I have worked from home for nearly 15 years now, around bringing up my son and caring for my late husband, first as a freelancer and then for my own business. Both my parents have also always worked from home, so it is second nature to me. With the second UK lockdown in place many will be returning to their kitchen table with laptops again wondering how to get through it. I hope some of things that help me be productive will also help you and maybe WFH (working from home) will become more enjoyable for you too?
Having some kind of computer goes without saying for most people these days, but if this situation looks like it could become more of a long term one I would suggest getting a desktop machine rather than a laptop (if your budget allows). They are so much easier to use and you then avoid patchy Wi-Fi problems and running out of power during important web meetings. But if you are only likely to do basic admin on it then save your money.
During the summer I invested in a Wi-Fi extender which meant I could sit in the garden and work on my laptop. It was such a good investment and made real difference to my well-being being out in fresh air and sunshine. It may be that you can get your employer to pay for things like this if it will help you to get work done or look at the government’s tax relief scheme.
Organisation is key when working from home and I always use a day per page diary to plan out what I need to be working on. It can be easy to get distracted at home but if you have ticked off everything on your work to-do list then why not chill out a bit? It’s also handy to jot down all those work contact emails and details so you have them quickly to hand.
I am lucky enough to have a (tiny) spare room that I use as my office/studio space. It means I can shut the door on it at the end of the day which psychologically helps to switch off from work. If you don’t have a spare room then maybe set up a specific area or even if you using the kitchen table clearing it away at the end of the day will help you to separate work from your home life.
If you are sat in one place for eight hours or more a day a hard dining chair is not going to do you any good. If you can invest in anything it must be this. Choose one that is comfy and gives you good back support. At the very least get a cushion to put on whatever chair you have to use. I have learnt this one the hard way.
If you and your partner are both at home some noise reducing headphones might help to concentrate or a use a PC headset for web meetings or just to shut out the noise of kids when they get home from school. I work on my own so haven’t needed these but my son’s noise has made me consider it!
One thing I have really started to enjoy while I am working is listening to podcasts. I am fairly new to podcasts but if you can work and listen to something at the same time I highly recommend Serial and The Teacher's Pet, if you like true crime, Can He Do That? and Gaslit Nation if you are into politics and The Missing Cryptoqueen, Wardrobe Crisis and The Guilty Feminist are also a good listen.
It is just as important to take a break from your work at home as it is in the office. Having a short break actually helps you to be more productive and focused and breaks up the day too. Maybe you are missing the coffee you normally grab on the way in to work, so make some at home. My feeling is that whatever makes life better, especially right now, is definitely OK (so why not have a biscuit or too as well!)
Now you are working from home you are likely to be far more sedentary than when you were going into the office as you may only have to roll out of bed to your desk (or maybe not even that). Scheduling in some exercise each day will help keep you sane while spending long hours in the same four walls. Putting on your trainers and going for a run is a cheap and easy way to stay fit and blow away those cobwebs.
Some people advise getting dressed up as if you are going to work to get into that mind-set and be professional. I say wear whatever makes you happy and is warm and comfy. If I have a web meeting I might put on a smarter top and still be wearing my tracky pants, and who is going to know or quite frankly care? These are trying times, let’s be kind to ourselves :-)
Hope you enjoy these tips and they help you to be WFH masters!
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