Whether you always work from home or the current situation is enforcing it, effective working from home is a great skill to have. In this article I outline the 4 principles of effective working from home that will enable you to successfully make the most of this amazing and flexible situation: routine, personal care, physical environment and technology.
It can be deceptively easy to lay in just that bit longer and faff around getting up, without a commute or a time to be at the office. This can lead into drifting between tasks, doing household chores because you can see them looking at you, having coffee with a friend… or is that just me when I started? The 4 principles below will help you take control, achieve more and enjoy working from home.
1. Routine and schedule
- Get up at a good time for you and your energy – and stick to it.
- Shower and get dressed – this differentiates the working day.
- Plan your time – e.g. first 30 minutes is emails, next 2 hours on task X, all afternoon on task Y.
- Take breaks – these can be, helpfully, spent on hanging the laundry or other personal tasks.
- Set yourself boundaries for when you won’t work – it can be hard at home to not work all the time. As an employee it can be hard as you want to show that you’re working, as a self-employed person there is just always more to do! For example, leave your desk by 6pm and don’t check messages afterwards.
- Motivation – set yourself deadlines, give yourself treats (not always food!).
2. Personal care
- Move – get up, walk about, exercise if you can. Without going between workplace and home your daily steps can drop off a cliff.
- Get out the house – without making a conscious effort to do so, it can be easy to go days without leaving your home. Remember to get some fresh air daily. Maybe go to a local café to work sometimes (under normal circumstances!).
- See people – isolation can be one of the biggest problems. Video calls can help, try to ‘see’ people you work with or for each day. It’s quite fun to ‘have lunch’ with people by video.
- Energy levels – without other people to bounce off, your energy levels through the day may be different. Pay attention and work with what you have. High energy often is good for when you have lots to tick off your to do list, low energy can be great for creativity.
- Cut yourself some slack – it’s not as easy as it looks.
3. Physical environment
- Dedicated workspace – to help you differentiate when you’re working at home, have a dedicated workspace if you can. If you’re limited on space, this could just be a certain chair at the table.
- Get comfortable – make your dedicated workspace as comfortable as you can. Remember workstation assessments in offices? Apply the same process at home, setting up your equipment correctly to prevent injury and strain.
- Let there be light – try to work somewhere with plenty of light, it’s no fun to spend all your time in the box room with no windows.
- Away from distractions – if at all possible, try to work where you can’t see the things you would be doing around the home, and away from people/animals who distract your attention.
- Dedicated work communication platform – if you have colleagues, these really are more effective than just emailing or texting each other. Microsoft Teams works well (I’ve recently got a company of 30 employees set up and trained on this, and they are now in a great position to respond to recent events without impacting output).
- Good quality internet – really makes a difference for video calls.
- Equipment – to help reduce isolation and improve communication, use good microphones, earphones and cameras. Headphones with built in microphones can help reduce background noise.
- Video calling software – Zoom is great. If you work in a team, have regular (daily/weekly) team video calls to provide structure, enhance communication and reduce loneliness.
Effective working from home
Working from home can be wonderful, I hope you are able to make the most of it. There are so many different ways you can do it, so keep playing with how you do it until it works for you. I’d love to hear what you do to be effective working from home – do comment below!
If you find meetings are being cancelled and you suddenly have free time, it is a great opportunity to look at how you run your business – spending time to improve your processes and systems will pay you back 10-fold. Read more about how you can do this for yourself here: