Many of us are experiencing extended periods of working from home, probably for longer than we first expected.
Here are 7 tips focused on how to work from home effectively.
1. Up and at it! Make a quick start to each day
When we’re commuting into an office, we have our morning ‘wake up’ routine. Typically, it’s something like this: up, wash, dress, eat, out. It’s quick, efficient and gets us on our way for the day.
If you’re working from home, you should aim for the same quick start to the day. If you typically leave home at 8.00am, aim to keep the same quick start to the day – including getting dressed for work – and sit down to get work started at the time you would typically leave for the office.
Yes, working from home provides the opportunity for flexibility. But too much flexibility and we lose focus and control. Stick with your ‘up and at it’ routine, it will serve you well.
2. Regular breaks, stop for lunch and avoid snacking!
Working from home can be more isolating than working in an office and we need to take care of our mental and physical health. At first it may be tempting to just put your head down and ‘work work work’, but this is not sustainable and not how to work from home effectively.
Aim to take a 5-10 mins break ever hour. Be disciplined to take each break, but not let a break last too long! Maybe do a quick mindfulness exercise, or a quick 5-minute ‘office exercise’ routine (there are plenty on YouTube!).
And make sure you break for lunch. Put your lunch break in your calendar, it’s OK to let people know you’re having a lunch break.
Finally, be careful not to snack too often. Keep your regular eating habits: breakfast, lunch and dinner and avoid the kitchen at all other times.
3. Recruit your family into the program
You don’t have to hire them, but you do need to make sure that family and friends are on your team! They need to support you to make working from home effective. Be proactive to make sure they understand your plan.
If you have a room in which to work, stick your schedule up on the outside of the door. Highlight when you’ll have a break and when you can’t be disturbed. Talk to your family and explain how they can help you.
And agree your working hours with your manager. If you have a family maybe you want to work a couple of hours first thing, take a longer break in the middle of the day, and then return to work in the evening. This will have to be balanced with the needs of your work and the needs of your team. Take the time to talk with your manager and be open and honest about your preferences and recognize the need to be pragmatic too.
4. Stay socially and emotionally connected
If you’re working from home for long periods it’s important to stay connected with your team, and your manager. Schedule regular calls and use the video available in Skype and Microsoft Teams, it makes a huge difference to be able to see each other! (It might not seem natural at first, but you’ll soon feel the benefits.)
Also, consider scheduling more informal chats, maybe get together for a virtual lunch, virtual quiz or crossword or a virtual coffee, to just chat about life and work. Maybe 15 mins in the middle of the afternoon as a little ‘extended coffee break’… just to keep in touch. See more examples in this CNBC article.
It’s important to stay connected, not just through the work that you’re collaborating on, but also socially and emotionally, to work effectively from home.
5. Have clear goals for each day (and the week overall)
All the points above are designed to help you stay productive and well-balanced. To be at your most productive you must also have clear goals for each day (take a look at fast goal setting). Make sure that you’re clear about your tasks that need to be completed and why. Whether you’re using a ‘to-do’ list, a planning app, or a project plan, make sure you have a system for identifying and delivering your daily tasks. And make sure you’re discussing these tasks with your manager on a regular basis.
Finally, make sure you’re also working on your implementation intentions, to turn goals into actions and results.
6. Create a ‘ritual’ to unplug after work
The biggest struggle with working remotely is unplugging after work (according to this Buffer.com ‘state of remote work‘ survey). For many of us, the commute home is our chance to unplug from work. Instead of a commute to end the workday, create your own ‘end of day ritual’. Firstly, turn off your PC, remove it out of sight. Then you could exercise, meditate, do yoga, go for a walk, or just have a cup of tea, an activity that is specific to the ritual.
And let your end of day ritual serve to change your state of mind. Because the most important part of a commute is not the physical distancing from work, it’s the mental distancing. Let the working day drain away and embrace the opportunity to refocus on the rest of your life. Create that mental distance that allows you to relax and enjoy the rest of your day ‘away’ from work.
7. Celebrate your wins
Finally, celebrate your wins! If you’re working from home for the first time it can be challenging to adapt to this new way of working.
Make sure that you take a moment to reflect on what you’ve achieved and what you’ve done well, and then tell your family, your friends and your colleagues!
For more on celebrating your wins at work, take a look at this thebalancecareers article.
How to work from home effectively – in summary
Here are our 7 tips on how to work effectively from home, in summary:
- Up and at it! Make a quick start to each day
- Regular breaks, stop for lunch and avoid snacking!
- Recruit your family into the program
- Stay socially and emotionally connected
- Have clear goals for each day (and the week overall)
- Create a ‘ritual’ to unplug after work
- Celebrate your wins
Done right, working from home can be a beautiful experience. Get up and embrace the working day!
And for 9 more tips on how to work remotely, take a look at how to work remotely when it matters most.