How to work from home

writing on notebook with blue pen on the working table with laptop and phone

Most of us have had the odd day here and there working from home but when you do it full time it’s very different.  The transition can feel trickier than you expect. 

Without doubt, there’s an increase in flexibility, but the new arrangement also brings its challenges, especially if you have family at home with you. 

When I first started working from home, I literally had to put my shoes on to feel ready for work!  I used to take a pot of coffee and a bottle of water up to my office and was over-conscious about taking breaks.  It was just me and my cat back then.  I found it lonely and sometimes stressful.  It took quite a while for me to begin to relax into the concept. 

Now, my job allows me to work around family most of the time.  I’m able to dip in and out as necessary and I’ve reached a point where one sits well with the other.  The balance comes partly from my choice of work and mainly from learning how to manage myself within it. 

By taking a considered approach, you can make this work well.  Here are some tips which I hope will help you get settled.

1. Set the expectation

The fact that you’re working from home now needs a conversation.  Talk about what you need to be able to do a good job; and about what they need, too.  Discuss and agree work and study times and understand that there’ll need to be a bit of flexibility between you.  By involving the family, you’ll all feel supported and may avoid disharmony when the novelty’s worn off.

2. Define your workspace

If you’ve got family around you, you’ll need to claim a space where interruptions are fewer.  If the kids need minimal supervision, you’ll be able to work well.  With small children who need constant supervision, however, there’s a bigger challenge.  

Avoid the temptation to plonk yourself on the sofa – we react to what we see, so by appearing too relaxed you’ll encourage interruptions.  In addition, you’ll end up with backache! 

If you can, position yourself at a table in a corner of the room.  That way, you can keep an eye on activities, encourage and mediate when necessary, without physically being in the middle of it all.  Don’t be put off by the fact that there isn’t an obvious space.  Reposition furniture.  Garden tables can be used for extra desk space.  Get creative.

3. Get dressed! 

It doesn’t take much to get distracted… At the time you’re usually dropping the kids off, you find yourself still in your PJs, helping to invent a coronavirus eating robot from a cardboard box, three yoghurt pots and the empty handwash bottle you wish you had a replacement for…

Get up at your usual time.  Shower when you usually shower.  Get dressed.  Keep your routine. Then invent that robot before you start work.  And by the way, everyone hopes you can do this!

4. Take a break

The kids will ensure you take regular breaks.  But if there are no natural distractions, it’s too easy to neglect yourself ending your working day with backache, stiff shoulders and dry eyes!  This won’t be good for you or your employer – you need to be able to continue to give your best. 

It’s ok to put a wash on, read to the kids, take some exercise!  Taking short, regular breaks will help you remain focussed, increase your productivity and feel positive.

5. Stay in touch

Make use of technology.  Agree a time for coffee with colleagues and connect using a video link.  Share stories and toast any successes.  The successes may look and feel different for a while, but it’s even more important to share those now.  This is a way of keeping the team together and self-doubt away.      

4. Finish your day

A physical journey gives you transitional time between work life and home life.  When you work from home, it’s much harder to switch off.  Definition is required to mark the end of one role and the beginning of another

  • Make a list in preparation for the next day.  This will prevent the urge to switch back to work-mode.
  • Tuck your chair under your table (or return it to its rightful place).
  • Splash some water over your face in an act of washing the day away.
  • Take a few deep breaths and become aware of your own energy.  Focus your mind on your family and friends, your evening meal, the book you’re reading or the virtual class you’ll be attending.
  • If you work on a laptop, use a different device if you want to browse the shops on- line.

Many home workers find themselves increasing productivity and improving the balance between work and home life.  It does take some getting used to, but I hope you will enjoy the best of both.

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