Whether you’re part of a company or self-employed, many of us will have to work from home at some point in our careers. While it may sound like the ideal place to set up shop, being at home and trying to graft can be challenging! Don’t worry though, we’re here to help you navigate this time with our ultimate guide to working from home. Everything you need to know is right here.
What are the biggest benefits of working from home?
- Your schedule is your own
- You control your workflow more than ever
- You can make your home office exactly as you want it
- You can avoid the office politics
- Meetings can be more effective and efficient
- You can be more focused
What do I need to work from home?
- Laptop or computer – The most obvious tool you’ll need at your disposal, if your role is computer-based, of course. If you’re setting up as self-employed, this is one piece of equipment that you don’t want to scrimp on. You may think you’re saving money but you might end up shelling out more later to replace a cheaper model. Invest in a decent piece of tech that is going to last a while and be able to handle your workload.
- Internet connection – Also pretty obvious, it almost goes without saying!
- Instant messaging – Slack is one of the most popular apps out there, and allows you to communicate instantly with your colleagues. You can even create groups and add certain people if you need to chat specifically about projects.
- Video chatting – It’s almost the same as having a face-to-face meeting, but not quite. Video conferencing is the next best thing, and there are tonnes of apps out there to use. Zoom and Google Hangouts are two of the most popular.
How to set up your home office
Choose an office space
One of the worst things you can do for your productivity is work on the couch in front of the TV, or sit up in bed, as tempting as they both may be. If you have a spare room, now is the perfect time to utilise it to your advantage – we bet you’ve been wondering what to do with it for a while now. A shed at the bottom of your garden can also work well!
The perfect chair
Furniture is another area where you need to loosen the purse strings a little. If you’re sitting for long periods of time, which is an unfortunate side effect of an office job, then you need to make sure you have a chair that is supportive of your back and neck. Not only will this help with your posture and overall physical health, but it will also make you more comfortable and productive. Ergonomic chairs with a mesh back and sturdy arm rests are best, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself to the perfect chair that’ll last a long time.
Have the right desk
Just as you’ll be sat in an office chair for most of the day, you’ll also be sat at a desk for most of it too. It needs to be the right height for you and your chair, and also the right size for your office. You want something that gives you enough room to do your work, but that also doesn’t take up the entirety of your room.
Have the right equipment
A home office has to be three things; functional, practical, but also ergonomic. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this room, so it has to be as healthy for you as possible. That not only means having the correct type of chair and desk, but also any bits and pieces that help you work. This could be desk lights, monitor arms and laptop stands, all of which when combined, bring you a comfortable and practical working experience.
Get the colour right
If you’re able to properly decorate your new home office, then it’s something we’d certainly recommend. Working in a dull environment, or somewhere that is cramped and surrounded by ‘non-office’ things is only going to detract from your productivity. So before you settle down to work, put on your scruffs and whip out a paintbrush.
You may have already heard about colour psychology. If you haven’t, it essentially works on the principle that colours evoke emotions and feelings within us on a subconscious level. Colours can be powerful, so bear that in mind when it comes to decorating your home office.
You’re going to want to avoid cool colours such as blues, greens and lilacs, as these are likely to make you feel relaxed and at peace, whereas you probably want to be alert when at your desk. A combination of neutral shades such as grey and cream with a shade of purple, a colour that’s thought to stimulate your imagination. Or a brighter hue such as yellow is always a good option; nice and cheery!
Maximise natural light
Natural sunlight has been proven to boost our mood and make us feel better, so it’s something you’re going to want plenty of in your home office. Try and place your desk or face your computer towards the window, so you can take a peek outside every now and then to give your eyes a break from the screen. If you can’t install a window or don’t have one, there are lights out there that simulate daylight and have a natural warm glow to their bulbs, as opposed to harsh white light.
How to get things done when you work from home
On the surface, working from home might seem like heaven. No commute, no small talk in the kitchen and you don’t even have to put on proper clothes. And while all those things may be true, your home is actually full of distractions just wanting to deplete your productivity. Thankfully, not all is lost. There’s plenty you can do to keep your workflow going and get stuff done, without ending up down the Netflix rabbit hole all day.
