Tips for Working from Home

Whether you have worked from home for several years or are relatively new to it, it is good to adopt working practices that will benefit you. The following are ones that I have found useful and are tips I would happily pass onto others.

Remember that you are at work

First and foremost it is important to remember that although you may be at home, you are actually supposed to be working! You may be sitting on your favourite chair in your house, but your employer is still paying you. You are at work. Therefore you need to adopt a mindset that remembers this.

There will probably be plenty of distractions at home but these need to be ignored. Some people are comfortable working with music being played and if that is you then fine. However for others this is too distracting.

If your job is one that is a responsive one (i.e. your work is to respond to calls) and you have cleared all your tasks then it might be appropriate to have the television on. You just need to be ready to respond to calls as soon as they arrive in.

Make sure your work station is comfortable

I cannot emphasise how essential it is to ensure that your work station is comfortable. It is not good for anyone to spend any length of time hunched over a laptop. If you persist in doing this you will encounter aches and pains in your neck and shoulders. Do not do this!

Not everyone has a designated room as a home office. Therefore some of us will need to work off the dining room table. If that is you, then I strongly recommend that you purchase an external keyboard to connect to your laptop and find something (for example: box files, hardback book, etc) to place your laptop on to bring it up to eye level. You will not regret this. Trust me! Whatever you do please do not setup your work station like the photo below.

Take breaks from your screen to stretch

No matter how comfortable your work station is our bodies do not like being sat in front of a laptop all day long. The general advice on this is that it is good to take at least a five to ten minute break each hour.

Our bodies can start to ache if we neglect to have breaks. To avoid unnecessary pain it is good to do some gentle stretching exercises to ensure our necks and shoulders remain flexible. I am not suggesting a fully blown workout! Just gently stretching. Trust me it works!

Take a lunch break

Following on from taking short breaks from the screen, it is wise to take an actual lunch break. Switch off your laptop and phone. Get away from your work station and have something to eat and drink. Please do not work straight through lunch. It is not a good habit.

My personal preference to is go for a short walk at lunchtime. I find this very beneficial. Exercise refreshes you not only physically but mentally too. Enjoy the fresh air and the break from work.

Have a start time and end time and stick to them

There does appear to be the temptation for people, when working from home, not to have a set start and end time to the day. It can be easy to work additional hours and not have a set finishing time for the day. Would you stay the night if you were still working in the office? If not then why do the same at home?

Also, there really is no need to spend the whole evening checking your laptop or phone for emails. It is not a good habit to develop. Do not worry the emails will still be there in the morning for you!

Separate work from home

If you are someone who does not have a dedicated office space in your home then you are no doubt working in a common communal part of your house. Therefore it is important to endeavour to separate work from home. You may be working from your dining table, but once you finish for the day you want to avoid staring at anything work related. You are at home and it is time to relax after a day at work. With that in mind, it is essential to put your work stuff away at the end of the day. It is not good for either you or your family to have your work on view on the dining room table each evening.

On a personal note I have found that putting my work equipment away at the end of each day has enabled me to relax and I no longer feel that I am at the office.

Put a padlock on your fridge

Finally, ensure that you have a padlock on your fridge and that someone else has the key to it! For some reason, when working from home, the fridge seems to draw me like a magnet. Too much time in the fridge can lead to putting on the pounds. This needs to be avoided!

The ups and downs of working from home

I have now been working from home for the last four weeks and it looks likely I will be continuing to do this for a few more weeks, as there is no sign yet of the lockdown restrictions being eased. In view of this I thought it might be interesting to explore the ups and downs of working from home.

I’m fortunate in that I can do my job anywhere and do not need to be in a fixed location. The only tools I need are a laptop and a reliable internet connection. Once I get those I can connect via a VPN to our network and it’s just like being in the office.

For me one of the best things about working from home is that my commute is very short! Normally it takes me 30 minutes from leaving my house to when I’m sitting at my desk. Although the journey is short compared with some commuters, that still means I waste an hour each day travelling to and from work. I have often pondered why we commute to work when we can do our jobs at home. Surely it’s a better use of our time and also beneficial to the environment not to unnecessarily drive to work.

Working from home also means that I get less interruptions from people disturbing me and enables me to concentrate better. Invariably when you work in a busy office there is going to be a certain amount of noise. Sometimes this can be distracting and therefore working from home avoids this problem.

Thanks to the wonder of modern technology I can still keep in touch with my work colleagues. We have been having weekly departmental meetings using Microsoft Teams which works well. I must admit that I do switch off the camera facility for these meetings. I don’t wish to frighten my work colleagues needlessly!

There are some who feel that working from home can cause issues with loneliness. I personally so far have not found this a problem, but that is probably due to me being more introverted than others. However, I acknowledge that for those who are more extrovert and prefer being with people this could be a huge problem. Although being in a busy office does not necessarily prevent one from suffering from loneliness.

There are though obviously problems in working from home. The biggest one for me is my house is not suited for full time working from home. It’s ok for the odd day. I could probably make it work for once a week or once a fortnight but not for every day. I’m currently doing my work at the dining room table on a normal chair.

Additionally I am doing all my work on a 13 inch laptop. In the office I have my laptop plugged into two big screens with another keyboard connected too. I also have a special chair and a block under my desk which raises it to a level more suitable to someone my height.

Therefore I’m encountering two main issues here: my productivity and a sore neck. Yes I can still get my work completed, but not as fast as when I’m using two big screens. I also need to manage my neck so that this problem does not escalate. This means taking regular breaks during the day and doing stretching exercises.

Another problem at home is my internet connection. For some reason my internet normally crashes between two or three times per day. I’m not sure why this happens but it does. Fortunately I have not lost any work or missed anything important but I always have an eye on it checking that it is ok. It’s somewhat ironic that when we are in the office we complain about our internal IT systems yet encounter our own IT problems at home.

Whilst I have not felt lonely at home I acknowledge that there are times when you want to run a problem past a colleague. Yes you can still email them but it’s not the same as asking them a quick question.

When working from home, if you do not have a separate room for an office like me, it can be a challenge separating work from home life. The temptation exists to have a quick look at your emails outside working hours. My personal approach is that I am trying to work exactly the same hours at home as I do in the office. The laptop is switched off at the end of the day and put away until the next morning.

The next few weeks will no doubt be a challenge and it will be interesting to see whether the lockdown leads to any long term change in people’s attitude to working from home on a more regular basis.


Conversations at Work

Last week I read an article on the BBC website where the Chartered Management Institute head said that chat about football or cricket in the workplace should be curtailed. It was felt that conversations at work on these subjects led to women feeling left out.

Naturally this got a lot of reaction, including a number of female sports fans who thought it was a terrible idea. One female manager feared that if sports chatter was banned then it could also lead to talking about Love Island, EastEnders and Game of Thrones being banned too!

Personally speaking, over the years I have found sport to be a subject that can build bridges between people at work and develop friendships. It can be an interest that people from very differing backgrounds have in common. At one level you may feel you cannot relate to the people with whom you work. However, if you both like football, it provides an area where you can interact with each other.

It’s easy to write this article off as another example of political correctness going overboard. Although, for the Christian in the workplace, this does raise the important issue of how we must consider carefully our words at work. We should think about our speech and guard what we say to others. With that in mind, I am conscious that we need to ask God’s help in the following areas:

Not gossiping
There are plenty of verses in the Bible that warn against gossiping;

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13)

Gossiping is not an attractive trait. As Christians we should not be known as one of the office gossips. As gossiping frequently involves the criticism of others it should have no place in the life of a Christian.

Think before we speak
The trouble with opening your mouth and saying something is that you cannot unsay your words. The number of times I wish I could unsay something is sadly very large! The words come out and the damage is done. I expect most of us are familiar with the verse below:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19).

How much different our lives might be if we actually put that verse into practice?

Speaking wholesome words
It can be difficult for the Christian in the workplace to set up an example of wholesome talk if our work environment is one where crudity abounds. However, as Christians we are called to be an example in this area:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Wouldn’t be good if every time we spoke people benefited from our words?

