Not too many years ago, there would have been a lot of people who would’ve loved the chance to work from home, but they didn’t have the chance or the choice. COVID changed everything.
We now see people doing jobs from home that no-one imagined could be done from home in the recent past. International accountants not being in the office but still getting it done? Yep. Teachers doing lessons from their dining room table whilst pupils are at home? Unheard of before COVID!
With this change, we’ve seen some people adapt to it like they’ve always worked from home, but others are still struggling. It wouldn’t be crazy to suggest that working from home may well become the rule instead of the exception to the rule in the future, so we want to help people do it the best that they can. We want people to thrive and not just survive.
So what can you do to help you work more productively from home?
1 – Turn work mode on
Just like your brain knows it’s time to work hard when you put your gym gear on, put on your work clothes when it’s time to work. Your work clothes might be a shirt and trousers or they might joggers and a branded hoodie – but neither one of those is your pyjamas!
If you’re sat in bed working then you’re sending your brain mixed signals – should you be thinking about work when you go to bed in an evening? Should you be thinking about sleeping when you’re working during the day?
Make your environment appropriate for the work you’re trying to do.
2 – Have a work space
Ideally, have an office or separate room for working that isn’t amongst the distractions of the rest of the house. It’s easy to put bits of work off when you could just put the washing machine on or empty the dishwasher!
If it’s not possible to have a separate room then having a place within a room or on a table that is clutter free and dedicated to work can go a long way to helping your brain focus.
3 – Make a plan the night before
If you’re not scheduling your work time into your diary then you don’t really have a plan and it’s very easy to end up bouncing around between different bits and pieces without getting anything done properly.
There are two schools of thought on ordering tasks:
One is to prioritise your tasks so that you’re doing the most important ones first so that if you get distracted later on then you’ve still done the most urgent stuff and the other things can wait.
The other is to start off really small and build momentum – do a small task that requires no real thinking first and then move to another so that you’re always experiencing success.
4 – Set your work times
This ties in with making a plan, but involves having a start and finish time. It’s too easy to keep working into the evening because there’s no commute removing you from the office. Your laptop is always within reach for ‘just one more email’.
You need time to unwind and anyone you live with will benefit from knowing when they can expect to see you and when it’s best to not distract you.
Knowing that you’ve got certain tasks to complete before a set time can also stop you from being distracted by other household tasks.
5 – Set your breaks
Don’t forget to schedule in breaks for you to reset your mind. If you were in the office you wouldn’t just work solidly from 0900-1700. Your break in the office might be walking to the toilet and chatting to someone for 3 minutes on the way back, but your break at home could be a quick walk round the block or a few minutes playing with your dog. If you don’t plan them in, or tell yourself that you’ll take them when you need them, you probably won’t end up taking any at all.
You also need to schedule in a proper lunch break so that you can still maintain a healthy relationship with food and your nutritional habits.
6 – Turn work mode off
Just as easy as it is to let home life take over work life, it can go the other way too and work life take over your home life.
When work time is over, close the laptop, put the phone down, leave the room – do what you have to do to move away from work when it’s time to relax.
No reasonable boss is expecting you to be working at 2200 as well as 0800, so deal with that email in the morning.
Being with your family and friends mentally as well as physically is super important for everyone, so have a finish time and stick to it.