If you’ve never worked from home before, you might be feeling a little bit uncertain right now. Worried that you won’t be able to focus, feeling robbed of your routine, or just missing the company of your colleagues. But this could be a great opportunity for you to challenge yourself, and to prove that you can work independently and be a self-starter – and won’t that look good on your CV?
There are a number of things that you can do to help you get into the right frame of mind and still be incredibly effective when you’re working from home. We asked jobs.ac.uk staff what they are doing to stay focused while working from home, and this is what they said.
Set aside a dedicated workspace
The act of going to work really helps you to get into the mindset for the day. If you’ve been having coffee on the couch and at 9am you just pick up your laptop, you may find it difficult to disengage from what you’re doing and get into your projects. It has the potential to reduce your productivity and also blurs the lines between work and home. Having a dedicated workspace set up in the study, spare room, or even in the dining room, helps to provide structure for the workday. It gives you somewhere to go, and actively marks the beginning of your workday.
It can be expensive to set up a work space if you don’t already have one, so try your local charity store or an online second-hand store like Schpock or Facebook Marketplace for budget-friendly solutions.
“Making the adjustment to working from home can be difficult, and staying focused can be a problem. Ideally, you would dedicate a room from which you can work, but I don’t have a spare room, so I’ve set up a space in a quieter room. I have a work table that I’ve turned into a desk, and I’ve set it up with my computer, stationery and a plant. I’ve also added a comfortable but supportive chair so that I can retain a healthy posture while working from home. This should help to focus your mind into work mode, but do remember to take regular breaks.”
Emily Lea, Account Executive
Retain your structure
It may be tempting to roll out of bed and get straight to work in your pyjamas, but maintaining your daily routine will help you to adapt quickly to working from home. So set your alarm, get up and follow the same routine that you would follow if you were going to the office. Get dressed, brush your hair and make sure that you’re feeling fresh. Working from home requires discipline, and if you’re not feeling good, you will find it much harder to focus and have a normal work day.
“I leave my alarm set for the same time as when I’m going into the office, and follow the exact same routine. I get dressed in something comfortable but neat, and I put shoes on – it sounds so small but it helps to get my mind out of chill-mode. Just before 9am, I make a cup of coffee and head over to my desk to start my work day. I don’t usually work from home because I like being in the office, but the routine is definitely making it easier.”
Jennifer Todd, Marketing Officer
Plan your day
When you’re outside of your normal work routine, it’s easy to forget what it is you’re meant to be doing. You might feel a little bit overwhelmed and not too sure where to begin. This is not good for productivity, and could create negative feelings about your performance. The easiest way to combat this is to plan your work. Spend 5 minutes at the end of each day thinking about what you’ll do tomorrow, and jot it down in a to-do list. That way, you can enjoy your evening with a clear head, and when you get to your desk the next day, you can hit the ground running.
If you don’t already have a to-do list or a digital planning tool, give Microsoft To Do a try. You can keep lists of everything from a work list to project actions to grocery lists. Ticking those items off your list will give you a sense of accomplishment and leave you feeling motivated.
If you have children at home with you, you may find it more difficult to give your day a solid structure. You’ll need to be flexible, but you can still have a plan in mind and a list of what you want to accomplish that day. Check out our 11 Tips for working from home with kids.
“For many of us working from home will be an opportunity to gain another hour or so to our day without the hassle of the rush hour commute.
Just because you aren’t physically in the office doesn’t mean you can’t start your day saying good morning to your colleagues and asking them if they had a good evening? I start my day by going through my emails, jumping onto our group chat to see how the team are. We still share the same stories about last night’s dinner, what the dog or children did that made us laugh and then on with the day. My meetings take place virtually and I organise my project work in between. At the end of the day rather than the commute home I am taking advantage of the extra time by taking my daughter to the park before dinner. Then after she has gone to bed I get out my laptop out again and reply to any outstanding emails and plan my work for the following day. “
Emma Johnson, Marketing Manager
Retain a level of consistency
Working from home may be intimidating if you’re not used to it, and it may take you a little while to settle in. Try to remember that your job is exactly the same, you’re just doing it from a different office. So keep your schedule and your meetings. Stick to your worklist and do complex work when you’re most productive. Maybe even set up a coffee break with your work friends via video conferencing (have a look at the best video conferencing tools of 2020). Keeping things normal will help to make it all feel more normal.
