‘Working from home’ is a funny one as it often means two very different things depending on who you are. For those who work from home, the focus is generally on the ‘working’ part, which can lead to issues that we’ll touch on later. On the flip side, those who don’t and have never worked from home, often zoom in on the ‘home’ part, which can lead to a whole load of other issues. In our experience, the only way to truly make the most of working from home is to cultivate a healthy work/life balance and, unfortunately, this is a lot harder than it sounds.
As a digital marketing and PR agency, a lot of the work we carry out is done from our computers so everyone at Fuel Communications has had the opportunity to work from home at one time or another. We thought we’d pool our collective knowledge and experience to put together a practical guide on how to make the most of working from home.
When you work from home, distractions are everywhere. Be it chores, children, pets, a new Playstation game, or Murder She Wrote at 09:25 on Channel 5, you really don’t have to look for distractions as distractions will find you. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to eliminate these distractions and you have to be relatively well-disciplined to ignore and overcome them. This alone is one of the main reasons why working from home isn’t suitable for everyone. Some people find it practically impossible to get into a work mentality when they are sat in their own space, while others fool themselves into believing they work just as effectively with the TV on than without it.
Get Up & Out
The best way to make the most of working from home is to replicate your working environment and routine as best you can. There is a temptation to treat every day as the weekend, going to sleep at 12 and rolling out of bed just in time to start work, but (surprise, surprise) you’re not going to produce your best work 5-10 minutes after waking up. One thing that we find really works for us is ‘walking to work’ so actually getting up, dressed, and out the house for at least a 30-minute walk. 30-minutes might be a little gratuitous for some, but even a 10-minute walk to work can help you start your day on the right footing.
Create A Work Space
Working from home is a lot easier when you have a designated workspace. This space can simply be a desk or workstation in a corner of a room, preferably a quiet one that’s out of the way, but should ideally be a room. A spare bedroom, for example, is an ideal makeshift office as they are usually both under-used and rarely visited areas of a home. Garages are also a good option, however, they can get a little drafty.
Once you have a workspace set up, you should find it a lot easier to shift in and out of work-mode. When you are at your desk you’re working and when you’re not, you’re not. If you and everyone you live with respect this, working from home becomes a lot easier and more productive.
Start & Finish At Set Times
Some days you need to get to work early and sometimes you need to stay late, but most days you know that you start at 09:00 and leave 17:30. It’s essential to recognise these boundaries when working from home as it’s very easy to keep telling yourself “I’ll do 1 more thing” and then before you know it, it’s 21:00. The last thing you want to get into is a cycle of wake up, work, sleep, repeat (we’ve tried it and it isn’t good) so make sure that you set soft and hard finishing times. By this, we mean you aim to finish by say 17:30 but unless there is an emergency, you do not work past 18:00.
When it comes to starting work, however, you should be reasonably firm. Sticking to the time you’d normally start work is a good idea as it makes things easier for colleagues and/or clients who may need to get in touch.
Just as you would when working from an office, be sure to take breaks at regular intervals. If you’re working from home then it’s likely that you’re working on a computer or laptop, so breaks are necessary to give your eyes a rest. As mentioned above, when you’re at your desk you should be working, so take a step away for 5 to 10 minutes to give your eyes a screen break and the rest of your body a break from sitting.
To clarify, remaining sat your desk scrolling through Facebook does not count as you’re not actually giving your eyes and body a break. Get up, stretch, walk around, grab a drink, do anything that does not involve sitting and looking at a screen. Looking after your health and wellbeing at work is essential, so look after yourself and try to be conscious of what you body is trying to tell you. For instance, if your eyes are stinging, take a screen break and try to focus your eyes on something far away.
Keep In Contact
Working from home can leave you feeling disconnected from the rest of your team, which can negatively affect morale and your ability to work together. Touching base with the whole team at least once a day is a great way to promote team cohesion while working from home and there are several fantastic web services out there that can help you keep in touch effectively. Zoom is arguably the most popular video meeting and video conferencing service at the moment, but you also have Whereby, Google Hangouts Meet, Skype, and many others to choose from.
Learn To Unwind
If you truly want to make the most of working from home, then learning to unwind is one of the most beneficial things you can do. For a lot of people, going to work is one of the main reasons they ever leave the house, but that’s not the case when you work from home (hence the ‘walk to work’ suggestion). We all unwind from work in our own way but leaving your working environment is a common and effective way. Taking a short walk after work is one way you can help yourself disconnect and it’ll also do your eyes a favour after a day spent staring at screens.
Some people feel a strange sense of guilt when they work from home but are not working. Almost like since they can work, they should. Thinking in such a way may be seen as admirable by some employers, but it’s ultimately self-destructive and can have a negative impact on your home life, physical wellbeing, and mental health. Your body and mind both need time to relax, recharge and rejuvenate, and when they are given the time to do so it is reflected in the quality of your output. Remember, just because you’re sat at your desk, doesn’t mean you’re working.
9 Essential Tips For Working From Home
- Wake up at least an hour before you start working
- Get dressed
- Get out the house
- Create a designated workspace
- Minimise distractions (that means no TV on in the background)
- Start and finish at set times
- Take regular breaks (including screen breaks)
- Keep in touch with colleagues
- Learn to unwind