Nine tips for working from home effectively

JodieAdvice, Final Year, First Year, Graduates, On Placement, Postgraduate, Second Year

As a result of the pandemic, remote working has become the norm. While it does have many perks, working from home also presents a unique set of challenges. So today we thought we’d share nine tips to help you get to grips with this style of working, feel more productive and take care of your mental health.

Set a routine – and stick to it!

When you start a new job, your manager will have a discussion with you about your working hours. You may be given set hours to work within, such as 9am to 5pm. Alternatively, if you’re working on a flexible basis (e.g. if you’re freelancing) you may have the freedom to work your required hours at a time that suits you. This can be ideal if you have other commitments in the morning for example, but have lots of free time in the evening.

Whatever your working pattern, it’s a really good idea to get a schedule in place. Not only will this mean you’ll be able to stay on top of your work tasks, it will also help you set boundaries between your work and personal time – you need to relax, after all!

Make sure to stay consistent with your sleeping pattern and get up at the same time each morning. A wonderful thing about remote working is that you don’t need to commute to an office. So why not spend that time you would have lost to the commute doing something like reading, exercising or listening to a podcast? That way, you’ll ease yourself into the day rather than rolling out of bed and logging into work straight away.

Most importantly, make sure you stop working at the end of your workday. This means shutting down your laptop, closing your emails and focusing on your home life. It’s crucial to get a work-life balance, otherwise you’ll end up feeling burnt out.

Create a dedicated workspace

Following on from the previous point, it’s great to have a dedicated workspace – this will make it easier for you to physically and mentally distance yourself from your work when you move to another part of your home.

Find a quiet space (if you can) away from other people and distractions like the TV. Make sure you have all your work materials in this space, such as your laptop and charger, a notebook and pens. It’s important that your workspace is comfortable and not harming your posture. The NHS have some great guidelines for sitting correctly in your workspace.

It’s also a good idea to make your workspace an appealing place to be – after all, you’ll be spending a lot of time there! Having a pen pot, a framed photo that makes you happy and a potted plant are just some ideas to get you started (however, don’t fall into the trap of cramming too many things into your workspace, as a messy environment is distracting and stressful). If you can, sit by a window so you have easy access to natural light and fresh air.

Take a break

One of the downsides of working from home is that you might be spending long periods of time sitting down in front of your laptop. Making time for screen breaks is important, both for your physical and mental health. Try and take a five-minute break once every hour if you can – move away from the laptop and make yourself a drink or do a light stretch. Having a short break can also work wonders for your productivity when you return to the screen, particularly if you’re struggling with a task – giving yourself some space away from it for a few minutes often helps.

Make time for lunch breaks too – and we don’t mean al desko dining. Move away from your workspace to eat and do something non-work-related, preferably away from a screen. Getting outside for some fresh air and exercise is also a great way to spend your lunch.

Write a to-do list

Is there anything more satisfying than crossing a task off your to-do list (the answer, you’ll find, is no)? At the beginning of each day, spend a few minutes writing down some key things you want to complete or have achieved by the end of the day. This will help you focus your mind and prioritise your workload.

However, it’s important that you are realistic when jotting down tasks (we would all like to think we could nail the 574 tasks that we’ve assigned ourselves for that day, but the reality is it isn’t going to happen – unless you’re superhuman). Write down a few urgent, achievable things that will make you feel good when you’ve done them.

If you’re finding that your list of things to do is never-ending, it may help to create a separate ‘master list’ of tasks and then write separate daily lists which will help you chip away at everything you need to do.

Set boundaries – with you colleagues and the people you live with

It can be easy to stay logged on at work when your home is your office, but try to switch off at the end of the day. If it helps, let your colleagues know when you usually finish working for the day and make it clear to them that you won’t be checking emails or answering phone calls after that (there might be some exceptions to this, e.g. if your job requires you to be on call some days).

Similarly, let the people you live with know when you’re working and that you shouldn’t be disturbed. Have a conversation with them about your needs and share your work schedule with them so they know that you need to be left alone during that period.

Remove distractions

When you’re working from home with limited supervision, it can be tempting to open up your phone and while away a minute (which soon leads to ten!) on TikTok. If you find yourself getting distracted easily, take steps to limit/remove all distractions. Turn your phone on airplane mode or even remove it from your workspace altogether, avoid sitting in front of your TV and keep your Nintendo Switch out of reach.

Stay connected with colleagues

While working from home does have its benefits, you may find yourself feeling more isolated. One of the great things about being in the office is that’s you can easily discuss ideas with the colleagues who sit near you or catch up on your colleagues’ weekend plans while you’re both making a coffee in the communal kitchen.

You’ll have to put a bit more effort in to interact with colleagues when you’re working remotely. Rather than emailing back and forth with someone, can you schedule in a video or phone call with them? Also, make time to socialise virtually to replicate those chats around the kettle – could you schedule in a weekly, digital coffee break with your colleagues, for example?

You may also find that your employer already hosts regular social events or team-building activities like team quizzes or virtual cook-alongs. Make sure to take part in things like this – not only are they fun, but they’re a way to strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. If your workplace doesn’t already do anything like this, maybe you could suggest an activity and take the lead on organising it?

Take a read of this blog post for more advice about forming relationships with your colleagues when working from home.

Check in with your manager regularly

Another thing to consider when working from home is that you might not have as much access to your manager as you would if you were in the office. Make sure to schedule frequent check-ins with your manager so you can share progress updates with them and let them know if there’s anything you need feedback on.

Make sure to also keep them in the loop if you have any issues! If there’s a piece of work you’re struggling with or if you’ve got any concerns about anything, don’t muddle through alone – let your manager know. They won’t be able to support you properly if they don’t know how you’re feeling.

Use productivity tools and soundtracks

It can be good to have the freedom to blast out your thrash metal tunes without having to use headphones, but sometimes it’s good to tone things down and put on less-distracting soundtracks. There are loads of playlists specifically designed to aid concentration on streaming services like Spotify. These often feature chilled or instrumental tracks to help get you in the zone.

If ambient noise is your thing, why not look up playlists full of soothing rain or nature sounds? If you haven’t already, then also check out Coffitivity, an app which creates a gentle background noise such as the chatter of a coffee shop or the hubbub of a campus café.

There are also plenty of tools out there to stop you from procrastinating, such as Forest. You can download this as an app to your phone or have it as an extension on your browser. Forest helps you stay focused by encouraging you to plant and grow a virtual tree during a set period of time. If you use your phone or open web browsers during that time, your tree will wither and die. It’s a pretty good incentive to help you stay focused on the task at hand!

Jodie, a member of Careers+Placements staff

Written by Jodie Carpenter, Careers and Placements