There are lots of areas of technology that can assist with remote working scenarios, but for this post I want to keep it aimed at challenges, tips and tricks for successful remote working for extended periods of time. I personally have been a home worker for 60%+ of my working time over the last 7 years. Before this I was working maybe one day a week from home at most. Over this time I have changed roles, adapted my routines, moved locations and started a family.
Some key areas to keep in mind when you start working from home for more than one day a week and to maintain a productive work cycle in my opinion are as follows:
· Routine & Work-life balance
· Decompression time
· Expectation setting
· Social interaction
· Distraction management
· Short term mindset
· Schedule breaks
· Make a designated office space
I am sure there are many more areas and ideas I could provide, but this will do for now.
Routine & Work-life Balance
It is critical to create a working routine when working from home for extended periods of time. When you work from an office, you would typically get into the office, have lunch and leave the office at similar times, and whether you realise it or not you will have fallen into a routine.
By having a morning routine that guides you to your desk for a time can help you to be on time.
Another challenge when working from home, is breaking away from your desk to actually spend time with family or do something other than work. When you travel to an office every day, it is easy to draw a line between work and life, but when you are working in your dining room, spare bedroom, etc it can be tough to stop.
At the moment in time you will have a commute to work, whether it be 5minutes or 1hour+. This time when you finish work and make your way home is where you shed the stresses of the day and hopefully turn up at home without the burdens of the day. The challenge when working from home is that there is no commute, so the switch from work mode to home mode may not occur and have adverse effects on your home life.
Spend 10-15minutes once you have finished work to grab a cup of tea, catch up on the news, read something… anything really just to create a decompression time between the two areas of your life.
Working from an office I most cases has less distractions from family, friends, dogs/cats etc… when working from home it is key to set a working relationship with your family and friends specifically. They need to understand your working hours and what is acceptable, and what is not.
For loved ones that have never worked from home, or had a relationship with someone that works from home it can be tough as they may try to rely on you for things that you wouldn’t normally be doing, which could take you away from your work tasks.
Setting expectations helps to prevent the scenario where you ruin a current routine in the house or causes relationship challenges when it looks like you are prioritising work over other tasks.
Those working from home for the first time for extended periods of time cannot wait to work from home, due to the freedom it provides and more time with loved ones due to the removal of travel time. Human beings are naturally social creatures – we crave friendship and positive interactions, just as we do food and water. It makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we’re going to be.
Working from home can remove the typical social behaviours you undertake when in the office, which in turn could impact your productivity.
Take time to discuss various topics on video conference with team members, or even take a walk into your local town/village.
It can become easy just to sit and watch Netflix, poor day time TV or even step away from your machine for long periods of time. Try not to get distracted and disappear physically or mentally for long periods of time… this is only going to lead to a backlog of work you need to do. The only way to then catch up on that is to work late into evenings and possibly weekends.
Limit yourself to non-work-related distractions, and if you find yourself drifting into the word of just watching TV then turn it off and move your working space to an area where there is no TV.
Background noise can be useful though, working from home in complete silence can be strange initially. Put the radio or your favourite music streaming service, just make it low and ideally minimal words. In my opinion listening to word heavy loud music can distract you even more…. Each to their own though
In this current climate, individuals could see the working from home as a short-term benefit. This can lead to you turning off from work almost entirely and taking advantage of the situation.
This can lead to backlog of work, loss of the WFH privilege and/or ruin any chances you may have of taking the work from home flexibility forward into BAU.
In your mind, think that this is your new routine for the foreseeable and make it work for you and your employer!
What more can I say. You want a drink, go and get one. You want something to eat go and get it. You want to go to the toilet, do it! Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you can do the tasks you would have done in the office.
If you smoke or vape, I would advise not smoking/vaping whilst working and taking designated breaks like you would in the office. Keep to a routine… and it may do your health wonders by not chain smoking/vaping
Make a Designated Office Space
Part of routine, expectation setting etc mark a location in your house as your working space. This allows family members to understand where to maybe be quieter or stay away from during your working hours. It also assists in creating a physical split between work and life!
Some people don’t have the space or money to build out a designated office space but if you can… great do it if you cannot, then here are some ideas:
· Spare bedroom
· Kitchen / dining room table
· Dressing table
· Living room
It can be anywhere, so long as you can get comfy with a space for your laptop. Ideally not on your lap! Extended periods of time with a laptop on your lap will not do your posture any wonders!
And if you are used to working from a standing desk in the office, why not repurpose your ironing board!
Top 10 Tips/Tricks
1. Most importantly, get your work tasks done!
a. Missing deadlines or expectations can raise suspicion to what you are actually doing at home.
2. Set expectations for your working routine when at home
3. Maintain regular working hours
4. Create a designated working space
a. No standing desk at home, put your laptop on the ironing board
5. Take your breaks (short breaks, lunch breaks etc)
6. Let people on conference calls know you are working from home and any visitors that may appear/make noise
7. Talk with someone once a day about something more than work
8. Give yourself 10-15minutes to decompress once you finish work
9. Leave your home, go for a walk, run etc do not become house bound
10. It is ok to take official sick days when working from home. If your illness is going to impact your productivity, then take leave as you would if you were in an office