Home Working: My Top 10 Survival Tips
We all know we’re working and living in a very different time which creates a multitude of new issues for us to contend with.
For me, working from home was a very new concept, and so I had some concerns. Also the change was quite dramatic: one day I was in work surrounded by colleagues and students, going about my daily routine; the next I was at home, isolated, with just my husband and cat for company!
So how have I faired over these past weeks since the world turned upside down?
Well, after attending a few webinars and discussing the subject with colleagues and friends, here are my favourite 10 Tips on how to make the transition to home-working:
1. Set up a work station
When I first started I was working off my laptop on the sofa. I had my notebooks and resources next to me and everything else I’d scrambled from work under the coffee table. After the first couple of days I was struggling with backache. It soon occurred to me that my set-up was not ideal for home working!
TIP: The webinars I watched stressed the important of having a dedicated work space. Replicate the desk you would have at work as it helps get you in a work mindset. Get a proper chair and do a work station assessment. It will work wonders for your posture and keep those aches and pains away.
2. 52-17 ratio
Don’t expect to be working solidly at your desk for 8 hours a day. This is unrealistic. If you think about your average day in the office, do you actually work for a solid 8 hours? Probably not by the time you factor in coffee breaks, lunch, conversing with colleagues.
TIP: You work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break to reward yourself. Remember, you should be taking regular breaks from staring at a computer screen. This is really simple but I think it’s one of the best things you can do!
3. Plan, Plan, Plan
When I’m on campus, I always plan what activities need doing and what tasks I need to accomplish. However once I started working from home, I didn’t really do this in the same way. This meant I ended up starting different tasks and not really making much progress with any of them!
TIP: Now I take 30 minutes at the end of the day to plan what I’m going to do the next day. It adds structure to my day and keeps me motivated.
4. Speak to others
One thing I truly miss from the workplace is the conversations I have with students and colleagues on a daily basis. I’m a Careers Adviser and love engaging with students every day face to face.
I now do this over the phone of course, but it didn’t occur to me that it’s just as important to speak to your colleagues regularly too, until I heard about “virtual coffee breaks”.
Making time during the week to connect with colleagues and simply have a chat, whether it’s about work or life, is a great idea. It eases that sense of isolation and gives you human contact, which is good for your mental health. We have also recently created a useful blog with tips on how to improve virtual communication.
Remember, when things are “normal”, you probably spend more time with your colleagues than you do with family and friends, so it’s important to maintain that relationship!
5. Take time to reflect
Use this time to reflect on your own practice. Making time to do this each day has helped me identify areas and skills that I want to brush up on. You might decide to do some research, or take online courses to refresh skills and develop new ones.
TIP: Taking some time out for yourself is something we don’t get chance to do at work very often. So, if you can make the time now - then do it.
6. Create a work-to-home transition
As a commuter I always had a clear transition from the end of the working day to being back at home. When you are working and living in the same place this can be a challenge. I have overcome this by packing away my work things, so they are out of sight at the end of the day. I then go on my one outing for exercise and take a walk around the block. The weather has been exceptional and even the cat joins me on my daily walk now!
7. Be positive
Having a positive mindset works wonders, we all know that.
Speaking with students on the phone about their careers has allowed us to look at the additional digital learning skills they have been able to develop and utilise, that they normally wouldn’t have had chance to.
TIP: Think about the little positives you may be gaining: it could be spending more time with your children, helping them to learn and grow, or having the space and freedom to structure your own working day and routine.
8. Use the travel time saved
Not having a commute to and from work every day has been quite easy to get used to. I sometimes wonder how I had time to fit it in!
As mentioned in Tip No. 6, I’ve replicated the commute home by going for my daily exercise and walking round the block. It helps me get out of work mode and transition back into home mode. The problem I’ll have when we all go back to work, is fitting the commute back in again…
9. Allow flexibility
Working at home can be hard, especially if you have children or other relatives to care for as well. I know plenty of people in this situation and the best way to handle it is to allow yourself to be flexible and not expect too much.
You can change your hours to suit your other commitments. My employer has been great in allowing us to book time off by the hour if needed. They also understand that we are facing new challenges in this unprecedented situation.
TIP: Don’t feel like you have to be chained to your desk; no one should expect you to do that. So be flexible to suit your needs.
10. Remember you’re not alone
It’s easy to forget that you’re not the only one having these struggles as we’re in isolation, and when the only people we see are those we live with. But you’re not alone. There are thousands of people up and down the country facing these issues. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and if you need to speak with someone, then do it. Chances are they’ll appreciate the chat too!
It’s been an interesting journey and I’m still learning. Attending webinars on this topic was really helpful to me as I’m new to this whole situation. So if you have the opportunity, do join some if you want tips and hints, or just the interaction with other people. Remember to drink plenty of water and take regular breaks. You have to make the best of this situation.
Above all else, look after your own mental wellbeing. Following the tips I have shared will help you to do this! We also have more usual tips and guidance on our In This Together page.