Working from home can sound ideal – save money on fuel, avoid traffic, wear what you like, stick to a timeline that suits you – sounds ideal, right?
Evidence has also shown that employees can improve performance at home as they are more determined to prove that working from home works for them.
What’s more, it’s been said that working from home can help establish a better work-life balance – and who doesn’t want that? This can be particularly beneficial to working parents who often struggle to make work fit around school hours and juggling their career and family life.
Improved productivity, increased happiness, more time with the family, it’s a no brainer! Working from home can be key to helping your employees.
But the reality can be a little different; working from home can also come with challenges. Distractions such as the internet, TV and the fridge can often get in the way. Not to mention, trying to work at home when kids are around. Not everyone has a quiet space set up to offer the perfect working environment.
At the home office, there’s no one watching which can take the pressure off and remove accountability. Some find this liberating, whilst others need their colleagues in the room to keep them on the straight and narrow and performing at their best. Less pressure means less stress, but when no one’s around, distractions can play a key role in interrupting your day. It can also get quite lonely. A few days of peace is nice, but a week without sharing a desk can get a little isolating – particularly for the extraverts among us who generate ideas, creativity and energy from engaging with others.
To help you be at your best when working from home, we’ve compiled a collection of tips and tools that we find really helpful in staying positive and productive whilst away from the office.
1) Create a new routine that works for you
When you’ve got to head into the office, your morning routine and commute can help you wake up properly and get your head ready to start the day started. When you’re at home, going straight from the bed to your computer can make that transition a little bit tough.
It’s worth thinking what your new home routine will look like. Will you start with a walk, getting the kids to school or just get dressed and jump right in? The morning routine will play a key role in being productive for the rest of your day. Find something that works and keep it consistent.
Consider what your working from home pattern looks like. Will you start and finish early or split the day into chunks to work around things like school and gym. The most important thing is to be clear what your boundaries and commit to meeting them. It can be tempted to keep working all day long with no one else giving you good reason to stop. We become less effective if we don’t take regular breaks (see our tips below on breaks). So, give yourself a reasonable finish time and try to stick to it.
Create a new routine that includes breaks away from the desk and regular start and finish times.
2) Work when you’re most productive
Whether you’re a morning go-getter or a bit of a night owl, no one is seamlessly productive from morning to evening. You will naturally flow in and out during the day. Plan your harder tasks on the times when you’re at your most productive and capitalise on your brain being at its best.
It’s also worth considering blocking out up to 90mins of time to focus on a given task. If you can, switch off any distractions (emails, phone calls, messenger) and get a piece of work done. Distractions make us so inefficient. You should find that by doing this, your to do list gets done quicker and you feel less manic.
Equally, you can use the slower periods to tick off some of the easier tasks on your list. Which naturally gives you a sense of achievement and can be a good pick-me-up!
3) Set goals
It’s great to set yourself goals each day and week to ensure that you’re remaining productive. Set aside ten minutes planning time each day to reassess what it is you need to achieve to be successful and be realistic about how much you can do. Having a to-do list packed with 20 tasks can be overwhelming. Order them in priority and, depending how big your tasks are, draw a line under e.g. task number 3. If you get to 4, then you’ve probably had a good day!
Being clear on your goals not only helps you stay focussed but will help the rest of the team stay in touch with your priorities and think about how it could affect them.
Tools such as Trello, Slack, or Monday.com can help you prioritise your goals and work with the rest of your team too. Projects can get passed through the team as you work on it, so you each know what tasks are coming your way or have been completed.
Good goal setting will help keep you on track, know when to finish and keep you motivated.
4) Schedule regular breaks
When you’re in the office, you might normally take a lunch break, a coffee break or simply get up from your desk to talk to your fellow colleagues. If you’re sat at home, you can get stuck in a bit of a rut, forget the time and realise you haven’t moved for hours.
Schedule breaks in your diary to give you that nudge to stop what you’re doing and take a time-out.
Use those breaks to get away from the screen and don’t forget to move. If you have a step tracker, keep an eye on it. Get some fresh air, go for a walk or even just walk around the house when you’re on the phone if you can. You’ll probably find that getting the blood moving around your body, fires up the brain a bit more too!
One idea is to schedule a catch up with a friend or colleague. It makes you both stop and get in touch with another human being. Virtual Coffee Breaks! They’re all the rage!
5) Keep in touch
Working from home can be a little isolating at times. Therefore, it’s important to stay connected to your colleagues where you can.
Having regular communication with others from the office throughout the day can be crucial to working productively and staying sane. Remote meeting services are in high demand. Video conference software such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WebEx are widely available and can keep you connected. And don’t be shy – turn that video camera on. It makes a huge difference to see the person you’re talking to, rather than just talking over the phone.
Could that email your writing be better as a call? Pick up the phone and call or video conference for quicker more effective collaboration.
Plus, when you talk to colleagues, you usually pick up other bits of information which really help you to stay in touch.
6) “Show up” to meetings
Thanks to technology, conference calls and video conferencing is easy and simple to do from wherever you are so long as you’ve got an internet connection.
Make sure you ‘show up’ switch on the video (make sure you’re dressed for it) and see your colleagues in action. It will help you connect better with them, more than just audio alone.
There’s a wide range of platforms available including Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WebEx you can use to help you communicate easily and still have that meeting.
Worried about using your home connection? Consider using or talk to your company about using a MiFi device or a Vodafone Gigacube instead. These portable Wi-Fi devices can connect you to a business fibre network without you having to tap into your home connection.
7) Stay secure
It’s critical that wherever your work – from home or café – you take steps to make sure your data and equipment are protected from any sort of security breach or cybercrime.
Keeping passwords to yourself and constantly updating them is a good start but introducing 2-factor authentication is even better. This can easily be done through apps on your mobile devices that integrate with those on your laptop. Be cautious when public Wi-Fi, some data can easily be intercepted so try connecting to a VPN and save some of the more private work for a private connection.
Some businesses will enable you to connect to the VPN when you are working remotely. This encrypts any data so that no malware or hackers can see what you’re doing. It also changes your IP address to make it look like you’re using your computer somewhere else.
If you haven’t already, it’s definitely worth investing in anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer or laptop and make sure you keep it up to date!
Similarly, most mobile devices now provide you with regular security and maintenance updates. Samsung’s Enterprise Edition ensures that your security will be up to date for 4 years. whilst Nokia is ranked #1 globally for security. Choosing the right business mobile phone can play a key part in keeping you secure.
Those are our tips – if you have some of your own that you’d like to share, please get in touch! Or, if you would like some advice on how best to work from home feel free to call us on 03300 888 999.