Closing Prayer
It’s easy to feel a failure when we consider those times when we have dishonoured God at work with our speech. However such is God’s amazing grace that He gives us new opportunities to serve Him each day. The following prayer is one that would be good to pray for ourselves each day before we set out for work:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Thank God it’s Monday by Mark Greene

This is a well written and easy to read book for anyone struggling with what it means to be a Christian in today’s workplace. Greene believes that it is God’s will for Christians to work, although he makes no distinction between those in paid employment, such as the CEO of a large multi-national organization or the stay at home mum. He states that, whatever we do, we should seek first to honour God rather than our earthly bosses. Indeed he even suggests that, as all authority comes from God, our earthly bosses have been empowered by God to transform us and make us more Christ-like – a real challenge if you struggle to get on with your immediate supervisor!

Greene asks why there is generally so little preaching and teaching on workplace evangelism (although this may be due in some instances to the make-up of a congregation if it comprises mainly retired Christians or folk who may have little hope of gaining paid employment in particularly deprived areas). He reminds us that the success of any outreach is winning people for God not increasing individual congregations. Greene also addresses some of moral dilemmas particular to the workplace with practical examples dealing with such things as using office equipment and being asked to lie by your superiors.

Even since the first publication of this book the working environment has changed significantly with a long hour’s culture now almost the norm in many jobs. The author looks at this issue and the impact that it has on our lives. The book avoids offering any easy solutions but does challenge our attitudes to work, and those we work with, and warns against compartmentalising our lives.

I particularly like the fact that he is not afraid to share examples of when he has made mistakes and I am sure many of us can identify with him in this respect. This is certainly a book that I would recommend.

What Job Should I do?

Some people seem to know from an early age what job they want to do. If you ask them they answer confidently and tell you what job they hope to do after leaving school / university. However others have never really been able to answer that question. They seem to fall into a job and then several years later are still not sure what they should be doing.

There are some who feel that so called “full-time Christian work” is more important than working in a “secular job”. They might have set their heart on being a pastor or missionary and are very disappointed if they then end up working for the local retail outlet / insurance company / garage etc. For those who have this mindset it’s good to remember the following verse from Colossians 3v23:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”

For anyone who might be wrestling with the question “what job should I do?” the following articles are well worth reading and pondering:

Categorized as Work Tagged ,

The Theology of Work

There are many different areas of life where it is very challenging and difficult to live out our Christian faith. One of these is the workplace. Many people feel under pressure from the long hour culture that is prevalent today. Additionally with the advances in technology some feel an expectation of always being “on-call” to their bosses.

Not to mention the challenge of our working relationships with our work colleagues and managers. If we are honest there are probably some colleagues who we prefer not to work with! All of us at times at work have lost our cool with people and then felt embarrassed about it afterwards.

Why do we work? Is it just to earn enough money to pay the bills and to go on holiday occasionally? Should we be sharing our faith at work or is that not appropriate? Is God really interested in what we do at work? What does the bible say about work?

If you are interested in looking more in depth at this subject then you may find The Theology of Work website helpful.

On their website they say the vision of the Theology of Work Project is that every Christian be equipped and committed for work as God intends

Considering how much time many of us spend at work it’s certainly worth looking more closely at this subject from a Christian prospective.

Categorized as Work Tagged

Checking work emails when on holiday

I received an email at work on Monday, concerning some new research undertaken by LinkedIn about British workers checking their work emails whilst on holiday. The following results caught my attention:

  • 24% of British workers say they can’t relax if they don’t check their work emails while on annual leave.
  • 37% feel more positive about their return to work if they’ve been checking in on work while out of the office.
  • 68% of those questioned don’t mind checking their work emails while their out of office is on.
  • 60% admitted opening in their inbox at least once a day.
  • 48% say that they check their emails as they don’t want to fall behind.
  • 84% of those questioned confessed that they actually respond to work emails while they’re on holiday.

I find it incredible that people are unable to switch off from looking at emails and enjoy their summer holidays.

Whilst work is important it is also essential for our own well-being that we relax and take a break from the pressures of it. If you are on your summer holidays then you should not be working but rather enjoying your holiday. Instead of looking at work emails why not switch off your smartphone / tablet and do one or more of the following:

  • Go for a walk
  • Go for a run
  • Go for a swim
  • Play tennis
  • Read a book (make sure it’s not work related!)
  • Take a boat trip
  • Visit a museum
  • Go sightseeing
  • Enjoy the company of those you have gone on holiday with!

We spend so much time at work that we should at least try to enjoy our holidays and forget about work. Go on give it a go!