This week, after the Government’s advice, some people may find themselves working from home for the first time. On the first day you may start off thinking “Yay I get to work from home!” Soon it’s “it would be nice to talk to people…” and then days later “I hope that pigeon sits in the window today”, or you’ve painted a face onto one of the kid’s footballs and called it Wilson for someone to talk to.
Keith Paterson, Tornado’s MD has worked at home for 15 years and here’s some of his tips on working from home.
1. Define your work area
If you are fortunate to have a room you use as an office, that’s your work area. More likely is you will have to work in a shared room, so designate the desk, table and the space you are going to use. Make sure it’s comfortable and try and set up in a low person traffic area.
2. Work stays in your work area
This is as important for you as the other people in the house. Help your family, especially if you have young children, to understand you are “at work”. Set boundaries on what that means, personally I want to be included if someone’s making a brew, or if there’s a sandwich on the go, but you may not. On the flip side do not bring your work out of the work area.
3. Work happens in work hours
15 years and I still struggle with this one, but you need the discipline to not just always keep working. At closing time shut the laptop, power off, don’t work on days you wouldn’t normally and don’t send emails outside of your normal working hours. You risk this becoming the new normal and then you are always at work.
4. Get dressed for work
Now you’re not going to find me in a three-piece suit working at the dining table, but even if I’m not leaving the house, I will dress for work as if I were in the office. Psychologically dressing for work puts you in the right mindset for work. It also avoids the awkwardness of doing a video call in your PJs or having to send the message “BRB, just putting pants on”.
5. Set yourself a daily ‘To Achieve’ List
Do it last thing the day before, set what you want to achieve the next day, and if you can by when. We use Slack to remind us and share our lists, so we all know who’s working on what. Ours include work tasks, personal tasks and fitness.
6. Have a break
Get away from the screen, have lunch, go for a walk (even if it’s just in the garden), have a jog or a cycle and hydrate. Get some fresh air at least once a day, your body needs to move, and fresh air and sunshine will do you good.
7. Keep work and home time separate
If you were in the office, you can’t put the washing on or paint the fence (unless that’s your job of course). Make sure household chores or other distractions get kept for when you are not “at work”.
8. Get out of your inbox
Email is not your friend. Do not make it the first thing you check in the morning or you’ll more than likely wreck your ‘To Achieve’ list before you’ve started. Pick up the phone or get on the video chat and have a conversation, you’ll often get things resolved far quicker talking than just firing off emails. Also get a support network of friends, colleagues or clients that you can have some communication with, even if it’s just a once a week video call to check in on each other.
9. 1-minute commute
My drive from home to Tornado HQ is 35-45 minutes, that’s more than enough time to destress. Your new commute is going to be less than a minute and it’s easy to unload that work stress onto a housemate, partner or child. Consider going for a walk or doing some exercise to give yourself a buffer between work and home.
10. Never work with children and animals
Just like the guy on the news whose toddler bursts in mid interview, kids will be kids, or the cat might want some attention sat on your keyboard. Sometimes life just happens, give the kid a hug, stroke the cat, this is your new normal – embrace it.