The current lockdown we have in place in the UK due to the Coronavirus pandemic means that lots of people are working from home, perhaps for the first time. It’s likely this situation will continue for three months or more, perhaps even up to six months. With this in mind, we thought it might be useful to share some advice on how to make the best of working from home.
At ACES Marketing, working from home is the norm. Apart from when we’re with clients, we work from home every day. So it’s always been important to us to be productive and have our “work heads” on even though we’re at home.
Here’s what we’ve learnt (and find works for us) about working from home:
- Stick to a Routine
Treat the working week as a working week. From Monday to Friday, get up at a sensible time, take a shower, have breakfast and start work. Don’t be tempted to lounge about in bed until midday – save your lie ins for the weekend.
To be productive, it helps to have structure to your day. Do a morning’s work, have lunch, work in the afternoon. At the end of the day, turn off your computer and have some downtime. This may sound obvious, but as each day starts to look the same as the last, it’s easy for the lines to blur and the structure to go out of the window.
Don’t allow work to infiltrate your time off at the weekends or in the evenings. It’s important to have clear boundaries between work time and leisure time – a good work life balance helps with your stress levels and mental health.
But also be prepared to be flexible. It may not always be possible to work within the confines of a rigid 9 to 5 day, five days a week. You might have the occasional deadline that pushes your working day into the evening or even the weekend. Equally, some days you may not have enough to do to fill the whole day. Rather than feeling guilty and looking for things to do, take some time out to watch a film or do some gardening.
- Get Dressed
When you’re working from home it can be so tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day. We’d urge you not to do this. Having a shower and dressing for work will help to put you in the right frame of mind for the working day.
You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but comfortable, smart clothes that are not your usual weekend attire will help to create the delineation between the working week and the weekend.
If you spend a lot of time video conferencing with work colleagues or clients, smart clothes will lend a professional air to your virtual meetings.
- Have a Daily To Do List
Start each day with a list of tasks you want to achieve that day. As you complete them, tick them off. This will help to keep you focused, make you more productive and generally give you a sense of job satisfaction.
It’s important though that you’re realistic about how much you can do each day. If your daily list is too long you’ll be setting yourself up to fail and this could be detrimental to your productivity and stress levels.
- Create a Designated Work Area
If you have a separate office or study area that’s perfect. Even a desk that you can allocate as your workspace is great. However, not everyone will be that lucky.
If you don’t have the space and need to use your dining or kitchen table to work, sit in a chair that you wouldn’t usually use for mealtimes. And try to avoid working in your bedroom. This may sound strange, but working from home will work much better for you if you can find a space that you don’t associate with non-work activities like sleeping or eating.
- Take Breaks
When you’re planning how to structure your working day, make sure you build in breaks. Without realising it, in the office breaks happen naturally: colleagues stop at your desk for a quick catch up; you have a chat at the water cooler; you have meetings in a different office or at a coffee shop. These natural breaks won’t happen when you’re working from home on your own.
For Health & Safety reasons you shouldn’t be staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Give yourself a 5 minute break every hour or so. Or take a 20 minute break mid morning and mid afternoon. Have a proper lunch break too and spend it in a different room if you can.
Incorporate half an hour of exercise in the fresh air into your working day. That could be sometime in the morning, immediately after lunch or later in the afternoon – whenever works best for you. It will help to rejuvenate you and you’ll return to work feeler fresher and more energised.
- Use Video Conferencing
Rather than making telephone calls, use video conferencing instead. We use Skype, Zoom and StarLeaf (the free versions) at ACES Marketing for group calls and all platforms work equally well. If you’re just talking to one individual, FaceTime and What’s App video calls are really effective.
Working from home can be a lonely business, especially if you’re not used to it. And especially at the moment with the social distancing measures in place. We find video conferencing helps us to connect as a team. It makes us more sociable and feels like a more natural way of staying in touch. Somehow, when you can see the people you’re talking to the communication is more effective, everyone is more focused and productive and there’s greater accountability.
- Don’t get Distracted
This is a tricky one. When you’re working from home there are so many things that can distract you. The washing machine needs emptying, the floors need vacuuming, dinner needs cooking, the lawn needs mowing. And so it goes on.
Here’s a valuable piece of advice. Try to hold off doing those little jobs around the house until one of your allocated breaks comes up. Then you can load the dishwasher without feeling guilty and give yourself some headspace at the same time.
- Working with Kids in the House
Another hot potato! Depending on the ages of your children, this will be easier for some of you than others. If the children are very young, it may only be possible to work when they are asleep. If this is the case, just accept that and don’t worry about it too much – there’s probably not too much you can do about it.
If there are two of you working from home, take it in turns to look after the children. Perhaps one of you can take the morning shift and the other one can take over after lunch?
With older children and teenagers it should be easier. Hopefully they have schoolwork to do and are able to get on with that relatively independently.
Regardless of their ages, the following two facts are true of all children:
- Firstly, their screen time will increase over the coming weeks. Relax and accept that’s the case.
- And secondly, inevitably they will need to speak to you urgently when you’re on an important call or video conference. Again, don’t worry too much about this – remember, we’re all in the boat!
- Learn a New Skill
There’s little doubt that most people will have a bit more time on their hands over the next few weeks and months. Why not use that time to learn a new skill? Learn to play chess. Start running. Play the piano. There are lots of resources online and YouTube tutorials ready for you to tap into.
Were you considering changing jobs before the lockdown started? Why not spend some time writing your CV or updating your online profile on Linked In?
- Embrace it!
We can’t change the current situation. We all need to play our part by staying at home and only making essential journeys. The pace of life is inevitably slowing down as we stop travelling to work, seeing friends and going out.
Instead we can get things done at home, spend time with those in our homes and generally hunker down.
Of course, these are worrying times for all of us. But it’s also a time when we may have more time on our hands than at any other time. Try to embrace the slower pace and take the opportunity to decompress. It might help you in the long run.
Safe home. Stay safe. Save lives.