Guide To Working From Home

Posted on by Peter Watts

The guide to working from home and staying sane.

Some people love working from home (WFH), but for those who need the discipline and daily contact of office life, it’s a real challenge. But it doesn’t need to be difficult. Working at home can be stress-free and even enjoyable if you keep in mind a few simple rules. Don’t think of these as rigid instructions as much as guidelines that have worked for Peter Watts, a freelance writer who has worked from home for more than a decade. We also spoke to Leapers, an organisation that supports the self-employed and homeworkers.

Following some simple rules can make working from home stress-free. Credit: Shutterstock.

Establish a routine

Your commute might be reduced from 45 minutes to 45 seconds, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon the routine that separates home from work. That means getting up, washing and getting dressed before starting work. It’s a good idea to take some morning exercise to put you in the right frame of mind, even if it’s just a walk round the block. Feel free to answer a few emails in bed as soon as you wake up, but give yourself some breathing space before you dive into the heavy stuff. It’s just as important to watch the clock at the other end of the day. Working long into the evening is easily done but it can be surprisingly unproductive, and it’s not great for your mental and physical health or your relationship with your family. “That’s where you decide ‘right, I’m starting work now’ and ‘Okay, I’m done for the day’, and step away from your work, or else it bleeds into your evenings and weekends,” says Matthew Knight of Leapers.

Create an office environment

You might like the idea of turning your bed into a soft and cosy work pit, but it’s terrible for your back and can disrupt sleep patterns. Instead, try and set yourself up at a desk or table, recreating the resemblance of an office space as closely as possible. It might be boring but this physical space will reinforce your sense of routine, providing a boundary between work and home time, which can otherwise all too easily overlap. That doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible – if you want to read a report while sitting in the bath or make some calls from the garden, go right ahead.

Give yourself some downtime

One of the great pleasures of home working is you can behave as a grown-up. That means treating yourself to the occasional 20 minutes off to do some cooking, gardening or other chores. You can even have a lie down if you really need one. If you feel guilty, remember that you no longer have a daily commute built into your day so are allowed to take the time you once spent travelling and invest it in something more useful or enjoyable. Just try and avoid anything addictive like watching TV or playing video games. “Give yourself some downtime – absolutely, take breaks, get good sleep, do your daily exercises, and give yourself permission to slack off,” says Knight. “We are constantly distracted in the office, so at home is no different but you might need to put some structure around when and where you work.”

Invest in equipment

Basically, you get what you pay for. Make life easier for yourself by investing in decent essentials – reliable broadband, a sturdy laptop, a user-friendly printer. A nice office chair can be necessary if you are working long hours, and you can also get adjustable stands for the laptop, which are very useful. Think about the items you take for granted in the office such as stationery and printer cartridges, and make sure you have plenty close to hand.

Stay connected

One of the hardest aspects of working from home is the lack of contact with colleagues. Spending time with people who understand and care about your job is good for you and it’s good for your work. Without their support, you can easily feel lonely or struggle with a problem that would benefit from somebody else’s input. This can’t always be resolved by email, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk. “Make sure you’re communicating with your network,” says Knight. “It’s really easy to feel isolated, so make sure you’re sharing, but also asking others and listening for their answer. Being at home on your own, having to figure out working remotely, can be quite an emotional load so when you don’t see people every day it’s even more important to schedule time to check in, see how folk are doing, and keep communicating.”

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