Working from home: Advice and Tips

working from home

Looking for advice & tips for working from home?

It’s important you have thought about how working from home might work for you. Although it can hold several advantages, it can also be a challenge for a variety of reasons.

Check out the advice and tips for working from home below, whether you’re already working from home or thinking about doing so.

Create a specific work from home workspace

Set aside a particular place in your home that you intend to use solely for work purposes. Deciding on the right place for you is often the biggest challenge when working from home. We don’t all have the luxury of using a home office so do you choose the spare room or the living room? The dining room or the lounge? Although each may have its advantages, the key is to pick one place/room, establish it as your workspace and then stick to it! Ideally, your workspace should be separate from communal areas so family members and other distractions are avoided. In this way, you shouldn’t be worried about closing the door and walking away at the end of the day. It will help you to ‘switch off’ psychologically – work hard to resist the temptation popping back to send that one email extra or completeing that report! It can wait until the morning.

Get set, ready, go

It's all too tempting to slob around in pyjamas without having a shower or getting dressed, but this can leave you feeling lethargic and lazy. Make sure you have a morning shower and dress like you're going to work. You'll feel more professional and ready for the working day. Then make sure you've had something to eat and drink – having a good breakfast will give you the energy you need for a productive day. You’ll need to maintain that good start with healthy snacks and a decent lunch partway through the day and keep hydrated by drinking 8 cups of fluid/day, limiting your caffeine intake.

Be organised

Working from home on a regular basis successfully means that you must be well-organised, maintain good time management and be self-motivated. Not everyone is hardwired that way so make sure you have these skills before you take the leap!

Make sure you have a filing system if dealing with paper-based documentation or consider scanning documents onto your computer to reduce your need for storage space. If your chosen workspace looks like an office, you’ll be less likely to drift into non-work-related tasks during your scheduled work hours. Remember, your employer is paying you to work from home.

Develop a work schedule

When working from home, it can be easy to get sucked into working any time, any day to the point where a family member may need to physically pull you away from the computer on an evening! Instead, try to set well-defined work hours and avoid phone calls and emails that encroach on your personal time. Develop clear boundaries that limit the potential for your home and work lives to overspill into one another and avoid the temptation to extend your day and clock up ridiculous overtime.

9 am – 5 pm is all very well if it suits you - but when you’re working from home, you may be able to choose the hours that are best for you, to some extent. Think about your normal schedule - there's no point vowing to work from 8 am if you have to do the school run. Similarly, think about your productivity. If you are more alert at night there is no point starting work at 6 am. You’ll need to consider your employer, colleagues and clients too of course. If their working hours are 9-5 pm, you'll have to spend some, if not the majority, of your time working within their timeframe.

Ultimately you need to strike a balance between putting in the hours and making the most of the flexibility available to you.

Prioritisation & Structure

At the start of each day, perhaps make a list of things that need to be done as a priority and make sure you factor in some breaks too! If you use an electronic calendar, you may find blocking time for set tasks helpful. It will create structure in your timetable, make you feel good as you tick off your list and help to minimise the potential to overlook important tasks. Of course, no two days are the same when you are working from home and you will need to create space for flexibility, but using it as a guide and reminder of what you’re supposed to be doing will keep you on track!

Active breaks & time out

Remember, working from home is just that – working – but it doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible within your work schedule. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life! Try to introduce ‘active breaks’ into your routine. This may mean that you alternate between emails and telephone calls, reports and teleconferences. Wherever practical, introduce variety in tasks and changes in activities throughout the day. Break up the day/week with meetings or time spent at your clients' sites, lunches, conferences etc. Not only is it good networking sense - but it'll also keep you sane.

Working from home can be a lonely experience at times and maintaining social contact with customers and colleagues is essential.

Sometimes, people may find threading social activities such as walking the dog or doing relaxation exercises in and amongst work tasks helpful. It can clear the mind, re-energise and help to maintain your motivation, focus and drive when back on those work tasks. If you’re not good at stepping away from the desk, try setting an alarm on your computer or work phone which will remind you to take a break. If it’s proving difficult ‘getting going’ again, sit at your back at your desk and tackle a few of the easy jobs first. It will help to set you along the right track and before you know it, you'll be ticking jobs off your list again in no time.

