Millions of people all over the world are working from home. While remote working was becoming more popular before the pandemic hit, there is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated a shift towards home working. With many set to be based at home for the foreseeable future, and employers considering more flexible options in the future, here is a guide to taking the stress out of working from home.
Setting aside a workspace
One of the most crucial rules of successful home working lies in establishing a suitable workspace. It may be possible to balance a laptop on your knee on the couch or to work from the kitchen table for a few hours a week but if you’re working from home in the long term, you need a dedicated work area.
Spare rooms, formal reception rooms that you don’t use frequently, garages, and loft rooms all provide options for those who don’t already have an office at home. It may also be possible to consider projects like renovating a basement, adding a garden room to create a studio or study outside, or turning a guest bedroom into a new office. Ideally, your workspace should be quiet and light, and it’s best to choose a room that is separated from the hustle and bustle of the home.
If you don’t have space to create an office, and you need to use part of your living area to work, there are ways to enhance privacy and enjoy peace and quiet. You can use screens or curtains to section off a work zone and utilize versatile furniture to work in a living room, dining room or bedroom. Consider using side tables or extendable dining tables as desks, or swapping a bed for a sofa bed or a day bed in a guest bedroom to make space for a desk and chair.
Taking advantage of technology
Technology has played a crucial role in keeping businesses running during the pandemic, and it is fundamental to the future of remote working. If you are usually based in an office, you should be able to do your job as well at home if you have the right tools, equipment, and technology.
One of the most important considerations when working from home is having access to a reliable, rapid Internet connection. Slow broadband can make it difficult to work efficiently, and it can also disrupt communications. If you live in a rural area, for example, or you’re finding that your connection is dropping during meetings or video conferences, it’s a good idea to invest in faster broadband or to use a booster.
It’s beneficial to try to resolve problems, as poor reception can affect productivity and it may also damage your reputation. If you’re trying to close a deal or pitch to a buyer, for example, you need to be able to get through a conversation, a meeting or a presentation without any technical hitches or interruptions.
Getting into a routine
Many of us were used to a daily routine before the pandemic hit and we started working from home. When you go into an office or another workplace, you get into the habit of setting an alarm, traveling, working for a set period of time, and then making your way home. When you’re based at home, that routine goes out of the window.
Most people work better when they have a system in place so it’s beneficial to try and get into a routine when you’re at home. Try to get up at the same time each morning, establish a pattern to prepare for work, set core hours, and make time for regular breaks and exercise. Finish work at a similar time each day, and try to resist the temptation to check emails after you’ve logged off.
Before home working became the norm, many people had a rose-tinted vision of working from home. It is often assumed that being at home is easier than going into an office but studies suggest that many employees are actually working longer hours because they don’t have to commute or sign in and sign out at specific times. When you’re at home, make sure you manage your schedule and make time for relaxation, hobbies and socializing as well as working.
Achieving a healthy work-life balance
Working from home can make it easier to achieve a healthier work-life balance but some people are finding that they actually spend more time at their desks now than before. If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s important to understand the benefits of managing your time.
Schedule breaks, take time out to exercise and get some fresh air and finish at a reasonable time. If you are expected to work 9-5, this should give you time to relax and unwind in the evenings.
If your workload is increasing, or you’re working long hours without recognition, speak to your boss. Be honest and open about how you feel and see if there is a solution. It may be possible to share tasks with other employees and colleagues or to encourage your employer to hire more people.
One of the things people have missed most about being away from offices and other communal workspaces is social contact. When you’re at home, you can’t just pop over to somebody’s desk or discuss the previous night’s TV highlight by the water cooler.
Working from home can be lonely, and it’s natural to miss those interactions, no matter how fleeting they may be. If you are working from home, it’s crucial to engage in communication, stay in touch with others, and try and introduce an element of socialization and fun. You shouldn’t just spend hours in meetings and conferences.
You can also get together with colleagues for social activities. From a catch-up over a drink on a Friday afternoon as the weekend approaches to informal chats between meetings, engaging with others can lift your mood and help to prevent isolation.
Organizing, cleaning and decluttering
They say that a tidy desk makes for a tidy mind. Whether you have an office at home, you’re working in a log cabin or summerhouse in the garden, or you’ve converted an attic into a study, it’s essential to try and keep on top of tidying and stay organized.
If your desk is covered, there are piles of papers everywhere, or you can’t see the floor, this will affect productivity. Use storage to keep the area neat and tidy, clean up at the end of each day, and organize a clear-out if you’ve got too much stuff.
Decluttering can make rooms look larger and lighter, and it can also free up valuable space. If you have run out of room and you don’t want to throw anything away, it’s wise to consider renting a storage unit.
Exercise and fresh air
Our homes have taken on a host of new roles in the last year. While some people love being at home all the time, others have struggled with staring at the same four walls. One of the best ways to boost productivity and enhance wellbeing while working from home is incorporating daily exercise.
Exercise reduces stress, increases energy levels and aids sleep. Being active can also help you clear your mind, and it provides a natural high linked to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain and the release of endorphins.
Try to make time for exercise every day. Even if you can only spare 20 or 30 minutes, you can go for a run, take your bike out or do a workout at home. From yoga and HIIT sessions to virtual spin classes or running around the garden, there are myriad ways to get fit and break up the day.
As well as being more active, it’s also hugely beneficial for home workers to get out and enjoy the fresh air at least once a day. A brisk stroll, a hike, a bike ride or an outdoor exercise session can make all the difference to your mental health.
Try to incorporate a daily walk, a run, a cycle or an outdoor Pilates, circuit training or weights session into your routine. Being outdoors provides a welcome change of scenery and it can also make you feel happier, more content and more relaxed.
Working from home has pros and cons.
Many of us enjoy spending more time at home but there are challenges. If you’re looking to take the stress out of working from home, it’s beneficial to be proactive in making your new workspace work for you.
Create a dedicated area, get into a routine, establish core working hours, make time for exercise and fresh air, keep in touch with colleagues, make sure you have all the tools and technology you need, and schedule time to relax, enjoy hobbies and hang out with friends and family.