Working from Home

Working From Home: A Helpful Guide

Working from home is certainly a sign of the times.

Vast improvements in technology have allowed us to connect to our workplace and colleagues with the click of a mouse. While remote working was once looked at as something of a convenience and/or a privilege, more recent events – namely the COVID-19 global pandemic – have made it necessary for many of us to avoid the office altogether and work from home. A study from Zapier found that workers on average tend to spend more hours of the day carrying out meaningful work: 6.2 hours compared to 5.7 hours for office workers. Flexjobs survey supports the view that stay-at-home-workers’ efforts are more fruitful: a whopping 65% of them are more productive than their office-going counterparts.

If you’re more of a social butterfly who thrives around other people and you’re finding this time particularly challenge, here are some guidelines to help you out.

Working from Home

The first rule of working from home? Devise a routine!

Having a routine is essential for focus.

When you don’t have the motivation of having to get to your workplace on time, it’s certainly tempting to wear out the snooze button and start your day whenever the feeling grabs you. However, this aimlessness will make you feel disorganized, and as it will more than likely cause you to have undefined starting and finishing times, your efforts to create the boundary between work and play will be hindered.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t set your own hours. You don’t need to put pressure on yourself to get up at 7am every day, especially now that you don’t have that long commute to slog through. However, it is important to have a solid timeframe and procedure in place – and of course, keep in mind the schedules of your co-workers and manager too, so that you can coordinate with them.

‘Dress for the job you have, not the location that you’re in’

Working from Home

Your dress code doesn’t have to be exactly the same as if you were heading out to the office – wearing a pencil skirt and stilettos around your living room is not obligatory!

However, feeling and looking put together can help motivate you to work and be productive. Wearing the clothes that you associate with resting and sleeping will make you want to do just those things: rest and sleep.

It will also come in handy if there are any unexpected video calls, as it will save you the stress of a hasty outfit change!

Invest in a solid working area where possible.

If you don’t have a spare room to use as an office, try to section off part of another room. A good desk and chair will do wonders! Once you have your efficient working space, you’ll want efficient internet to match – few things are as frustrating as a slow connection when you’re trying to meet a deadline.

If the signal in your dedicated room isn’t fast enough, you can purchase an ethernet cable. Bear in mind, however, that you will have to deal with a few extra metres of wire, and it will limit the device on which you’re working to one location. If a cable isn’t feasible, you could look into getting a Wi-Fi extender/powerline adapter

Working from Home

We’ll leave the technical talk to the experts – here are some good resources if you want more information about either of these options: Ethernet Cables Powerline Adapters

Communicate, and communicate some more.

Make sure that your channels of communication with colleagues and bosses are airtight and efficient, as one of the main reasons for remote workers having low levels of productivity is inefficient communication. (Source: McKinsey)

As mentioned, you’ll need an internet connection that is fast enough to prevent your video calls from lagging. There are also many free programmes, apps, and software that will help oil the wheels of communication amongst your team.

Slack has become increasingly popular recently, for employees that work from home and from the office. This instant-messaging programme contains a streamlined interface and allows you to correspond with members of your team individually or as a group.

A shared drive and cloud storage will also prove extremely useful for keeping documents that everyone on the team needs to view and edit. WeTransfer will help you to send larger files, and SharePoint allows you to share files, news and resources, and collaborate with your colleagues. If you’re an avid note-taker, OneNote will come in handy.

Toggl will help you track how long you’re spending on activities and tasks, which is beneficial for you in adhering to your schedule, and may also be of use to your boss if they’d like to track your hours worked.

As most of your interactions with your co-workers will be virtual, it’s worth finding a good method for video conferencing. We use Zoom for our conference calls, and have always found it to be straightforward, efficient and reliable.

Click here for a good resource on getting started with video conferencing.

Deal with distractions.

Remote workers may experience fewer distractions at home than at work (no co-workers knocking on your door every ten minutes), but this isn’t true for everyone. You’ll want to set some parameters, particularly if there are others in the house while you’re working, so your conference calls won’t be interrupted by doors slamming or a blaring T.V.

Working from Home

You can find yourself picking up your phone to check a message or answer a call and the next thing you know you’re scrolling through Instagram, Twitter etc. Not many people know this but you can install a programme which blocks certain apps, therefore removing the temptation. Anti Social and Cold Turkey will do this for you, and they’re both free.

Another strategy is to find other ways to differentiate between work and home, for example, changing clothes, moving into another room, or starting into your home activities, such as cooking dinner or watching T.V. Just as a work routine is essential, a ‘home routine’ is important too. While it doesn’t need to be as strict and structured, defining the activities you need to and want to carry out will help you to take your mind off your work and direct your focus onto something else.

There’s a fine line between work and play.

Working from Home

You can find yourself picking up your phone to check a message or answer a call and the next thing you know you’re scrolling through Instagram, Twitter etc. Not many people know this but you can install a programme which blocks certain apps, therefore removing the temptation. Anti Social and Cold Turkey will do this for you, and they’re both free.

At least when it comes to working from home, that is.

If you have kids, they more than likely won’t hesitate to remind you that work is over! Nonetheless, remote workers often find it difficult to switch off at the end of the day. It’s much easier when your work and home lives are in separate locations, as this creates a natural divide between the two.

When you clock off only to remain in the same building, or even the same room, it’s reasonable to struggle, and to stop working in that situation can be just as difficult as finding the motivation to start. To remedy this, it’s important to define your hours clearly. Decide when you’re going to start and finish, and when you’re going to take breaks.

So, do you think you’re ready to take on the work-from-home life? It’s certainly not as easy as it may seem, and some people are suited to it more than others. However, hopefully we’ve provided some helpful guidance as to how you can make the most of the situation.

Reference 1

Zapier study looked at over 880 knowledge workers in the U.S. i.e. those who primarily work in a professional setting and use a computer as part of their job (Source: Zapier)