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Mastering the Art of Working From Home: A Guide

For many of us, the term ‘working from home’ conjures images of a cosy office space, freshly brewed coffee and unparalleled productivity. We imagine firing off emails, completing projects and taking conference calls, whilst still having plenty of time for 45 minutes of yoga and a nourishing homemade smoothie for lunch. Unfortunately, the reality is often rather different! Whether you’re lacking the motivation to work, fighting for a quiet space to take important calls in a busy household, or even just struggling with being away from colleagues and friends for long periods of time, we’ve put together a ‘survival’ guide for those who are currently working from home.

‘Win the morning - Win the day’

It might sound a bit cliche in 2020, but this tip is something that’s worked for thousands of people in many diverse sets of circumstances and situations. The idea is simple; set yourself 2-3 simple tasks that you complete as soon as you get up in the morning, every morning without fail. It can be as simple as getting up as soon as your alarm clock goes off, making your bed properly and preparing your favourite hot drink. Each of these tasks is a small achievement that you can tick off a mental list, generating a sense of accomplishment before you’ve even opened your laptop or answered an email.1

The science suggests that even with something as simple as consistently making the bed, the brain provides a small hit of dopamine2 as a reward for completing your task. As you complete each small goal before you start work, you’re building a positive, productive mindset that will set you up for a far more successful day of work than simply rolling out of bed and diving straight into your inbox.

Give Yourself Space

Creating a happy, productive environment for yourself to work from home is vital, as it helps to ensure that you’re both mentally and physically prepared for a day of work, in the same way you would be if you were going into the office.

Beginning with the basics, try to make sure your home office space suits the way you like to work. There are thousands of guides available online that go into great detail about room choice, furniture, decor and lighting, but a good rule of thumb is this: If you’re used to a quiet, separate office, pick a quiet room away from the main areas of the house. Similarly, if you work best around other people and enjoy a more social office environment, setting up in the kitchen, where other family members or housemates can pop in to chat to you might be best. Whatever you choose, a workspace that feels familiar and comfortable will help maintain your productivity and improve your ability to mentally prepare for a day of work.

Most importantly, make sure your home office space is clearly defined, so that when you’re there, it feels more like a transition into ‘work mode’. Whether you work in the kitchen or a separate home office, keep your work within that space and leave the living room and bedrooms as areas to relax and spend time with your family and friends. It can even help to have ‘office hours’ which everyone in the house knows about, to ensure distractions are kept to a minimum when you’re trying to work.

Family Comes First

Who remembers this video from last year? Not only is it pretty adorable, it demonstrates one of the fundamental realities of working from home with kids. As much as you might feel you need to create a quiet space to work, children, pets and even partners will now be an integral part of your daily routine. This then begs the question, how should you handle your newest (and often tiniest) team members?

Rather than try to ‘shoo’ distractions away from your workspace, it can actually be helpful to embrace childrens’ curiosity about their parent’s work. Take 5 minutes to explain to them what you’re working on and maybe even ask their advice - they might surprise you! You can also use these little distractions as a chance to have a break yourself, as you catch up with what’s going on in your child’s day.

Of course, there will be times when you really do need to work uninterrupted for a couple of hours. In these situations, having a family routine where children have planned activities or each parent takes it in turn to work quietly for a few hours can work really well. There are some great in-depth guides that can help with the specifics of scheduling for families working at home together, but above all, try to find a happy balance between work time and family time. After all, you’re at home, not in the office!

Stay Connected

When you’re working at home, it’s really easy to get sucked in to staring at a computer screen, going without a proper break or even any real human interaction for hours at a time. Unlike an office environment, where face to face meetings, conversations with colleagues and tea (and biscuit) breaks are all part of a normal day, working from home can be a very quiet, almost isolating experience.

This is why it’s incredibly important to stay connected whilst you’re working from home. Scheduling daily video meetings using FaceTime or Skype to catch up on ongoing projects is not only a really productive use of time; it allows you and your colleagues to chat as if you were in the office together. Similarly, project management tools like Slack or Monday.com allow teams to update each other on key tasks in real time, fostering collaboration and good teamwork remotely. These seem like small steps, but psychologically, every piece of regular social interaction can be massively valuable for good mental health.

Working from home also offers benefits that might not at first seem obvious. Without a commute bookending the day, there’s more time to cook and eat dinner as a family, play games with the kids, or simply catch up with friends after work. These longer mornings and evenings can be used to enjoy your own pastimes too, whether that’s working out, reading, baking, playing video games or even learning an instrument. Spending long hours working from home can feel daunting at first, particularly when it comes to staying connected, but with the right mindset and a little technological help, it can quickly become an empowering, rather than an isolating experience.

Working From Home - It’s All About Balance

There’s an awful lot of information available online on the best ways to stay happy, healthy and productive from working from home, the sheer volume of which can sometimes feel a little overwhelming! To try and help with this, we’ve summarised our advice above into 4 key points:

  1. Set small goals and try to achieve them consistently, creating helpful habits for home working.
  2. Set up a clearly defined workspace that’s right for you, whether that’s tucked away in an office, or on the kitchen table.
  3. Your family are now part and parcel of your working day - Embrace it!
  4. Use technology to stay connected with colleagues, friends and family. This is great for your productivity, but more importantly, your mental wellbeing.

If you need any advice about the best tools and connectivity solutions to help you and your colleagues work from home successfully, the expert team at Virgin Media Business are here to help.

Sources

[1] ‘5 Morning Rituals That Help Me Win The Day’ Tim Ferris https://tim.blog/2015/09/18/5-morning-rituals/

[2] ‘Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals’ Monica Mehta 
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225356

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