Many of us have swapped daily commutes for a short walk to the kitchen table, and what we learn from this enforced period of working from home is likely to change office culture forever. But remote working takes some getting used to. We asked some of our favorite bloggers for their advice. Here’s how to stay sane, keep focussed and remain productive in your new working environment.
1: Keep a regular routine
The flexibility to set your own schedule might be one of the highlights of working from home, but it’s establishing solid routines that will determine your success.
Get up around the same time every day, shower, eat breakfast, and make sure you’re at your computer ready to start work at the correct hour. Try not to get sucked into office gossip via email – scroll through to find the things that require immediate attention and make a map of your day so you’ll know how to prioritize your time.
Jonathan Bailey, one of the successful bloggers behind 2 Dads with Baggage agrees that working from home successfully requires a routine: “I get up and do my modified at-home workout to replace my gym time, shower and get dressed for a casual workday. Going through that routine helps prepare me mentally for taking on the tasks and avoiding procrastination or distractions.”
2: Set up a quiet place to work
If you don’t have a home office, set aside a quiet area where you can work without too many distractions. Try to avoid the kitchen or tv room, especially if your family is home. And only work in your bedroom as a last resort. Keep work and sleep separate as much as possible or you’ll never switch off.
Having kids home from school makes it tricky to separate home from work. Try taking a break together each day when you can touch base and deal with any questions. Eat lunch at the same time and make an effort to get away from your desk. But make it clear that when you’re working, you’re not to be disturbed.
Derek Thompson, writer at The Atlantic explains that those working from home “will have to adopt extraordinary conscientiousness when it comes to dividing their day into deep work, office communications, personal time, and civic or family life.” Keeping strict divisions between work and home life is key to setting up the right balance.
3: Stay professional
“Pajamas aren’t the most helpful for me in terms of focus or concentration,” says Beau Hayhoe of The Style Guide. Beau wears a button-down shirt to keep things professional while he’s working from home.
Dressing for work, even if you’re sitting at the kitchen table, helps to maintain a professional mindset. That doesn’t mean that you need to wear a suit and tie, but dressing in smart attire does help to keep your mind on the job. A pair of chinos with a shirt and sweater is fine – you can change into jeans or sweatpants when you’re done.
If you find yourself in an endless string of video conference meetings, says Jonathan Bailey at 2 Dads with Baggage, make sure that you look your best. His advice?
“Find a happy place for these conferences where you can control the lighting in your favor. Also, dress for these meetings like the professional you are. No-one wants to see your greasy bedhead or crumpled t-shirt. Clean up, shave, and put on a nice shirt.”
If you’re at work, you should be dressed appropriately. The only caveat to this rule is footwear – it’s difficult to concentrate on targets and meet deadlines if you have cold feet! Invest in a warm pair of men’s leather slippers – stylish, smart and incredibly comfortable.
4: Make time for breaks
“Give yourself regular breaks just as you would at the office,” says Beau of The Style Guide. Take breaks away from your desk, and switch off from work at lunch time by doing some exercise, reading, watching TV, or catching up on a podcast. Sunny day? Top up on vitamin D and take your break outside. Do something you enjoy so that you’ll return to your desk refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon’s work.
As the afternoon progresses, online distractions have a tendency to grow. Try putting your phone into airplane mode or use an app that restricts access to social media when you need to finish a particular task. Beau also suggests “some light music and a candle” to relieve stress and help with big projects. Now that’s not something you could enjoy so easily back at the office!
5: Have a regular finish time
Just as it’s important to start work on time, make sure you finish on time as well. There will always be “just one more” email to deal with or something that still needs to be finished. But failing to draw a strict line between work and home life is the fastest way to burn yourself out. At the end of the day let your colleagues know you’re done and switch your computer off.
As much as you might dislike your commute, at least it gives you time to ‘decompress’ before you get home. Find a way to signal the end of the day – take a quick shower, change your clothes, go for a run, or take the dog for a walk. When it’s time to stop working, stop.
Nobody knows how long the current measures will last, but establishing a healthy home working routine will help you stay sane and productive. Do you work from home? We’d love to hear your tips. Leave a comment below or drop us a line on Twitter.