Top tips for successful, sustained working from home

The nation is officially working from home – unfortunately not because we’ve all become super keen advocates of flexible working and the benefits this can bring; but because COVID-19 has backed us into a corner and right now it’s the only option for many people.

As we’ve always said, home-working can be a great thing – leading to increased efficiency and productivity, and not to mention the potential benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. But to reap these rewards we need to make sure we’re doing all the right things and not slipping into bad habits; and on a sustained basis of working from home, this could prove to be challenging. So here’s our top tips for employees and leaders alike to make sure you get off on the right foot.

Tips for employees

* Identify your workspace, an area where you will work in the house – be this a desk in a spare room or a kitchen table or whatever. Ensure this space is appropriately set up for your needs, and that you only work there. Set boundaries between this area and the rest of your home life. This will enable you to switch off more easily when not working.

* Working on the couch, in bed, in the bath, etc. may seem like a nice idea, but in reality it’s not going to be good for your well-being. Save those places for relaxing and switching off away from work.

* Make sure your workspace includes a comfortable chair that’s going to support your back. Using an unsuitable chair for a prolonged period could really do some damage. Use a cushion to support your back if you need to.

* Stick to your usual morning routine – ie. try and get up at the same time, make sure you get showered, dressed, eat breakfast etc. This will help you get into the right mindset for work.

* Stick to your normal hours of work (including your lunch break) – avoiding the temptation to start earlier and finish later just because you’ve not got your commute. It’s going to be more difficult for you to switch off from work as it is without taking on more.

* If you normally have the radio on at work then by all means do this at home; but the TV is a definite no-no.

* Ideally, you shouldn’t be in charge of caring for any children whilst you are WFH, as quite clearly this will have a big impact on how productive you’re able to be. If schools etc. are closed down then this changes the situation, so you just need to be open and realistic with your employer about your situation and what you can achieve.

* Create transitions between “home” and “work” – you may not realise it but your commute to and from work serves a good purpose of getting you geared up for the day ahead and helping you to wind down afterwards. Maybe take yourself off for a brisk walk to get yourself in and out of “the zone”.

* Don’t become a couch potato – try and fit some exercise into your day, each day. You’ll be amazed at how good this makes you feel!

* Make time to keep in touch with your colleagues. Ok so you can’t do this in the office kitchen over a cuppa as you normally would, but use the tools and technology you have available to you

* Avoid the temptation to snack on junk food all day – you have some extra time now you’re not commuting every day so try and use this to make yourself and your family some hearty nutritious food. Again, you’ll feel better for it!

Tips for leaders

* Talk to your teams about their home working set-ups and make sure they have everything they need to be productive. Encourage them to come to you if they have any concerns or worries.

* Keep in regular contact with staff, including having video calls to get some face to face time. Beware, however, this isn’t always popular with people! Impromptu chats that would happen in the office won’t be possible now, so this time needs to be consciously scheduled into the diary instead. Use technology and team-connecting software (ie. Microsoft Teams)

* If goals and objectives change as a result of the changing economic environment; make sure these are clearly communicated.