Tips For Working From Home

With the current COVID-19 situation a number of us are working from home, here are my tips for making it work for you

For the last 2 years I have been fortunate enough to work from home when ever necessary. I won’t lie, I often find it hard being in the house with a wife that’s regularly home during the day, 2 teenage boys who like their music loud, a cat that wants fussing, a dog that needs walking and gets jealous of the cat, and a never ending list of household chores. So here’s my list of tips that I use to help me through the distractions, and keep me working efficiently as part of a team.

Prepare your home the day before

I’ve got a weird condition some like to call OCD. What does this mean for me? I really struggle to work in a house that is untidy. To tackle this, I make a concerted effort to clean up the day before; get the washing in the machine, on a timer, so I can hang it out in the morning, put the dishwasher on so I can easily deal with it first thing, and so on.

In short, don’t put off today what you should do today. It makes the use of time a lot more efficient and allows me to keep some resemblance of routine that is similar to my normal office days.

Set up a suitable work station 

It’s all too easy to sit on the sofa, in front of the TV, surrounded by your normal household comforts. I like to take myself away from areas of the house that are used a lot. I can’t expect people to not use the TV or kitchen, so I take myself to the furthest corner of the house, set up a chair I can sit in all day, with a desk/table that doesn’t give me back ache, and allows me a good connection to the internet and a good amount of natural light.

Get up, make your bed, get washed and dressed

I don’t know about you, but I need to get into work mode to work. For me this includes getting up, washed, dressed, and prepared for a normal work day. I’ve tried working in my ‘slobs’ and I found I was making excuses to colleagues about being ‘offline’ so I could brush my teeth! Part of working from home is creating a good routine, so like William McRaven says, ‘Make Your Bed’.

Set yourself a work structure

…and communicate this to others! Like any normal work day, you start, you take a break, and you finish. Why would working at home be any different? Well actually it is. My advice is to tell everyone you share your home with what you are doing. Teenagers are pretty demanding and rarely consider anyone else, so I always make sure the people I live with know I’m working and would appreciate their respect in this manner. Similarly, tell your colleagues what hours you are working, plan a lunch break and let them know what you are doing. This will help you, your team, and will stop you working a 12 hour day because you got too ‘into it’.

Prepare a drink, some snacks, and your lunch

When the kitchen is a 30 second walk away, it’s all to easy to find yourself perusing the fridge, procrastinating over lunch, and gorging on snacks. What would you do if you were in the office? Grab a bottle of water, some nuts or fruit, and plan your lunch. This also means saving time wandering around getting refreshments, or worse, going without!

Communicate with a variety of channels

…but keep to the standard practice your team employ! There are times we need to use written, spoken, or live channels to communicate, but it’s all to easy to spend all day sending emails and losing the personal touch. My team use SLACK for everyday, internal, communications, which is great, but sometimes I’ve seen people ‘default’ to emails and break away from the norm. Just because you are remote, doesn’t mean you should employ a completely different way of working.

Also, you may get lonely, so schedule a phone call or fire up SKYPE. Keeping in touch and having human contact will stop you creating a different reality in your head…and it also helps to deliver a clearer message with no ‘interpretations’ of what someone meant.

Plan your workload and share it

My team always use a ‘KIT’ channel in SLACK. KIT means ‘Keep In Touch’. We share our plans for the week, schedule meetings, ask questions, and ensure we all know what each other is doing. This is invaluable, especially when you are reliant on work other people may be doing.

This also helps to deal with the paranoid voice that keeps asking ‘am I doing enough?’ Let’s be honest, we all get it from time to time. Telling your colleagues what you are working on really does help to calm the nerves when you are worried about appearing lazy.

Sign off at the end of the day

There’s nothing worse than trying to get hold of someone who isn’t there, and likewise, seeing a raft of important messages first thing in the morning, that you could have dealt with the night before, is a terrible way to start the day.

Let everyone know you are planning on wrapping up things for the day. It gives them a chance to ask those final things of you before you put your feet up.

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