While many in the professional service sector are used to remote working one or two days a week, turning your home into your office can be challenging. Over the last 14 years I’ve learnt how to make running a business from my flat a productive and enjoyable experience. Here are my top tips:
Establish a routine
If you don’t have to be at an office at a specific time, it’s easy to feel discombobulated. View working from home as your chance to establish a routine which suits you. Aim to get to your desk at the same time every day, decide when to eat lunch and when you will finish for the day. Getting washed and dressed before you start work is important. Even if you are only wearing leggings and a t-shirt, it helps to get you into the right frame of mind. I like to breakfast, meditate and tidy up before I sit at my desk but you might prefer to do a few hours of work first thing.
Plan your day
It can be hard to figure out what needs to be achieved each day without the feedback provided by an office. I find detailed planning keeps me on track. I use Trello as a simple to-do list and spend an hour on Sunday mapping out my week. Don’t be afraid to go into ridiculous detail. I schedule showering, tidying, eating lunch or going for a walk as well as working on a project or attending a conference call. Detailed planning helps to establish how long these tasks take which will make you better at managing your time. With no-one hovering over you at your desk and fewer distractions, you can schedule the work which needs your full concentration at a time which suits you. For example, I prefer to write in the morning.
Have a home office
Build a dedicated workspace. This will help to separate your job from your home life, which will keep you in good mental shape. Resist the temptation to tap on your laptop while in bed or sitting on the sofa. Establish good habits: when you are your office you are working, when you are in the rest of your home you are not. The best solution is a separate home office. If you don’t have this luxury, then find a corner of another room which you can use every day, even if it is your bedroom. Try to avoid working at a kitchen or dining room table – keep these spaces for eating and chatting. Turn your dedicated workspace, however small, into somewhere which makes you feel happy and productive. Invest in a desk and an ergonomic office chair. Make sure your keyboard and screen are at the right levels so you can work without developing backache. If you have to build a home office in your bedroom, buy a screen so you can’t see your desk when you are in bed.
It can be hard working without the social interactions provided by an office and social media can be a tempting substitute. But it is all too easy to lose a lot of time engrossed in Twitter, and during these uncertain times, it can cause mental distress. Take social media apps off your phone and instead only check social media at your computer. You might think you can have TweetDeck open while you are working but you can’t. Check your diary and see when you have a free half an hour to catch up on social media and then schedule it. Minimise phone notifications, including email, and make full use of the ‘do not disturb’ option. Don’t check your work emails on your phone after you left have your home office and are sitting on your sofa. If there is something urgent which needs your attention, go back to your workspace and address it there. If it’s not urgent, leave it for the next day.
Communicate more than usual
Working from home means you can’t wander over to a colleague to ask a quick question or update your manager on how you getting on with a project. Even if you’re not sharing the same space, you can still chat. Aim to communicate more than usual. That doesn’t mean pestering colleagues with ill-thought through suggestions but providing regular updates on how you are progressing with projects and your suggested solutions to problems. And don’t just use email; quick phone chats are more effective way to solve an issue.
Managing isolation has been my biggest challenge. I’m an extrovert so cabin fever usually sets in after 24 hours. In a normal environment, I can manage this by going to the gym three times a week, nipping out to the shops, having a full social life and hanging out with my family. In these more constrained times, not feeling confined is going to be more difficult. I’ll be chatting with friends and family over the phone, going for walks and hoping this period will be short-lived.