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!

Remote Work The new normal

Many of us have been working from home for the last few months and I expect that some are now considering this as a permanent option. If this is you, then Gren Gale’s latest book: “Remote Work The new normal” will interest you.

The author has worked remotely for several years and has a great deal of experience in this area. Interestingly, he was writing this book at the beginning of 2020 and completed it in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic. Thus making this a very topical book for 2020.

Remote Work The new normal has seven chapters. The first chapter is the introduction and looks at why you might need the book. Chapter two addresses the important issue of whether you can handle working remotely. The author draws out the plus and minus points of remote working and how one might find remote work. In chapter three he looks at how to build successful remote teams, which managers will find helpful. Chapter four is about technology and tools that are important for communication, project management and knowledge bases. One thing that must never be overlooked with remote working is security and this is covered in chapter five. The next chapter is about legal points and the author speaks about publishing a home working policy. The final chapter is the conclusion in which Gren Gale describes briefly some advantages of remote working. Remote Work The new normal is approximately 170 pages and can be read through in under 2 hours.

If you are someone who is interested in working from home then it is important to research the matter thoroughly. Due to his vast experience of remote working, the author will raise issues for you to ponder which you may not have previously considered. Most would agree that it is sensible to take advice from such a person. This book will prove to be a very helpful tool for you to use and I highly recommend it.

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.