- Work flexibly
A fantastic perk of working from home is that you don’t have to adhere to the standard nine to five schedule; the day is yours for the taking. This is especially important if you have little ones to look after and you need to fit your work in when they are napping or don’t need your undivided attention.
Do you find that you’re most productive in the mornings? Get up early and smash through your work then, leaving the rest of the day open and free. Or are you more of a night owl? Then schedule accordingly! Of course, there will have to be some degree of flexibility if you have client calls or work alongside others who do keep normal office hours, but be sure to use the day to your advantage.
- Minimise distractions
We know it’s tempting to have the TV on in the background while you work, but it’s only going to take your attention away from what you should really be doing. Most smartphones nowadays have a ‘do not disturb’ mode, so use it! This will block any notifications from pinging unless they are from one of your important contacts – those people you would hear from in an emergency. Turn off the TV and step away from social media. Better yet, install an app that stops you from accessing the likes of Facebook and Twitter during set hours!
- Get dressed
Yes, you read that correctly. While it may be tempting to simply sit in the same pyjamas you woke up in all day until it’s time to go to bed again, it can actually have a negative impact on our motivation and productivity. We’re not saying you have to put on what you’d actually wear to work, or even a pair of jeans, but showering and putting on some fresh clean clothes can work wonders. Opt for loungewear or sporty gear; it’s still comfortable enough to stay at home in but you could also wear it out to the shops if you need to. Clothes for exercising in will make it easier to get a little workout in between tasks, too.
- Get out and about
We’re not just talking about exercise – although we’ll touch on why that’s important shortly – but who ever said you had to just sit at home and work? While you may have a fantastic home office, sometimes it’s good to get a change of scenery. If you’re able to, why not take your desk elsewhere? Like your local coffee shop, library or even a coworking space. Anywhere that’s got WiFi!
- Make a schedule and stick to it
Your calendar is your best friend when you work from home, so utilise it to your advantage. At the start of every day, spend ten minutes or so figuring out what you’ve got on in the day ahead, and write those tasks into your diary, and don’t deviate from that list unless emergency ad hoc tasks drop in. Again, of course, you will need to have some flexibility but it’s important that you commit to sticking to your own agenda as much as possible.
- Communicate expectations
You may be working from home, but chances are you won’t be alone for at least some of the day. Make sure you communicate with spouses, children, siblings, parents, roommates (whomever you may share space with) what your day looks like and when you’re working. Respect is a mutual thing that you’ve got to give in order to receive, so make sure everyone respects the space you’re working in while you do the same. A friendly reminder that even though you may be working from home, it doesn’t mean you are home, is all it takes.
Looking after your physical and mental health
Working from home does have its perks, but it can also be an isolating time if no one else is around. Socialising and having a conversation with another adult is all part of office life, and it’s ok to miss that when you’re working from home. Without it, demotivation can quickly set in. Below are some tips for taking care of your physical and mental health when you’re at home all day.
- Try not to spend all day sitting in one place. Move around and change working spots
- Stretch whenever you take a break, especially your neck and back if you’ve been sitting at your desk for long periods
- Schedule in an hour or so of exercise per day. It can be any kind of exercise as long as it is something you enjoy. This could be a walk, bike ride, run, yoga session or even an online workout video
- Don’t rely on takeouts for your meals. Spend this time you’re at home cooking something nutritious but delicious
- Use apps and tech to stay in touch with people, whether it’s friendly and family or colleagues
- Get yourself into a routine. Try to do roughly the same things every workday, your brain will appreciate the rhythm
- Take proper breaks. Step away from your workspace and make something tasty for lunch. Sit elsewhere and do something totally different and that you enjoy
- Try journaling or keeping a gratitude diary
- Step up your self care. It could be a relaxing bath, reading a couple of chapters or practicing some colouring. Whatever it is, make sure you’re taking time out of your day to look after number one
Working from home has its ups and downs, but if you’ve got the right set up and the determination to create a structured routine that works for you, then we’re sure you’ll find it a breeze. In many ways, it requires you to be a lot stricter with yourself than a standard nine to five, but it also gives you the freedom to craft your perfect working day. No boundaries. No rules. Just you, your space, and your work.