By Mary Jones 2nd April 2020

Working from home might sound like it’s a bit of a breeze. No need to commute, no need to sit in that stuffy office, nothing to work on but the computer, no distractions, home comforts all around you. What’s not to like? Well in truth home working isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and trying to be ‘work productive’ in a home environment can take a bit of getting used to, especially when children are off school.

1. One size doesn’t fit all.

There is no set approach to how a person should work from home. What works for one person may not work for another. Gradually we each work out what’s best for us, and what’s best for you might not be best for me.

2. Don’t jump to conclusions.

This fits with the one above, just because you are online beavering away and your colleague isn’t, it does not mean they are not working or being productive. Perhaps they are reading some material in another room away from their desk, or perhaps they are having a break or hanging the washing out. Perhaps later when you are sitting down eating your evening meal, they are online beavering away, or maybe later still once their kids have gone to bed. Peoples periods of productivity can vary throughout the day.

3. Pretend like you are going to the office

The transition from bed to keyboard (when there is no ‘getting ready for work’ ritual or commute in between) can be a bit of a trial. For some people making a routine of putting on some work clothes, perhaps walking around the garden for 10 minutes, grabbing a coffee from the kitchen, and then sitting down to work helps them distinguish between what is work and what is home.

4. Start early if it suits you

Some people like to wake up and fall right into work for a bit. They wake early and as there is no commute, they dive into work straight away, far earlier than they would have had they been going to the office. It might be drafting a report, pulling together the work plan for the week, catching up on emails, whatever the task there’s nothing wrong with kicking off your day early in your PJs before anyone else is online, and then breaking for breakfast after the first task is done.

5. Decide on where you will be working

In the office you usually have a dedicated space to work in and it’s handy to do that at home too. It might be a room or a space or a surface that you dedicate to work from during the working day, even if its temporary. This will help draw a line between the place where you work in the day and the spaces where you spend your leisure time.

6. Structure your day

You are your own personal manager when you are working from home so create a schedule that suits you. Without meetings and person to person interactions breaking up the working day you can lose focus quickly, or even burn yourself out a bit despite how contradictory that may seem. Segment your day, add personal events like a walk around the house and garden, and try to stick to the timings as you would when you were in the office environment.

7. There’s nothing wrong with…

Putting the washing on, taking the dog for a walk, taking a food delivery, these are all things that you can do whilst you are working from home, and there is nothing to feel guilty about as long as you are honest with yourself. Putting the washing on and then hanging it out during your work day on a sunny Wednesday rather than leaving it until the wet weekend when you then have to tumble dry it, or have it hanging around the house drying for days is perfectly acceptable (and more environmentally friendly). If you make up the time later in the day what’s to feel guilty about, in fact you should be feeling super productive!

8. Nobody sprints all day

Your motivation will naturally peak and trough throughout the day, consequently so will your productivity. When in the office your productivity “ebbs and flows” probably don’t stand out as others around you will also be ebbing and flowing. However, when you are working from home on your own it’s important to know when these ebbs and flows are so you can plan your work accordingly. For some post lunch is lull in productivity, for others it could be mid-morning, wherever they may be, try and capitalise by saving the harder tasks for the times when you are at your most productive and are in the right headspace. Use the less productive time for more logical routine tasks.

9. Remember Newton

“A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external opposing force” – well the same applies to you, if you have momentum in your work at home then you will keep going. If you are at rest, in a lull, lacking momentum then you stay that way. So the takeaway here is try to keep busy and if you don’t have enough to do to keep busy, call it out to your team.

10. Stay connected

Working for home in the long term can result in you feeling cut off from the bigger picture so make use of the technologies available that enable you to interact with others in the organisation. This might be through a conference call over a particular piece of work, or it might be a social hang out on Slack or Teams at elevenses time.

11. Music maestro

In the office there are often noises and rhythms around you whereas at home the place can be quiet. Put some music on to fill the void and adjust your musical choice according to the task in hand. There’s a reason why video games have the soundtracks they do, it’s because they promote focus in the player, the same might work for you.

12. Use timers

We use timers all the time, you set about a task and set a time by which you want to have in completed. Do the same when you are working from home, assign a piece of work you are doing a time period by which you want it completed, and stick to it.

13. Don’t forget about others in your home

You may not be the only person at home, some may also be working, some may not, but discuss the ground rules (or set them if your “companions” are children or the dog). Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you are home.

14. Take breaks

It’s very easy to get engrossed in what you are doing when there are none of the usual office distractions around you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take 5 every now and then. Break away from your desk, walk around, step outside, stretch, it will all help sharpen your mind and relax you at the same time.

15. Hard stop and wind down

Pick the point when you are going to finish work for the day and stick to it. Your work-life balance can very easily be disrupted when you start working from home, and before you know it your 8 hour day stretches out and you end up working into the evening and a blur between work time and home time appears. Instead, pick your time, finish as soon as possible after, then do the reverse of tip 3, take a walk, get changed out of your work clobber, whatever it is that you do to divide between working and living life.