There is a big difference between working from home on the odd day, and working from home on a semi-permanent basis. Having had a home office for over 15 years, I remember it took me some time to figure out how to make it work well. Here are some of the things I learnt about the physical space, routine, social and motivation aspects of working from home. I hope these might help you find your home-working way more smoothly;
Choose your space
For possibly the first time in your career, you get some choice about your work environment! Within the constraints of space and other occupant’s needs, you can have a personally customised workspace.
Make a list or draw a picture of your ideal workspace and prioritise the elements that will make you most comfortable and productive. Now look around your home for the best space and customise it to your needs as much as you can.
If you can, dedicate your work-space for work. Ideally a separate room. This gives you the experience of “going to work” and “leaving work”; so your brain understands when to switch on and off from work-mode.
Light and Oxygen
We are going to be spending more time inside that we’d like for sure. If possible sit at a window to get as much light and fresh air as you need. If you also have a bit of a view (even of your own garden), you will benefit from the “oxygen” of nature. I have a fox who visits regularly and provides me with a moment of presence as I watch him passing through.
When I first had my home office, I made the mistake of putting tea/ coffee/ water/ fruit in the room. Of course I had no reason to leave it all day! Getting up to go to the kitchen gives you a reason to take a break at least for as long as the kettle takes to boil. I also use kettle-time to bung a washing in or chop an onion for the evening meal.
What a great opportunity to eat well at lunchtime!
Make a big pot of hearty soup, make extra for supper and have it for lunches, buy delicious fruits to mix up, quick stir-fries or chop up and portion lots of veg, pulses, nuts and croutons and assemble tossed salads with nice dressings.
Have a routine time for lunch and eat away from your work-space.
It’s so easy to let your work-day stretch when you are working from home. If you like routine, set your start and finish times. If you like more flexibility, monitor your hours and correct yourself if you’re stretching your days.
Take advantage of the flexibility to exercise, do your shopping or home chores during the day.
You are likely to be sharing your work-space with other people working from home or with family. Be kind!
If you have other family members working from home, discuss how you will make it work. You can offset your working hours or agree some blocks of time when you have the workspace to yourselves.
For other family members, agree some protocols eg “door closed means do not disturb”.
Celebrate the advantages too; someone to bounce ideas off and have lunch with!
If you are a single contributor, you could become very socially isolated. If you are a member of a collaborative team, you will be connecting with colleagues regularly. Even so, it’s good to connect and just chat and share non-work stuff.
Get a buddy, or a group together to share a video-call coffee or lunch break once a week.
I also found that I could get stuck with a problem or dilemma and spend loads of time (often days) agonising and trying to decide how to approach it. In the office I would no doubt just turn to a colleague and bounce it off them. A five minute supportive chat is often all it would take.
Set up a social media group of colleagues where you can chew the fat or ask for help.
Communicating with the Boss
Being the boss of a virtual team (see my blog for bosses) is challenging. Being able to see the team busy, collaborating and productive is reassuring. Not seeing them at all is challenging and sometimes results in over-managing. Different bosses have different needs, so ask your boss what communication they need from you and when.
Feeling a sense of purpose and achievement is necessary for our motivation, resilience and energy levels. At the start of the day, ask yourself “What would be good outcomes for today?” and write them down. Make sure to think about task and relationship outcomes.
At the end of the day, ask yourself “What outcomes did I achieve?” and write down three things that went well during the day and one thing to do differently tomorrow. You now have built learning into your day.
As I write this I notice how much of this advice could apply to the workplace too. I hope this is useful and I wish you productive and peaceful home-working.