1. Show up: get dressed for work
Not in the office and not going to see any colleagues today? Are you only ever dressing to impress them? No, you dress to impress yourself each and every morning, so just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have to let your hair down 24/7.
Take pride in your appearance, shower, get dressed and put on something you’d wear to work so that you feel that once you’re dressed and ready to start that you’re in work mode. When your working day is done, by all means switch back to your comfiest clothing, and that’s actually a really great activity that punctuates work finishing and free time beginning. It may seem a little obvious, but just like a ‘soft’ office, ‘soft’ or slouchy clothing may actually prove inefficient and hamper productivity in the long run.
2. Tick off timelines
Stick to your working times, whether you’re doing the same hours as you did in the office or you’re working to a new schedule, the bottom line is: stick to your schedule. That means setting alarms and getting up and getting out of bed, following your normal daily routine, as much as possible. Hitting ‘snooze’ for an hour more and then racing out of bed to make that conference call is not a great way to work, neither is getting up at midday and working right through ’til 10pm delaying your entire work day.
Be disciplined and stick to your timings, just like you would in the office. Worth remembering too, when it’s time to ‘clock off’, clock off; don’t allow your work to bleed into your free, personal time.
3. Take a break
Organising a home office can be a bit daunting, but it can also be freeing and fun. Take a break every two to three hours to get a cup of coffee or take a 10 minute walk outside, stretch, refresh and rehydrate.
Taking time out at different times of the day will actually aid your productivity and enhance your performance, rather than powering through your work all at once. Likewise, take a full, one-hour lunch (or whatever your contract states) and leave your work zone. Rustle up something in the kitchen and eat lunch away from your workspace. Having your home life and your work life colliding in one space is all about setting up - and sticking to - boundaries.
4. Beware of distractions
Being at home surrounded by distractions is going to be testing. That laundry basket piling up in the corner, those stains on the table that you never got around to deep cleaning, having an hour-long chat with a neighbour in the hallway or taking two hours to go to the gym because ordinarily you never get to go when there’s daylight –– all of these things, and more, will creep into your mind as potential activities to distract you from work. Fight past these, and the hundreds of other things that may crop up at home. Limit these to your free time, away from work.
5. Don’t get overwhelmed
Manage your workload effectively. Prioritise, delegate, communicate. Just because you’re not in an office surrounded by colleagues doesn’t mean that because you’re at home you’re alone on an island and that you have to take everything on your shoulders. If you’re feeling on edge or overwhelmed, schedule a call with a superior to talk through your workload or touch base with your wider team to try to organise the workload better.
6. List it. Tick it off.
Managing your workflow can be a difficult task at the best of times, but a great way to organise yourself is to write out your tasks for each day. Invest in a little whiteboard and some wipe-off pens that can represent your ‘daily tasks’ board. Create a hierarchy of tasks, from most pressing and important (or daunting) at the top, that you tackle first thing, right down to the more menial, non-essential tasks that you’d like to get done in one day. As you achieve each one, tick it off or strike it through, then at the end of the day see what you’ve achieved. Not only is this wonderful for demonstrating the breadth of progress you’ve made but it also organises and focuses you.
Before finishing up for the day, your final task should be to look at your board or list and wipe away the tasks you’ve completed. Any left unfinished move to top priority for the next day, so you’re already setting yourself up for tomorrow’s workload. Managing your workflow will make your home office experience seamless.
7. Don’t feel isolated
Working alone from home can be a lonely place, and human contact (in person, rather than digitally) is essential for us all. If you’re healthy and well, pencil in some time with friends or family before or after your working day, whether going for a walk or grabbing a coffee to catch up, and make full use of your weekends and days off. If you’re working from home due to illness, schedule in some Facetime with the ones you love so you get that human connection whilst you’re working from home.
8. Suppress your social media
When you’re at work, you’re in work mode. Keep your personal phone on airplane mode to avoid being distracted by notifications, bings and buzzes every couple of minutes.
In fact, have your personal phone either switched off or in another room. If your personal phone doubles up as your work phone, be very disciplined with yourself with regards social media. Turn off all app notifications and revert to your phone’s original use: for calls and messages only, as much as possible. If you’re finding it difficult to avoid checking your Instagram feed or seeing what everyone’s tweeting about, try limit this to a two-minute window every hour or two, just checking in and glancing at what’s happening, then going right back to work –– we’ve all been lost in an endless scroll or fallen down a YouTube hole. Be tough on yourself.
Being stationary for the guts of an entire day is not great for your physical health, so prioritise exercise before and after work, or even on your lunch break. Get your heart rate up and get stretched out at least once a day, which will not only clear your mind but make you feel less tense and more at ease when working from home. Physical fitness helps keep mental sharpness.
10. Allow yourself to enjoy it
These next couple of suggestions may seem frivolous, but you can take or leave them as additional extras. Spritz a little of your favourite perfume or aftershave to take pride in yourself, or buy a really beautifully-scented candle or bunch of flowers to scent your space. Invest in really good coffee beans or a new method of coffee making to treat yourself to a gourmet coffee once or twice a day. Create a playlist to have lulling in the background or a music-led radio station softly playing somewhere that you love. Tailor your working space to the things you love, and you’ll love your home office work space.