Working from home sounds like a pretty simple concept. You open up your laptop, sign in to work servers and networks, join colleagues on the occasional video call and crack on with your daily tasks. However, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, millions of people around the world are now learning that working from home can be quite challenging.
If it’s not something you’ve done before, working from home can be a huge shock to the system. The discipline required to stay productive without being distracted by social media, your mobile phone, your pets, your children, the kettle, your Netflix account – we could go on – takes time to develop. You’ll also miss the regular social interactions you’d be a part of at the office.
However, that’s not to say that working from home does not have its perks. Avoiding the commute is certainly one, as is having more flexibility about the hours you work. The key is to approach the day intentionally and put firm boundaries in place. That’s the only way to stay sane and productive.
How to Work from Home Without Losing Your Mind
We asked some experienced homeworkers for their tips about how to work from home while still being productive and maintaining your mental health. This is what they said.
• Never work in bed
Homeworking newbies tend to think that their working lives can now be conducted in their PJs from their beds. While that might work for a few homeworkers, the vast majority like to keep a structured routine.
They get up, have a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast before starting work. Not only does that help you stay awake, but it also creates a mental divide between home and working life. Importantly, it also helps to keep your bedroom a sacred space – somewhere you can go to sleep and relax at the end of a busy day, without it being associated with work.
• Keep the same rules you’d have in the office
Getting distracted can be a very slippery slope. You’ve been working hard, so you reward yourself with a five-minute read of the latest news updates or browse your favourite online shopping site. Before you know it, an hour has been passed and you’ve done no work at all.
As Sam from Passion.Digital explains, “The key to avoiding temptation and distraction is to pretend you’re still working in an office and the same rules apply.”
Would you get up from your desk to do the laundry in the office or watch a three-part Netflix mini-series during your lunch break? Probably not, so don’t do it at home. Given the current coronavirus lockdown, you’ll have plenty of time for that after work.
• Set clear boundaries for the people you live with
Working from home on your own is difficult enough, but trying to get anything done when you have roommates, a partner and/or kids milling around is another matter entirely. Although people can see you’re working, that rarely prevents them from trying to hold a full conversation with you. That’s particularly true if they have no experience of working from home themselves.
To solve this problem, you need to set clear boundaries for the people you live with. They need to understand that you should not be disturbed between certain hours unless it’s an emergency or you’re on a break. If you have your own home office to work in that makes it much easier. Here are a few other tips to help you set boundaries when working from home.
• Take regular breaks
A hugely important part of home working is to get out and socialise as much as possible – but amid the coronavirus outbreak, it’s not that easy. However, you should still take regular breaks away from the computer. To maintain productivity, it’s recommended that you take a 15-minute break every 60-75 minutes.
Ideally, if your home has some outside space, you should get some fresh air, do some exercise, play with a pet or chat with loved ones or roommates. If you live alone and have no outside space, you should go into a different room, ignore your phone and give your eyes a much-needed break from the screen.
How to Work from Home in Difficult Times
Working from home is certainly not for everyone, but at the moment, many of us have no other option. If you’re struggling to be productive and maintain your sense of wellbeing, don’t worry – it does take time to find your groove. By following these tips from experienced homeworkers, you will establish boundaries, take care of yourself and be able to establish some form of work-life balance, even in these testing times.