Nobody’s work from home experience will ever look the same as someone else’s – home is, by description, unique to each of us. However, if you’ve recently started working from home for the first time, it can be difficult to know what the ‘standard’ way is of doing things or what are best practices for working from home.
While there are many ways in which our home working experience can and will vary from the experience of everyone else, there are a few things we should stick to, or at least keep in mind, when we begin working from home for the first time.
There are certain standards that most employers still expect you to maintain, even working in a home office environment instead of your usual workplace. Even if you are self-employed and don’t work for a specific company, it’s still helpful to familiarise yourself with the most common tips, tricks, and lessons that people have for working from home, in an effort to get the absolute most that you can out of your working day.
Here are best practices for working from home - 10 biggest home working dos-and-don’ts, to help you on your way to having a successful home working career.
- DO establish your goals each day
- DO check in with colleagues frequently during the day
- DO ask for help
- DO establish a routine
- DO take a screen break
- DON’T stay in your pjyamas all day
- DON’T keep your phone nearby
- DON’T put in unpaid hours
- DON’T take extended breaks
- DON’T eat at your desk
DON’T stay in your pjyamas all day in your home office
Yes, we know – this was one of the things you were most looking forward to about working from home! However, work is a mindset, and many psychologists appear to have given us the definite verdict on working in your pyjamas – and it’s a big no-no, unfortunately.
It’s all about the switch that we flick in our brains when we get ready for work in the mornings. By completing tasks such as getting dressed, doing our hair, putting on makeup, we are instructing our brains to switch from sleep/relaxation mode, to work mode. If we don’t get ourselves ready in the morning, then our brains will be working at a much lazier capacity for the rest of the day, as we fool ourselves into thinking that it’s still time to relax.
With that in mind, there’s no reason why you can’t work in comfy clothes – just make sure they’re the sort that you’d leave the house in, rather than sleep in.
That certainly is among the top 5 best practices for working from home.
DO establish your goals each day
One of the best ways to get yourself ready for the day is to know exactly what the day ahead is going to consist of. One of the most effective methods of doing this is to note down each morning, either in a planner, diary, notebook, etc. exactly what your goals are for the day again.
Write a list of all the tasks you need to complete, in the order that you need to complete them, and – if necessary – the deadlines that you have for them. This makes for something easy to refer back to if you need to refocus on the task at hand, and crossing them off each time you complete a task makes the list a good visual reference for how productive you are being. It’ll help you push through in the afternoon when you realize how much work you’ve already done!
DON’T keep your phone nearby
Of course, people will always want to get in touch with us during the day, and the temptation is always there to respond as soon as you can. However, having your phone right nearby is much worse for your productivity in your home office than it is in your traditional workplace, as there is nothing and nobody to stop you using it.
You may pick it up to respond to one message, but before you know it, you’ve spent thirty minutes scrolling through social media… the best thing to do to avoid this is to leave it out of immediate reach, and on Do Not Disturb mode, and only check it at certain intervals during the day.
Also, keep in mind not to use it constantly during your breaks either – when you’re using your phone the whole time, the minutes tick by much quicker without you even realizing, and you’ll be wanting that time back later on in the day when the urge to procrastinate starts setting in.
DO check in with colleagues frequently during the day
One of the best ways to keep yourself accountable and to remind yourself that ‘working’ is very much the key word in ‘working from home’ is to check in with your colleagues who are all in very much the same position.
There’s several benefits to doing this. First of all, we miss the social interaction of speaking to colleagues a little more than we realise, and checking in with workmates provides a welcome break from the all too common loneliness of working from home.
Secondly, when we check in with colleagues who may be working on the same or similar projects as us, we realise whether our personal levels of productivity are higher or lower than they should be, and can adjust our working behaviours and routine based on this.
Perhaps consider setting up a work from home group chat with your colleagues, and maybe having a conversation each morning about your expectations or goals for the day ahead, as well as giving each other a chance to air any questions or concerns that they may have. Even if you make it clear that it’s not compulsory for people to get involved or post messages into it, many of your colleagues may appreciate the gesture, and the opportunity to keep in touch.
DON’T put in unpaid hours
We know that, with your office space and living space merged into one, the temptation may be there to respond to emails the second you get them, or just carry on that little bit of work so you can be sure you get it done on time, but it’s important to only work the hours that you are paid for.
It’s strange how we can feel almost guilty about not being reachable to colleagues or clients over the weekends, especially when they surely know that we are working from home and do have access to our work all the time – but even just completing the quickest of work tasks in our free time won’t do us any favours.
