From finding the right environment to establishing structure, iCrossing UK’s Catherine Falla shares her top tips for working from home
Pretend you are going to work
The association you make with being present in the office and work can help you feel more productive, and there's no reason you should lose that feeling when you’re working from home.
Try to do all the things you would normally do if you were coming into the office, such as:
Set your alarm. A regular wake time will be good for your body clock and get your brain working more effectively
Get some fresh air in the garden before sitting at your computer and maybe take your ‘takeaway’ coffee (home brew in a reusable cup) with you
Wear what you would normally wear if you were heading to the office
Do whatever helps you to feel more human and ready for the day.
Find your workspace
Try to differentiate your workspace from your home space to help you get into the right frame of mind. Find a spot in your house where you can set up your ‘home office’, if possible, separate from where you spend your downtime (e.g. not in bed or on the sofa, which also isn’t great for your posture).
Apply the same rules to your computer. Try to stay off websites you wouldn’t normally visit if you were at work, such as social media and the never-ending stream of news, until you’re taking a break.
Browsers like Chrome allow you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars, so you can have one for home and one for work.
Take clear breaks
It’s easy to become so involved in your work that you forget about breaks altogether. We can't stress enough how important it is to take regular breathers – and to make them count. Get away from your desk and your phone if possible. Go for a walk in the garden or spend time with others in the house.
Doing your laundry or loading the dishwasher is a built-in timer for your home. Committing to one task during the wash cycle can train you to remember it’s time for a break (and help you tick off some chores at the same time – #WFHWinning).
Check your posture
Sitting correctly is crucial for your health and productivity in the office, and it’s no different when you’re working from home.
Make sure you have a comfortable and well-supported seat in your workspace and that your computer is at the right height, so you aren’t hunched over all day. The NHS has some simple and clear guidelines on how to check you’re sitting at your desk correctly.
If you can, try standing at your computer for a bit if you have something safe and at the right height to rest your computer on (maybe a high chest of drawers or secure shelf).
Structure your day like you would in the office
When working from home, you often have less in-person meetings to break up your day, so can quickly lose focus or burn out.
Try to segment what you'll do when, over the course of the day. Create personal events and reminders in Outlook that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks or take a break.
Pick a definitive finishing time each day and stick to it like you would if you were leaving to go home. This will help you switch off and relax for the evening.
Work in short bursts
Ever heard that old saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person"? The theory is; if you're in motion, you'll stay in motion. And busy people are in fast-enough motion that they have the momentum to complete anything that lands on their desk.
So ‘sprint working’, in 45-60-minute chunks of focused work (followed by a short break) can be an effective way to break up the day and maintain your concentration levels.
Switch off so you can switch on
It’s easy to get distracted with all the instant messages, emails and other notifications coming in. And getting back on track after you’ve been interrupted can be tricky. If you really need to focus on something, you can silence them all (usually under the settings menu).
Updating your status to ‘on lunch’ or ‘do not disturb’ will also let people know that you need space to work on something and take the pressure off you feeling the need to respond immediately. Apps like Focus allow you to snooze pop-ups from your browser and concentrate on being more productive.
Eat well and stay hydrated
Try to eat slow-release foods to help maintain energy levels, which may be lower than usual when stuck indoors. And avoid sugar spikes that can cause you to just as quickly crash. The charity Mind has created a useful video on the best foods to improve your mood.
Plan ahead so you don’t end up snacking on whatever is available at the back of the cupboard (in my case, some stale mini cheddars). And eat meals away from your desk.
Get meals delivered
Don’t want to wait four hours in line on the Ocado app? No stress. There are loads of great recipe food boxes you can still sign up to and many of them have great discounts for new subscribers. Cook the meals and save some for lunch or even freeze them for another day. Try:
Pasta Evangelists – at the time of writing offering a 20% discount for newbies and 5% off for existing customers
Hello Fresh – at the time of writing offering 35% off your first four boxes
Morrisons has also started delivering weekly food boxes, enough to feed two people for a week for £35
Work when you’re most productive
Nobody sprints through their work from morning to evening; your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day.
When you’re working from home, however, it can be easy to slip into continuous hours of work without being interrupted (unless you have children at home!).
Think about when you feel most energised and plan your heavy lifting tasks for when you know you'll be in the right headspace for them. And use slower points of the day to knock out the easier tasks. You can call these tasks ‘small acts of success’, and the quick wins can help build your momentum for heavier projects that are waiting for you later on.
Finally, remember that we’re all in this together. This strange time won’t last forever and will soon be a distant memory. We’ll soon be back in the office, scrambling for meeting rooms and complaining about the broken coffee machine again.
Hopefully, one good thing that will come from all this is a new appreciation of successful flexible working practices, which is part of our business as usual at iCrossing UK (albeit not to this extreme!).
Take care of yourselves and don’t forget, your manager and HR are just at the end of a video connection, if you need to see a friendly face (possibly in PJs).
Posted on: Tuesday 14 April 2020