“Consistency in what we do now vs what we did before and not allowing a feeling that everything has changed will help the team to continue as normal, just from home instead of the office. We still do what we’ve always done. Regular structured daily contact helps. We have stand-ups where people dial in and often have video for ‘face-to-face contact’, and we ensure regular communication/feedback to teams.”
Dominic Blundell, Head of Development and Support
This goes deeper than just making sure you know who’s doing what or giving regular work updates. When we’re in the office, we’re constantly in contact with our co-workers, whether it’s discussing a project, bouncing ideas and solutions off one another, or just having a catch up over the coffee machine. When you are self-isolating or engaging with physical distancing, it is particularly important to keep in touch, both to ensure that business continues as close to normally as possible, but also to retain that connection to your co-workers and not feel isolated socially even if you are physically. This is a tough time for everyone, and it helps to still be there. We live in a world that makes it easy to connect with each other from a distance, so use those platforms to stay connected. You don’t need to follow each other on Instagram, but having a team chat set up on whatsapp, or having regular catch-ups using video calls will help you to still feel like a team
“Make the most of technology to stay connected to your team. Due to the nature of our business and the amount of time we spend at other universities, we are well set up for working remotely. I use video-conferencing for essential meetings, but otherwise, just keep in touch using email and skype. If you’re trusting people to work from home, you must trust them to do their jobs and not fall into the trap of micro-managing them just because you’re not in the same room. So use the tools available to you, but don’t alter your working style.”
Matt Comley, Director
You need to feed your body and mind if you want to remain effective while working from home. If your blood-sugar level drops, you will feel irritable, grumpy, and lethargic, which is counter-productive when you need to stay motivated and retain a high level of energy and productivity. Starting off with a good breakfast and eating regularly throughout the day will keep those levels steady, helping you to get the best out of your day.
Avoid foods that make your sugar levels spike, rather going for slow-release energy foods such as pasta, rice and nuts. It’s also important to make sure you’re getting your 5-a-day and staying hydrated. Mind.org.uk has some great advice on the link between food and your mood, and how to use what you consume to positively affect how you feel.
“We’ve planted some rocket and other quick-growing salad leaves to give us something positive to see, and then eat! We’ve put it in the kitchen where it is warm, and gets some sun, and we can see it grow over the next couple of weeks.”
Michael Orr, Development Team Leader
When you’re in the office, you’re not just sitting at your desk from 9 until 5. You’ll be walking across the office to meetings, going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and maybe even taking a walk during your lunch break. It’s not physically or mentally good for you to be stuck inside all day, not moving away from your computer. Use your lunch break to take a walk, or open the windows and do some exercise at home. The NHS recommends some 10-minute exercises that you can do without equipment, and there are loads of exercise-at-home apps for everything from yoga and stretching to high-intensity-interval-training and couch to 5k challenges.
“Get out of the house! If you’re lucky enough to have a four-legged friend then take them for a walk, get some fresh air and remember you don’t need to be chained to your desk (or dining table) all day. You should take regular breaks from your screen, make tea/coffee/lunch as you would on a regular day in the office.”
Bryony Taylor, Account Executive
Leave work at work
When you work from home, it’s very easy to let your workday filter into your home life, but when you’re working from home for extended periods, it’s even more important that you separate the two. If you’re usually in the office from 9-5, then end your workday at 5. Switch off your computer, and get back into what you would usually do after work. It may be a good idea to get out of the house, get some exercise and clear your mind to really create that division.