One of the most difficult things about home working is attempting to maintain a work/home balance, so working outside of our dedicated hours blurs the line between work and home more than we need or particularly want to.
It’s 7pm – relax!
DO ask for help
If you have any questions whilst working from home – either about your work or about working from home in itself – be sure to ask someone for help. Whilst working from home, you have to manage your own productivity, which is stressful enough without also being unsure what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place.
With that in mind, if you have any issues or questions whilst working from home, be sure to ask someone that can help, whether it be a colleague, manager, etc. - once you have your answer, you’ll be able to focus much more effectively on the task at hand.
DON’T take extended breaks
Learn to be firm with yourself when taking your lunch breaks or mid-afternoon tea breaks. It’s no good being productive, focused, and working well in the morning to get things done on time, if you’re then going to take an extra half hour on your lunch break and let yourself fall behind again.
We know it’s tempting because there’s nobody else to tell you otherwise, but unfortunately, you’re best just being sensible with this one!
Most of us are guilty of doing this, even just by accident. It just feels a little pointless timing your breaks down to the minute when there’s nobody else around that can even account for it. Especially if you have to prepare your food during your break – this takes time to do, but we don’t want to miss out on that portion of our free time before going back to work.
This is not only among the best practices for working from home, but you are also required to do so if you are employed. Please read the article "4 Working From Home Regulations Employers Should Know"
DO establish a routine
When you first start working from home, your days might feel like they blur into one a little bit. You might be struggling to maintain any sort of steady sleep schedule, or not bothering to get eat breakfast, or staying up much later at night… all of these things will mess with your productivity, concentration and even your overall levels of happiness in the long run.
It’s a much better idea to establish a routine when you start working from home, and be sure to stick to it for each of your working days. Monday to Friday, treat it as if you were heading out into a traditional office environment, complete with the same time pressure and necessary morning/evening tasks that you’ve always known you should be doing.
After a while, you’ll setting into a routine that you find the most comfortable and effective for you, and it will make working from home, on the whole, much easier and much more enjoyable.
DON’T eat at your desk
As tempting as it might be, especially if you got busy in the morning and ran out of time to make and enjoy your breakfast, it’s best not to eat at your desk.
The way we eat and enjoy food has a lot of impact on how we feel after it. If we eat our breakfasts and lunches at our desks, we aren’t concentrating on or enjoying them, and therefore - rather than feeling full and satisfied after we’ve eaten – we feel just as hungry as before, and also quite tired, as well. Essentially, if we eat our lunch at our desk and don’t even really take notice of what we’re eating, that’s going to lead to tiredness and a lack of motivation in the afternoon.
Make sure you’re leaving yourself with enough time to prepare and enjoy your meals without the distraction of having to eat them while you work – you’ll notice an instant change in how satisfied you feel after eating them.
DO take a screen break
Of course, staring at screens all the time isn’t the best thing for your eyesight, and sitting at your desk all day, depending on how you sit, isn’t the best thing for your posture – however, going straight from staring at one screen, your laptop, to staring at a smaller one, your phone, can mess with your mental health overall.
A part of our brain switches off when we stare at our phones – especially if we’re looking at something which doesn’t need our brains to stay active, such as checking social media or watching videos. When we turn straight to this after a day of staring at our computers, our brains aren’t being given time for checking in with the real world at all.
One of the best things to do would be to use your break times wisely, and simply reply to messages rather than allow yourself to get lost in your phone – if you do that, the time goes by so quickly, too! Also, in between completing tasks on your to-do list, take a break from looking at your work, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
You’d be surprised how much more valuable a short break of even a few minutes can seem when you take yourself away from your work completely. Try it out, and then come back to your tasks with a clearer head.
Hopefully, these Best Practices For Working From Home - 10 Biggest Home Working Dos-and-Don’ts quick tips will help you as you get used to the way of things whilst working from home. As already mentioned, no two people have the same work from home routine, as we all eventually work out what routine does and does not work for us. Once you’ve been doing it for a few weeks, you’ll be able to get into the perfect routine that works for you, keeps you focused, and keeps you productive.
Please also have look at the article "5 Thinks You Need To Keep Doing When Working From Home During The Coronavirus Pandemic", with many more practical suggestions to be more productive while working from home.
If you have a friend who is working from home or just starting to, share these tips with them, too. Some of them may come in very handy during the working week.