The BT Blog #4


Top 5 Tips for Working from Home

Photograph: Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

Remote working can bring a lot of benefits – getting a little extra time in the morning and cutting down on the commute are just some of the ‘perks’ that spring to mind when people think about working from home. However, beyond simply rolling out of bed and switching on your laptop, there’s a lot more to remote working than meets the eye… and particularly for newbies…

Here are our top 5 e-working tips…

1. Create a dedicated work space:

It can be hard to establish a remote working routine for the first time, particularly if you are used to working closely with colleagues. Having a dedicated space is the first step to getting into the work zone, and to being able to effectively coordinate your agenda and complete your objectives for the day.

A dedicated workspace is all about having the equipment you need to hand and comfortably situating yourself so that you can focus on the tasks ahead. Try to avoid the kitchen table and chair if possible, particularly if you are in a busy household. From an ergonomic perspective it can wreak havoc on your body, especially the neck and shoulders, and from a concentration point of view, it’s also the most likely spot in any house for people to gather in and gravitate towards. Decide what equipment and furniture is important for you and invest in it, or have a discussion with your employer around whether or not you could expense any necessary purchases. Having a good set up, with the appropriate equipment, will go a long way towards easing yourself into your new role from home.

2. Make a daily work plan and stick to it

This is especially important for those who are new to remote working. Where you are not on a strict schedule, try to wake up at the same time every day and treat weekdays just as you did before. For most people, the morning is the time to get serious work done, so try to complete any difficult tasks as early in the day as you can. Allot chunks of time to specific tasks, you might even consider setting an alarm, if you find sticking to a block of time a struggle. 

For those with children at home, be realistic about what can and can’t achieve, and start to create a flexible schedule around major touchstones in your day such as naps, feeding times or lunch. Plan for interruptions, take a deep breath and remember you can always reschedule anything that’s not urgent.

An equally important boundary for homeworkers to create is a switch off time at the end of a day. This can seem difficult at first without that clear separation of office and home. Set boundaries early on and avoid the pitfall of getting sucked into working in the evening because you feel you haven’t done enough during the day. One handy tool is Google Calendar’s Working Hours setting, which helps you note working and non-working times by visibly marking the times you won’t be on the clock for colleagues and co-workers.

3. Take regular breaks to maintain focus:

It might sound paradoxical, but getting up and stepping away from your computer regularly to take your breaks, as you would when in the office, is an important part of maintaining a good work focus overall throughout the day. It can be tempting sometimes to plough through a particular task and keep at it, but you will be surprised how much more you can achieve by taking a short break and coming back to the task at hand with fresh eyes. It’s also highly recommended to walk around and do some stretches throughout your day. We all know it’s great advice, but it’s easy to forget or neglect to do it until it’s too late and those all too familiar back and shoulder pains are back with a bang.

4. Regulate your use of social media:

Firstly, its good practice to turn off your social network alerts and notifications. It is all too tempting to respond to each and every ‘ping’, no matter how much we say we won’t. Before you know it, a whole hour can pass. Try limiting the time you spend scrolling through social media or news. You might even consider using apps such as OFFTIME or ‘StayFocused’ to restrict your social media usage. This will help you to retain focus on your work and to be more productive in the long run.

5. Keep the lines of communication open:

The peace and quiet of having a workspace completely to yourself might be refreshing to some people – there’s no getting distracted by others on the phone, or by someone eating their lunch too loudly at their desk! (*Granted, for people with children this might be far from the case!) But there is a risk that spending somewhere around 40 hours a week alone could leave you feeling isolated. It’s important to maintain a healthy level of contact with colleagues where possible. Phone calls and video conferencing can help to keep any sense of loneliness at bay. These don’t have to happen every day, but perhaps every few days, pick up the phone rather than sending an email. Often it can be a much more productive and time efficient way of working through a query or task, or simply just touching base on a project.