In the past few weeks many of our workplaces have moved from the office and into our homes. The occasional day “working from home” sat on the sofa or perched on the end of the dining room table is a completely different proposition to a prolonged spell of homeworking.
Over the past 6 years I have worked for large companies that have allowed casual homeworking for up to 3 days per week and most recently spent the past year as a full-time home worker with travel to client sites when required.
I have spent anywhere from the occasional day to month long spells working from home so while everyone’s circumstances are different, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some useful tips and the mistakes I made to help others adapt to working from home.
Create a workspace that’s yours
It’s not always easy but it’s important to segregate “work you” from “home you”. Whether it’s a home office or an area of the living room or dining room, it’s important to have that space where you have your mind on work and everyone knows it.
I’m fortunate to have an office and when the door shuts, everyone knows I’m at work. It feels harsh at first, but it didn’t take long before my 3 year old started saying “Daddy is going to work now”. Previously I wasn’t as lucky and had to work in a shared space but it’s just as important to try and create a space where everyone else knows you are at work…. Try using the kid’s bedroom during the day or a room with less traffic. If you have to share your workspace then it’s just as important to have those boundaries and room to work.
If you have younger children at home, make some rules but make a bit of a game out of it.
Once you have found a space to make your new mission control, make sure it’s setup for your success. Have desk space that actually allows you to work. If you are using a shared space, move as much of the non-work items somewhere else. Box them up and put them somewhere for the time being.
I’m a big fan of Joe Wickes PE classes which are being aired on YouTube each day for children missing school. He spoke about how he has even adapted his home to accommodate his job. He has moved all the furniture from his living room and blocked the front door so he has enough space to deliver his sessions. A bit extreme I admit but you should actively look to move those items that stop you from performing at your best…. I’m sure your desk at work isn’t full of clutter!
Have items to hand just like you would at work like pens, paper, notepads, phone, headset etc so you don’t have to go searching for them each time. Last but not least, think good ergonomics… have a proper chair, screen, keyboard etc.
Dress for success
Yes it still stands true at home.
The first rule of working from home is “get out of your pyjamas”. The physical act of changing from your bedwear and into some form of workwear mentally prepares the mind for work. No you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but do wash, tidy that bedhead and dress ready for the day ahead.
I fell into this trap when I first started home working and over time it makes you more lethargic and less enthused to really push yourself.
Connect, connect, connect. Working from home is not a reason to feel alone.
Set up team call so you can all check in on a regular basis, even if it’s a quick 10-minute round table to talk about the priorities for the day ahead.
Utilise technology such as video conferencing. Voice calls are great to a point but being able to see people makes such a huge difference and makes you feel more connected. Most people feel a bit daft or apprehensive at first but 10-minutes into that initial meeting it would have disappeared, and work will be the priority. In previous roles we have really encouraged this and it makes such a huge difference.
Even if it’s a quick touch base with a colleague, don’t be afraid to turn on that webcam!
Just because you can roll out of bed and into work, doesn’t mean you are always available. Nor does it mean you should work extra hours to “justify” working from home.
It’s important to be strict with yourself and while it’s unrealistic to set defined work times, it’s important to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of working 15 hour days. Make sure you spend time with family and try making it a daily goal to have breakfast together before you log on.
I found setting timers to make sure you have regular breaks really helpful. Not only is it important to get a break from your screen, it’s important from a mental and fatigue perspective. If you log on at 7am and don’t break until 2pm for a 15minute lunch you will burn out quickly. If you have family at home, schedule a proper lunch break together or go out for a run.
Yes it’s not all about work.
If you think about a typical day in the office, you inevitably spend 10/15minutes talking at the coffee machine or catching up with a friend about their day or week. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean these conversations should stop or they hold any less importance. Some of the most important conversations happen over lunch, on a break or between meetings.
Try establishing a social event using video conferencing. At Simplify we have organised a 30-minute coffee break twice a week and organised a “House Party” to have a few drinks after work on a Friday.
The Simplify Way
At Simplify Consulting we are embracing this opportunity to work from home and all the points made in this post. We are always sharing and supporting each other to ensure we remain open for business and available to help our clients.
We recognise the challenges are different for everyone so if you would like any advice on…
- adapting to home working as an individual
- support in transforming your operating model to accommodate a greater blend of home working
- developing a plan to improve your operational resilience
…please get in touch with the Simplify Team.
Written by Nick Clarke – Head of Frameworks at Simplify Consulting