Working from home – a simple guide

Written by Nadin Thomson


Working From Home – A Simple Guide

You may be working from home for the first time, or you may be working from home for a more sustained period than you have in the past. You may be relaxed about this, or you may be daunted, no commute but no banter, in your own nest or detached from on-hand shops and services – it is a bit of Ying and Yang.

So this simple guide will hopefully set you up with a new form of work-life balance, and will give you tips on how to stay focussed, productive, healthy, avoid conflicts, and keep on track for your well-being.

Identify and set-up your work equipment

1st rule is communication; how are you going to interact with your source of work, if you want to avoid a lot of stress and pressure you need to communicate. In all cases this will require a laptop or desktop with good internet access. If you are working for a company rather than yourself you should have access to the companies networks/intranet and emails, and having webcam interactions with colleagues is good for moral. In addition to this you should also have a work phone, not just for those people you have to contact that are not on the end of a computer, but for backup if video conferencing facilities go down.

Dedicate a space to work

It is more than an just an art as to how you shape up your homeworking environment, you need to be able to have your required equipment so that you are able to carry out your tasks in an uncluttered and straightforward way. Think first of where you want to work, and then how you are going to do it. Then think of where you want to place your equipment.

Dedicate this space as your office/workstation, and agree rules with your partner/family/housemates about where the working boundaries are: a closed door can be a simple do-not-interrupt metaphor, as can the use of a certain chair at the kitchen table, and so can a certain cuddly toy sitting on your desk – teddy says no!

Your workspace should be practical and comfortable, but be away from distractions such as children, pets and TV (and partners). Don’t have your table to low, and try to have your screen near eye-level.

Manage your time by having a routine

Having a routine is an essential part of disciplining your working life, ensuring key breaks helps you plan out your work, and keeps you on schedule, so define the hours you will work clearly so that overworking does not become an issue – it is more common for home workers to overwork than underwork, so you have been warned. All-in-all it is best to stick to your normal work schedule, it will not just help you, as your colleagues will just expect you to be on-hand as always.

For example, if you normally start at 9 AM, do the same at home. If your lunch break is normally at 12:30, do the same at home. If you finish at 5 PM, do the same and switch off the laptop. If you can, keep the same rhythm, as this will make it easier to transition back to office life after working from home….and execute the same routine each day.

Take regular breaks

Now you are on your own you are away from the colleague based triggers that make you get up and take breaks, and you do need these breaks to be productive and healthy, so take regular breaks. The worst missed break is lunch, and a skipped lunch is a bad bad thing – you can be sitting there working away, absorbed in your task and the next thing you know its an hour past lunch time, you’ll give it another five minutes that ends up an hour, then you think oh just a few hours to go I’ll just do with dinner. Don’t allow this to happen – set yourself a reminder and don’t ignore it.

Also do not sit at your desk and eat your lunch, you need to move your butt (metaphorically and physically). Go for a walk or catch up with something that is not work related. You should always take your entire break as this will help you rejuvenate ready for the next challenge.

Avoid distractions

Pets, children, TV, Alexa, Washing Machine, Fridge – you don’t have them in your workspace, but at home they are lurking there in the shadows planning to lure you away from your computer, Try to divide your day into blocks of time, such as 45-minute blocks and only then cuddle your cat. It might help to switch your private phone off and don’t use your personal devices for social media during work time.

To start with, you may need to remind your partner/family more frequently to respect your work time and plan ahead, give your children something to do (homework, video learning etc.)

Of these family are the biggest problem of all, so let your partner/family know when you are having a video call with a customer/colleagues so that they know to be quiet if not safely at the other end of the house.

Likewise, it can be difficult for family and friends not to see you working from home as an opportunity to have a natter, or try to drag you down the shops, or fix something – so you need to get them to accept that during working hours you are incommunicado and that you need to be concentrating on work.

Communicate with your colleagues/clients

There are two reasons why communication is key, and you will soon discover that when you have only to rely on written instructions how easy it is to get the wrong end of a stick. So it essential to have the confidence to pick up the phone and call for clarification, if not to video conference with a colleague/client.

Initially video conferencing may appear daunting when used at work, but the difference in seeing someone’s face when they are describing something is amazing, and 90% of all communication is body language, no matter how many emojis you use the written word will fail to pass on most of these nuances.

And communicate again

You may think that not being under the bosses/clients gaze is a dream come true, but they might also be missing you. And not in any way you are presently thinking. Its more simple than that; they cannot see how you are progressing, or see you are frantic, overworked, or just having a mental block. So, you need to communicate more than you have ever before with them so that if something is going off the rails it can get back on as quickly as possible.

The same is true of your colleagues, if you are all working on the same project in the office you may not even need to lift your head to know where your colleagues are at – now you definitely need to tell each other and do that frequently.

Never let things simmer

Conflicts are actually easier dealt with when you are in the office, as human to human you use sound and body language to communicate, not just text and the odd video call, so there is every chance some small niggle will fester into open cyber warfare. Don’t let this happen, if something is niggling you, discuss it at the first opportunity and clear the air before the fog of war sets in.

Likewise, the office is a refuge from family relationships, a break from being with one set of people continually, somewhere to cool down and rationalize. This is now gone, and why setting rules and boundaries is important – you will have to be on your way to saint hood not to need separate time for you and for them, and not to need breaks from both your work and your partner/family. Ideally both you and them will have to practice mindfulness, which may not come easily, but it is essentially achievable, and if done well everyone will be more relaxed and have better well-being.

Dress up or don’t

Some people suggest it’s good to dress up as if you were going to the office. As long as you are a not customer/ colleague / video-facing, wear what is comfortable to you, and what will put you in the right frame of mind.
Use the additional time

Many people have more time available as there is no commute. Do the things you said there was no time for: Read, learn, do online courses, play or learn an instrument, listen to podcasts, write, declutter. This is your time – use it wisely…