How to thrive working from home
March 23rd, 2020
Some essential tips for juggling home, life and family during the shutdown.
Most of us are used to working from home, but usually only for the odd day here or there. Now, our homes will not only be our castles but also our offices and classrooms. If the thought of being cooped up for weeks sends your blood pressure soaring, then relax. Working from home can be a really rewarding, even liberating, experience.
Here are a few tips for doing it right.
Get into a routine
Working from home has, for some, meant logging on from the sofa in your pyjamas. But, to do it for weeks will mean creating a working schedule that maximises your productivity. In the office, your time often isn’t your own, whereas working from home could enable you to discover whether you’re an early bird or night owl.
Some of us will be full of beans in the morning, while others will have a burst of energy in the afternoon – it’s called your circadian rhythm, so by organising your day around your natural pattern you can ensure you get the most done. Do tasks that require more creativity, such as writing reports or pitches, when you’re at your best and save chores, like answering emails or filling in expense forms, for when your energy levels are low.
Don’t get distracted
Separating home and work life can be difficult, but you’ll have to learn to ignore that pile of ironing or layer of dust. You wouldn’t suddenly leap up from your desk and start hoovering the office, so don’t do it at home.
Although you might not think so now, one of the great bonuses of homeworking is that it has been found to substantially reduce people’s work-related stress. But, if the line between your home and office life becomes too blurred then it can prevent you from ever relaxing properly.
You don’t have to be logged on all the time at home. Instead, set a time for when you’ll finish work, tell your colleagues when that is and stick to it rigidly, by turning off your laptop and work phone.
Working from home with a family
'Never work with animals and children' might be a good rule of thumb for actors, but many of you will find it impossible to avoid now that schools are shut. On the bright side, you’ll see a lot more of your family – perhaps more than you (or they) might want initially. But, there are plenty of bonuses to being together.
You’ll be much better off
The enforced closure will mean you’ll save a bundle on childcare. Also, you won’t have to pretend that you don’t have kids any more – a common complaint among many working parents. Now, you’ll be able to spend your tea breaks with your daughter and her dollies rather than having to make small talk in the staff canteen.
Juggling homeworking with homeschooling can be tricky, so it’s important to stay level-headed about what you’re likely to achieve. Otherwise, you might end up feeling like a bad employee and a lousy parent. Social media is already full of people’s pictures of their colour-coded, laminated daily schedules. But, within a day or two, these will mostly only be used to scoop up cereal from the kitchen table.
Understand that you’re never going to be able to put in an eight-hour working day, ensure your kids have done all their schoolwork and keep a spotless house. Set goals for a week or even month, rather than having the anxiety and frustration of a daily-to-do list. You can still achieve plenty while remaining flexible.
Relax screen time rules
You might need to allow your children to watch TV or use their tablet for an extra hour or two while you race to hit a deadline. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure, you’re just being pragmatic. When you’ve finished your work then you can concentrate on helping your kids with theirs.
If your children are very young, then it might be nigh-impossible for you to get much work done. But, if your partner is also working from home then one of you can look after the little ones while the other works.
Create a nest
If you’ve not worked regularly in a crowded house, then you might think it’s a good idea to seat yourself at the kitchen table, reasoning that you’ll be able to keep an eye on everyone from there. But, you’ll quickly discover that you’d get more work done sitting in the main concourse of Manchester Piccadilly station. A good tip is to find somewhere – anywhere – to work which has a door that you can shut.
It won’t be perfect. Everyone remembers that guy whose young kids came bounding into his study while he was being interviewed. Soon, that may be us. But that’s okay. After all, it could be your boss’ child who bursts in during a Zoom meeting.
The weeks ahead are going to be challenging but providing everyone is realistic then you’ll still be able to do a great job. Who knows, you might even wonder how you ever got anything done in the office with all those distractions, while finding a new work/life balance that you never dreamed possible.