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Working from home can sound like fun to someone people and a challenge to others. Some people will find it easy and some will really struggle. Whatever your view of it, there are some simple things you can do to make it easier to work from home and make your time more productive.
I’ve been working at home since 2014, and over this time I have learned new tips and ways to make things better for myself. Because of my pain, I mix between sitting and standing and have had to adapt my ways of working on a regular basis. I am still learning and adapting now, and changing the way I do things to suit both my physical and mental health and wellbeing.
In this post I share 7 of my simple tips to help you if you’re new to working from home. Even if you’ve been working at home for some time like myself, you may find this post helpful, either as a reminder of things you should be doing, or to help you do things better.
1 Get the right desk/table set up
The most vital thing you can do is to make sure your desk/table set up is appropriate. The last thing you want to do is cause aches and pains from not having the right set up.
In the office it can be easy to set up your display screen equipment (DSE) and ensure you have the right ergonomics in place. Your desk, chair, and equipment – monitor, mouse, keyboard etc. – are all provided and once set up for you, if you’re the only person using that desk, then you never really have to think about the DSE assessment again. However, when working from home, it is far too easy to use a laptop on a dining table or on the sofa and not even think about making sure your posture is correct. That is until it starts to hurt.
Make sure you follow the simple guidance to get the right equipment and your body in the right alignment, whether you are sitting or standing to work.
It’s also important to make sure the space around you is appropriate for working. Ideally it would be away from the main living areas of the house and somewhere you can close off to separate your working day and leisure time. When working from home, you are not physically arriving or leaving an office or building elsewhere, so having a dedicated area to work can be a good physical way to help you switch on and off between work and non-work modes.
Make sure your work space is right for you and not cramped – have space to use your equipment properly and consider making it personal for you to boost your wellbeing. Use your favourite stationery, pop a picture frame or plant on your desk/table, and sit by a window if you can to ensure you get some natural light and fresh air.
2 Have regular breaks
When working in an office building, it’s easy to have a break by going to speak to a colleague, grab something from the printer, or to attend a meeting in another room. At home it is easy to stay stuck at your desk/table all day because you either feel you should be working the whole time, or you don’t feel you have any work specific tasks or actions you can do away from your desk/table. It doesn’t matter. The key thing is to keep moving and ensure you have regular breaks.
Ideally you should have 3 short breaks in every hour where you move from the sitting to standing position. Stand up and have a stretch, grab a coffee, do a quick lap around the house. Anything to get you moving. And you are also likely to find that these breaks can make you more productive, even if you feel the opposite and that a break is interrupting your flow.
Use something to remind you to take a break. Plan them throughout your day, and set a reminder so you don’t forget. Time can fly by so fast and before you know it, an hour has passed and you’ve not moved once.
Set a timer for every 20 minutes, or use the Stand Up app and set notifications to remind you to move. I use this app and I am always amazed how quickly it seems to go off. I also use the notifications as a prompt to have a good drink of my juice. So when the reminder goes off, I get up, move about, and have a drink. This way I am benefiting in more than one way and adding this extra task (having a drink) on to something I am already doing makes it is easier to get in to a good habit.
3 Get some fresh air
When working from home there is no need to leave the house as you are technically already at work. You get up, have your breakfast, and get straight to work, not leaving the house or going outside if you don’t need to.
Whenever I can, I try and get some fresh air before I start work. It could be a short walk with my dogs, coffee in the sunshine in the garden, or taking some rubbish to the bins. It could even be 5 minutes in the garden simply doing nothing. This fresh air makes me feel more energised and refreshed before I start my working day.
During my working day I also take breaks outside whenever I can. I always find it helps me manage my wellbeing and energy much better.
4 Walk and talk
Like I mentioned above, it’s often too easy to stay stuck at your home desk/table all day and hardly move at all. If you don’t actually need to be at your desk/table or laptop when on the phone, why not walk and talk at the same time?
Consider walking about when on the phone to a colleague? Or going for a walk in a local park when on a teleconference? I’ve done both of these recently and found that I burned a lot more calories and did a lot more steps on those days. My body felt less tense and looser too because I wasn’t hunched over my desk during that talking time.
5 Plan your day
Make sure you plan your working hours and those who you live with know when you will be working so they know you are busy and won’t disturb you. (Although this doesn’t mean you should avoid them altogether, as a bit of company can also help you feel less isolated.)
Plan what your priorities are for the day, and make a to do list. This will help keep you focused and motivated.
I make sure I schedule my tasks and time as best I can so I get the urgent stuff done first and the energiser work can help give me a lift in the mid-afternoon slump when I start to get tired.
6 Keep in contact with colleagues
I’m an introvert and find it easy to work from home on my own, but for some extroverts and those that really struggle when they are not surrounded by people, or those that don’t have their usual routine, it can be both challenging and stressful.
No matter what your personality or preference, it is important to keep in contact with your team and/or colleagues. They can help motivate you, provide you support and distraction when things get tough or if you’re having a bad day, and really boost your overall wellbeing.
You don’t have to necessarily speak to them on the phone or have video calls; a simple text, WhatsApp group, or messenger chats online can be just as effective.
7 Turn off your emails
Even though you need to keep in contact with people, you should switch off your emails whenever you can. Email is one of the biggest productivity interruptions and distractions and the impact it can have on your work time can be surprising. And just because you area away from your usual working environment and colleagues, doesn’t mean you need to be constantly checking your emails.
You may feel like you are multi-tasking by doing one of your actions and having your emails open at the same time, but in reality you are most likely taking much longer to complete each task and it can take twice as long to get re-focused after an interruption. This can be frustrating and can impact on your mood and wellbeing.
If emails are a vital part of your job, then maybe set a rule of only checking it every half an hour, or after you’ve completed a task. That way you are being as productive as you can and getting things ticked off your to do list, but not cutting your email off completely. If you can though, check your emails first thing, then again after lunch or at the end of the day, keeping your time spent dealing with emails (and all that interruption) to a minimum.
Remember, to make the most of working from home, you need to do everything you can to be comfortable, motivated and productive.
What tips or suggestions do you have for working at home?
Are any of my tips new to you?
How are you finding working from home if this is new to you?