The sharp increase in employees working from home across industries marks just one way our lives have changed since the beginning of lockdown.
Whatever challenges you face as you adjust to your new working environment, it appears that this may be the norm for some time – only last month, Facebook and Google announced that the vast majority of employees would be working from home for the rest of 2020.
There is even speculation that working from home could be the new normal for many office workers after the pandemic, with some employers seeing an increase in productivity from their staff.
Since the new #WFH arrangements may be here to stay, take a look at our 10 do’s and don’ts of working from home that should solve some of the most common problems remote workers face, and help you reap the benefits of your virtual office.
1. DO designate a separate workspace
Working from home might sound like an opportunity to cosy up on the sofa with your laptop or a Netflix series, but in reality, spending your entire day in the same spot is terrible for your physical or mental health.
Your living room is designed to be a space where you can switch off and relax. Using it as a workspace jeopardises your ability to focus during the day and makes it harder to wind down when it’s over.
If you don’t have the luxury of a proper home office space, your kitchen or dining room table is the next best thing to secure your concentration and improve your posture.
2. DO avoid online distractions
It’s the rookie mistake that every work-from-home novice has made – promising yourself you’ll answer just one text message, only to realise what feels like a little while later that you’ve squandered nearly an hour scrolling through Facebook.
If online distractions are compromising your productivity, there are a few quick fixes that will help steer your focus in the right direction.
Firstly, leave any unnecessary devices out of reach. If possible, your phone should be kept in another room to prevent you from getting distracted by the faint buzz of a notification.
If sitting at your computer all day makes it difficult to resist the pull of distractions like social media or online shopping, invest in a web blocking app like Cold Turkey or Freedom. These apps can block as many time-sapping sites as you need and even keep you offline completely. Cold Turkey can even place a complete lock on your computer, protecting not only your work time, but your free time too.
3. DON’T stay in your pyjamas
While the daily ritual of getting dressed only to sit at home all day might seem pointless, the alternative of spending the day in your pyjamas can actually be worse for your motivation and overall psychological wellbeing.
Just as it’s important to distinguish your workspace from your living space, it’s important to distinguish comfort from professionalism. Throughout lockdown, you may sometimes have felt as though each day rolls into one – the routine of dressing for work every day can combat this feeling.
If you’re going to insist on making Zoom calls in your pyjamas, at least invest in a pair of these 'work from home’ pyjamas.
4. DON’T snack all day
Working only a few paces away from the refrigerator and away from the judgemental eyes of colleagues may increase the temptation to nibble tenfold, especially if your kitchen cupboards are full of sweet treats and salty snacks.
But bear in mind that over-indulging on these foods isn’t just bad for your health in the long run – the temporary energy spike they provide will lead to a sugar crash that will only halt your productivity.
If you really can’t resist the urge to snack during the day, plan ahead. Swap out crisps and chocolate for healthier choices like fresh fruit – ultimately, they’re better for your body and will help to sustain your energy levels in the short term too.
5. DO take a break
Maintaining your focus can be difficult while working from home but switching off can be just as hard.
It’s important to set regular breaks during the day, and use them for more than scrolling through social media. Rather than simply passing the time until you can log off, breaks should re-energise you in preparation for the tasks ahead.
You should also ensure that you’re taking breaks at the end of the day too, logging off when your workday is finished and using your evening to rest.
6. DO move around
Sitting in the same position all day can cause a whole host of health problems, ranging from back, neck and shoulder pain, poor circulation and even reduced brain function.
Remember that the Health and Safety Executive recommends that workers whose jobs rely on computers should take a five-minute screen-free break at least once per hour – using these as a chance to briefly stand up and stretch will benefit your mind and body.
7. DO keep in touch with your co workers
Working from home can get lonely without you colleagues around you, especially if you’re used to a lively office.
In any workplace, conversation is rarely limited to work matters, and it doesn’t have to be any different working from home.
A little light conversation during the day shouldn’t be an opportunity to get too distracted, but sending your workmate a funny post you’ve seen online or a picture of your dog can be the morale boost that gets you – and them – through the day.
8. DON’T set yourself unreasonable targets
It’s good to aim high, of course, but don’t feel bad when on days when you’ve done a little less than you’d have liked.
An unproductive day can make you feel as though your whole week has been set back, but there are plenty of ways to recover after a few seemingly wasted hours. One great tip is to take five or ten minutes at the end of your bad day to plan tomorrow’s strategy. This simple act of planning can feel like an accomplishment in itself, alleviating your guilt and helping you regain your rhythm.
9. DON’T feel bound to the 9-5
While it’s important to maintain boundaries between your work and home life, the secret to remote working success lies in utilising its flexibility.
Rather than forcing yourself through the hours until 5 o’clock, co-operate with the natural ebb and flow of your concentration, taking breaks as needed and making the most of those bursts of inspiration.
This method is particularly convenient for those juggling childcare responsibilities in addition to the other challenges of working from home.
10. DO be kind to yourself
Remember that as the world is changing, everyone is doing their best – including you.
Dedicate some time to protecting your physical health and mental wellbeing, and don’t be afraid to indulge in a little self-care and squeeze in some rest and relaxation in where you can.
We hope this list helps you juggle the challenges of #WFH and thrive throughout your working week – for more inspiring content on life under lockdown, take a look at the following blogs: