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How to make working from home work for you

Posted by for Careers

Do you struggle to stay productive when you work outside of the office? Here’s how to make working from home a breeze.

While for some people working from home may be the dream, for others, it can be a pretty challenging transition. Remaining focused in a space which is typically associated with relaxation and non-working activities can be pretty tricky, especially when you’re surrounded with various distractions such as Netflix and social media.

As the coronavirus outbreak leads many businesses to instruct their employees to work from home, this is a transition many people are having to make – and it’s important to acknowledge how difficult this can be.

If you’ve never worked from home before, being away from the office environment – including all your colleagues – can be pretty difficult. After all, your mind associates the office with productivity, so when you’re forced to relocate and work somewhere different, it takes a while for your mind to associate somewhere new with “work mode”.

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“Not everybody is comfortable working from home – and some simply don’t know how to manage it,” explains Alexandra Lichtenfeld, a business mentor at Client Matters.

“As a business mentor who focuses on relationship management in the workplace, I can understand how this might be difficult for some employees: some feel they need the structure and rigidity of ‘going in to the office’ to find that appropriate level of productivity, some can’t concentrate and get too easily distracted, and for others it might be a process or logistical challenge – that they simply can’t work from home.”

With this in mind, as we make this transition from office to home working over the next week or so, it’s important to take the time to create a productive environment for yourself. Here, Lichtenfeld provides her top tips on how to cope while working from home, from utilising technology to managing your working hours correctly.

1. Communication is key

Communication plays an incredibly important role in our productivity, but this may be compromised when we’re working outside of the office environment.

For Lichtenfeld, making sure we have the means to communicate quickly and effectively when we’re working from home is incredibly important.

A woman typing
How to work from home: use technology to stay in touch with colleagues.

“In this instance utilising technology to facilitate communication is going to be critical, and a good internet connection essential,” she says. “It sounds obvious and most of us are connected, but some are not – and businesses must be aware of this.

“As an employee, do not feel worried mentioning it. Having the right tech set-up is going to make your working from home life much more successful.”

2. Use tech to help you

When you’re working from home, tech quickly becomes your friend. Sitting with some music on in the background as you type away at your kitchen table may sound idyllic, but you quickly remember how important it is to speak to your colleagues about your work.

“We have Skype, FaceTime, Messenger and a whole raft of social mediums to keep in touch with your colleagues, even if you’re not in the same room,” says Lichtenfeld. “Relationships have to be maintained and feeling part of the team is important.”

3. Keep in touch regularly

Keeping in touch and knowing what your team members are working on is incredibly important – especially when you’re working from home. Just because you’re not in the same space doesn’t mean you’re not working towards a shared goal – so make sure you take the time to update everyone on the situation and keep everyone informed. 

“There are no set rules for working in isolation or a virtual office, but common sense tells us to keep in touch,” Lichtenfeld says. “Make sure you know what the others in your team are doing, and be very clear and concise about what you are doing so there is no overlap. It’ll make getting into the swing of remote working that much easier.”

Lichtenfeld also suggests setting up an office WhatsApp or Slack group and agreeing the times of day when you’ll all be communicating on that platform, as well as scheduling a morning Facetime with the whole team.

“If you are in a large team, a morning video conference call will set you up for the day and ensure everyone is fully briefed and completely clear on their areas of ownership,” Lichtenfeld explains. “Following up the call with a brief summary setting out what you’ll be working on for the day will help create transparency across the team and ensure everyone is fully up-to-date on your workload. This will also give you your own timetable.”

4. Routine is good

Working from home may throw a spanner into the works when it comes to keeping up your daily routine, but it’s important to maintain as much of it as you can. Small steps such as getting dressed and setting up a dedicated working environment can make a surprisingly big difference.

“Establishing a routine and keeping a dedicated working space are also important when working remotely in order to avoid distractions and maximise efficiency,” Lichtenfeld explains. “There are to-do list apps which can help you stick to your schedule and maintain your regular hours.

A clock
How to work from home: use time-management apps to establish a routine.

“If you are aware of colleagues who are struggling while working from home, it is important to communicate with them and have empathy for them rather than get frustrated with them as their manager or colleague.”

Lichtenfeld also advises sticking to office hours and making sure you’re not working past the end of the day or during your lunch break.

“Do not slip into the habit of working into the evening as this is in fact your time; this is something lots of remote works have to learn the hard way in the initial period of adjustment,” she says. 

5. Take regular breaks

As well as making sure to take your lunch break and work regular hours, it’s also important to give yourself a few mini breaks throughout the day, similar to the time you’d spend in the office making a coffee or talking to a colleague. 

“Looking at a screen for long periods of time has been proven to be detrimental to eye-sight,” Lichtenfeld says. 

“Make sure you stand up and get away from your desk every 20 minutes, ensure you have lunch and get outside for a proportion of the day to maintain productivity.”

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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