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Top tips for working from home

Working from home - perhaps with other family members around - can be tricky at first.
But a little bit of preparation goes a long way.

Here are some top tips to help you make the most of your new daily routine:

Go easy on yourself

You’re probably in a new working environment, possibly with noisy kids nearby and perhaps without the luxury of a proper desk. So, cut yourself some slack and bear in mind it might take a little while to adjust and longer than normal to get through your to-do list.

Create the right working area

It’s important to create the best possible working environment for yourself. Ideally you would have a dedicated spare room or outbuilding that you could use exclusively for work and that is separate from the rest of your home.

But if you don’t have that luxury, then it’s worth taking a little bit of time to rearrange your furniture and create the best work space you can. If you have a dedicated work area, it will help you to switch off at the end of the day and keep your work and home life separate.

Structure your day

Everyone’s different, but for most people, structuring your day may help. That way, you may find it’s easier to stay disciplined and focussed on work.

You could sit down at the start of the day and work out how you plan to allocate your time, hour by hour, including time for breaks. This will be likely to change as you go, but it’s a good start; it may also help you to set boundaries on your work hours.

Having a plan doesn’t have to mean being a slave to a rigid schedule - this may not be realistic, especially if you have children at home or do the sort of job where you’re often called upon to take on new tasks. So, be prepared to adjust your plan as you go.

Some people swear by the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks your working day into 25 minute chunks. There are apps that can help you with this time management technique. One of them is the Forest app, which has the added benefit of helping the environment. If you successfully stay focussed for 25 minutes, you earn virtual coins, which can then be saved up and used to help plant real trees.

Switch off from distractions

As tempting as it might be, you probably don’t need to constantly check the news headline as they can be very distracting. The same goes for social media.

You can either ban yourself entirely from doing this while you’re working, or allow yourself specific times of the day when you can check in on social media or the news.

Take a break

Although you probably already know about the need to take regular breaks, when you’re busy, it can be easy to forget.

Scheduling in your breaks at the beginning of each day, as you plan it, is a good start. Then, once it’s time to stop for a few minutes, get some fresh air, if you can. Or at least step away from your work environment.

If you find it hard to resist checking your work emails during your lunch break, consider setting up an appointment on your email calendar, so people you work with know you won’t be available during that time.

Maintain virtual contact

Do what you can to stay in touch with colleagues. This can help you ward off loneliness[1], share experiences and stay upbeat. Your boss will probably appreciate it too.

Technology can help here, including online chat apps (such as Slack or WhatsApp) video calling tools (such as Zoom or Skype) and plain old phone calls.

Could you and other members of your team have a morning video chat? Even a brief check-in can help. Or you could suggest a video chat ‘coffee break’ for anyone that wants to dial in at, say 11am. The same goes for an end of the week video catch-up over a drink.

If you’re conscious about the domestic chaos behind you on a video call, then some of the video calling apps, such as Microsoft Teams, let you blur the background.

Get the right gear

If you’re used to working on a desktop computer, with a mouse and keyboard, it can feel uncomfortable to switch to using a laptop all day.

If that’s the case for you, then perhaps it’s worth seeing if you (or better still, your company) can put in an order for a bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse, together with a monitor, to be delivered to your house.

You also need to make sure you have the right equipment set up properly – just as you would in an office. For example, do you have a comfortable chair, a keyboard in the correct position and your screen at the right height?

Check your insurance

Look carefully at your home insurance policy to check what it covers.

Some home insurance policies cover business equipment in your home, but that’s not always the case[2], so it’s always worth checking with your insurer – either on their website or by getting in touch with them directly.

Help others

Some people will find working from home harder than others. For some, it’s lonely while for others it’s difficult if they have kids demanding their time.

So cut everyone some slack - whether it’s colleagues, clients or your boss - acknowledge their stress and difficulties, and, if you’re feeling upbeat, spread some of that cheer.