimes we need time out to reflect on upon the work we are doing. A walk can really help.

Domestic tasks

Whilst working at home it can be tempting (for some) to quickly run the hoover over a room, cook or put the washing machine on. Remember you won’t be spending time commuting to and from the office so you will have additional time for domestic tasks before you start work and after work as a result.

Finally – Step away from the biscuits and chocolate!


Sue Salas is a Senior Consultant at Niche

Contact Sue.Salas@nicheconsult.co.uk

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