How on earth do I work from home?

If you’ve not worked from home before, the prospect can be as daunting as it is appealing. Here’s how it’s done, according to local freelancer Amber Bryce…

Many people are now working at home, and trying to adjust to the brave new world of remote working. Depending on your resources, this can be daunting. Suddenly your entire routine is rumbled and there are endless distractions everywhere.

Pop the kettle on and change out of your pyjamas — here’s some advice on maintaining a productive 9-5…

Designate a space

The temptation is to work from bed. It’s comfy and cosy, but don’t do it! It’ll also disrupt your sleeping habits in the long term and make you want to nap.

To work most productively, you need to find a specific space in your home that you can focus in. Ideally this would be a spare room, away from children and clingy pets that are likely to interrupt you. If you’re lacking space, even a corner of the living room can work. Just make sure it’s facing away from the invitingly squishy sofa and Netflix menu.

The priorities are a desk, chair and some natural light filtering through. Having this designated space in your home not only helps to implement more of a structure to your routine, it also ensures that once you’ve finished work for the day, you can switch off and relax more easily in other rooms. And if you need some inspo on how to create a fab office space, head to our home office guide.

Structure your days

When you work in an office, your days are structured for you: start at 9am, finish at 5pm. Yet once you start working from home, your usual routine tends to blur. It’s suddenly even easier to work later into the evenings and snack throughout the day instead of taking a break.

To get around this, try keeping a paper planner or using your Google calendar to devise a strict schedule for each day. Set alarms on your phone to inspire motivation and ensure you stick to the time limits for each daily task.

And do get out of your pyjamas every morning – it signals the start of the working day and helps to kickstart your mind into work mode.

Stay in touch

Working from home can be really lonely, especially during a time of social distancing due to coronavirus. This is why it’s so important to remain in touch with friends and colleagues every day.

While e-mail and messaging services like Slack can be helpful, it’s much more effective to schedule daily phone calls or video chats via Skype or FaceTime with colleagues (and friends), which allow you to connect in a more personal, expressive way. 

What to do if you have children?

Now that schools and nurseries are closing across the UK, it’s going to be much more difficult for parents to work from home without any distractions.

If you can, devise a co-parenting schedule with your spouse so that you can take it in turns looking after the kids. It’s also worth discussing flexi-hours with your boss, who is likely to be more lenient around the hours you’re working while at home.

Explain the situation as best you can to your children, especially those that are older. The more they understand it, the more they’re likely to cooperate. We look at how to manage work and family life in our working from home guide.

Stay active

Gyms and fitness classes are a no-no for now, but there are still ways to keep our bodies healthy.

Every hour or so, make sure you’re standing up to stretch or going for a walk around the garden or local neighbourhood if they are not too busy and you can maintain social distancing. YouTube also has a wealth of exercise and yoga videos that you can try out at home, many of which can be done during a 20 minute break. Look at what you have at your disposal for a home gym – a makeshift skipping rope, kids’ trampoline, balance beam… and head to the NHS website, which has some simple to follow guides for 10 minute home workouts, covering everything from cardio to an upper arms workout.

Check your posture too, and make sure you are taking regular screen breaks.

Don’t try to do everything at once

When you’re at home all day it’s suddenly very easy to spend your tea breaks doing the washing up or preparing dinner. Being surrounded by home chores can leave you feeling burdened with the sense that everything needs doing at once — not to mention the fact that changing the bedding becomes much more appealing when you’re procrastinating on a deadline.

Ignoring all the things around you until you’ve finished work for the day is easier said than done, but writing to-do lists can help. Set out the most pressing work issue for the day and prioritise those, as if you’re still in an office. Each time you feel your mind wandering, look at your list once again.

If you’re sharing ‘office space’ with a partner

This is where it can get messy as you’re suddenly thrown into co-habiting and co-working in the same space with your nearest and dearest. Yes, you may love them to bits but have you noticed how loudly they type or that bellowing laugh during calls with colleagues? It’s going to get frustrating. Noise cancelling headphones are a must. Resist long tea breaks but do stop for lunch together. And be firm on what time you start and stop work.

… And stay in touch with your local community

Keep connected with your local community. Working from home can feel isolating so take time to connect with your neighbours, stay up to date with local news and some of the amazing initiatives in your area. Subscribe to The Weekend for weekly updates.

More ideas for how to work from home

The Home Office