Home Working Tips

As a result of coronavirus and social distancing measures Governments around the world are encouraging people wherever possible to work from home. As someone who has been home working for decades I’ve reflected on my top ten tips that make it work for me which I hope will help it work for you.

One of the most important things you can do for personal productivity and well-being is to get up each day as if you were going to the office. Set your alarm, use the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast, reflect on the day ahead and get to your workspace. Lying in bed or sitting around in your night clothes is not conducive to getting high productivity and caring for your state of mind.

During the coronavirus pandemic my family and I decided to retain a work mindset, rather than slipping into holiday mode. So each morning the whole family has breakfast together at 7.30am, one of us gives a ‘thought for the day’ and then we discuss what we want to do that day and how we do that together.

Work smarter not harder by writing an ‘outcome list’ rather than a ‘to do list’. A ‘to do list’ may create a lot of energy and activity but may not necessarily be the most effective way to achieve the outcomes you desire. By contrast an ‘outcome list’ is all about naming the results you want to achieve and naming the most important actions associated with each.

Each day I brainstorm my desired outcomes, and then assuming I always want to achieve more than may be possible, I prioritise the list to ensure I always achieve the most important outcomes. Being the Relationologist I then think about the people I know who could help me achieve those priority outcomes and ask for their advice and help.

Have a place, or several places, in your home where you know you can work well. Natural light to work by and a window to open for fresh air can make all the difference. A comfortable chair and table at the right height are essential if you are going to be seated for long periods. Good mobile telephone signal and WI-FI connectivity are  important criteria.

Personally I have several workspaces – a workspace I go to make quiet phone calls, a workspace with a view of my garden where I write creatively and a place where I go to walk and get space. Note to self: I must get that summer house finished as that would be an awesome place to work from.

We all have times in the day when we are most productive and other times when we struggle to be quite so effective. This is a very important self-awareness lesson for home working. It is tempting when we are our most productive to try and knock lots of little things off our outcome list. It is far more strategic however to work on the outcome that is going to make the biggest difference, often these are also the most difficult.

I’m a ‘sky lark’ who loves to get up early and get work done before others have even stirred from their slumber. I have colleagues who are the opposite – they are ‘night owls’ who come alive and work most effectively late at night and into the early morning. It doesn’t matter which you are as long as you know and manage your home working accordingly.

Routines enable us to be effective in work and rest, they keep us focused and enable us to avoid distractions. We have already talked about the importance of starting the day by getting up as if you were going into an office. Then there are the routines of going to your workspace, writing an outcome list and knowing the best times of day to do your most challenging work. These routines save us from wishful thinking and help us develop the disciplines that lead to success. The idea of someone being an ‘overnight success’ is a myth – success is actually the sum of a series of many incremental gains that build up overtime.

The routines of rest include coffee breaks to help us pause during the day, lunch breaks to help us step away and maybe stretch our legs and get some fresh air outside and weekends to rest with family and friends. It’s also important to have a ritual about how you end your home working day – this may include closing your laptop and stepping away from your workspace and having a glass of something with your family or reading a book.

A day of working on your own may fill you with delight or dread depending on your personality. If you are like me and you thrive from human interaction then take a coffee break and pick up the phone to a friend for a catch up. You might even like to plan a lunchtime call with a friend who is also home working so that you can compare notes and encourage each other.

Social scientists explain that prolonged social isolation is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Regardless of your personality type there is a point at which being alone can become detrimental to your mental health. There is no reason for home working to become lone working – phone a friend.

Technology can be a wonderful servant but it can be a really bad master. Having an email programme up and running on your desktop or email alerts set is extremely distracting. Similarly with social media alerts or if you are constantly drawn to look at your social media channels to see what is happening you are probably lacking drive and focus in your work, unless of course you are a social media manager.

Make technology work for you. Use WhatsApp groups for chatting with teams, Zoom video calls for board meetings and Anchor to record podcast interviews. There are so many online platforms that can help you get your job done – find those platforms that are most suited to your job and make them work for you.

A global technology business (who you would know very well) asked if I could help one of their teams better communicate and build relationships. The team were in the same office space but one of the challenges was that instead of turning around and having a conversation with each another they would send emails. If that is the tendency within an office how much more might it be an instinct for people who are home working?

Just because you’ve said something it doesn’t mean you’ve communicated it. A single email, voicemail or note does not mean people have heard, and understood and will respond as you wish. Despite all the means of communication available to us the most effective means of communication is a conversation and if that isn’t a physical meeting then a VC or telephone call are the next best thing. Email is very useful but if you would like to be a better communicator send less emails and make more telephone calls.

As a home worker there are going to be some days when it is hard to motivate yourself. On those days there maybe personal things going on that make it difficult for you to concentrate or you may feel like you have failed in your work and you feel deflated and demotivated.

Perseverance and endurance are about keeping going when things are difficult, however resilience is quite different. Growing in resilience is about your ability to come back more strongly from a set back. Some people describe resilience as failing forwards – it is how you personally learn and are transformed from the set backs you face. Succesful home working requires us to grow in our resilience.

‘Work hard and play hard’ is a mantra I live by. If you are going to work hard then it’s critical you also rest hard. Make sure you don’t take work so seriously that you you miss out on all the benefits of home working. During this time of enforced home working I am grateful for the hours I don’t have to spend commuting, additional meal times with family, working in my garden and taking long weekends to name just a few benefits. So make sure that you don’t work so hard that you miss out on all benefits of home working.

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