To avoid that common 'cabin fever' complaint, simply get out of the house during your breaks to enjoy some sunshine (fingers crossed!) and fresh air. If that’s not possible, open a window or perhaps tend to a couple of plants. This can all help to ventilate a room and recent research highlights the importance nature has on our mental health.

Clean & Tidy

On a regular basis, tidy and clean your desk, phone, keyboard, mouse and anything else you come into contact with. Remember the expression: organised desk, organised mind! It can be beneficial to ‘filter’ your paperwork and files too and will help to avoid the need for additional storage space.

Working with family members

If you are working from home with your partner or another relative it can be difficult to draw the line between a loving family member and a professional work colleague. This can easily lead to confusion about what's expected of you whilst in your workspace. Are you working as a team or will you work independently on your own tasks? Establish boundaries while you're working. For example, don't discuss non-work related topics unless you're on an official break - so no discussions on what you'll be having for dinner that evening or who's doing the washing up! - stick to a more professional approach. Similarly, don't discuss work after you have clocked off. Learn to treat your family members as you would a colleague and things should be a lot simpler both in the workplace and at home.

Looking after your body

When working from home, it’s tempting to sit on the sofa with the laptop resting on your knees, but this isn’t great for your health! Make sure you’ve reviewed your workstation set up to facilitate a comfortable yet supported posture. It’s important that you use equipment which is ‘fit for purpose’ so it’s essential your desk, chair and computer equipment are set up appropriately if you’re working for long periods.

You might also need other equipment if working on a laptop, such as a laptop stand, separate keyboard and mouse which will help to improve your working posture. If you’re transporting the computer and/or paperwork from one workplace to another, it’s also handy to use a rucksack across your shoulders or a wheeled briefcase-style bag to negate the need for repeated carrying and lifting. In some cases, it may be necessary to organise a workstation assessment with an ergonomic assessor. Your employer has a duty of care to provide you with the equipment you need and to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ where practicable.

When working, remain conscious of your posture. It’s tempting to get distracted by work but you may find negatively reinforced postures create health issues over time, such as back pain, neck/shoulder problems and ‘RSI’ like symptoms including carpal tunnel syndrome. Again, it may be helpful to set your reminders on a regular basis to facilitate your postural awareness.

If you’re a computer user and stare at the screen all day, make sure to give your eyes a rest at regular intervals too. This may be in the form of an active break, as detailed above. It’s also essential that you have 1-2 yearly eye checks and ensure prescriptions for glasses and contacts are up to date. If you find yourself peering into the screen, it might be a sign that you need a review. Make sure there is adequate light too. This can be another reason why we lurch over our desks!

Getting a good night’s sleep might sound obvious, but it really is important. It will help you to feel refreshed in the morning and to tackle the working day with bags of energy. If you have trouble sleeping, consider why that may be. Perhaps you struggle to ‘switch off’ or drink endless cups of tea and coffee or perhaps you have a health issue that affects your ability to sleep. Try relaxation strategies, avoid caffeinated drinks (including coke) after lunchtime and consider a visit to your GP for health issues.

Finally, incorporate a regular workout routine into your day and working week. Do something you enjoy. Exercise releases ‘happy’ hormones, maintains your fitness and cardiovascular health, mobilises your joints, warms up your muscles and can help you de-stress. Current national recommendations suggest that we should undertake approx. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days/week as well as muscle-strengthening and balance focused exercise (such as pilates, gardening, lifting weights) twice a week. Take a moment to think about whether you’re hitting these targets.

Useful Links with advice for working from home sucessfully:

A short video about setting up a workstation at home

HSE DSE Checklist

Access to Work Scheme – grants for people with disabilities and health conditions

Plus Health Company - Enhancing you Home Working Environment video

Categories: Pilates