21 Mar 2020
Making your home work for you during the outbreak
This week, thousands of in-office workers will experience their first foray into the world of at-home work, as large and small businesses try to manage the threat of COVID-19 by asking their employees to work remotely.
And while a LinkedIn study from October 2019 found that 82% of workers wished they could work from home at least part of the time: Take it from me, it’s not as easy as it looks.
As a social media entrepreneur who has built a six-figure business from my home office over the last decade, here are my top tips (and learnings) for making your home work for you.
1. Stick to a schedule
One of the most wonderful things about working from home is that you get to enjoy the comfort of your home all day.
The good news is that you may end up being more productive when you don’t spend hours commuting or in meetings, taking long lunches or catching up with the latest gossip.
The bad news is that you have to set and stick to office routines without the external pressure to turn up on time, take regular meal breaks, and keep to a reasonable sleep schedule. Every company has early birds and night owls, so their work times are likely to diverge. However, you must overlap during some agreed office hours when everyone is always available.
Self-discipline is why much of the advice about working from home includes things such as getting dressed for work, even though you might work just as well in your dressing gown. But if you talk to colleagues or customers over video links, you must keep up appearances. You will be judged.
Consider beginning and ending work at the same time each day – the way you would if you were at the office. This will help you separate professional time and personal time – and make it easier to detach both emotionally and physically at the end of the day. You can even log your day and daily tasks if that helps you.
During the day, give yourself some physical distance from your workspace by taking a lunch break – even if that means you’re sitting at your kitchen table or listening to a podcast for 30 minutes. I find this makes me feel more refreshed and ready to dive back in when I return to my desk.
2. Give yourself space
Don’t let your dining room table become the source for stacked papers, folders – or a printer.
A dedicated workspace (ideally one you where you can close the door) is a solid way to keep work and life separate – and ensure you’re not constantly reminded of your deadlines while sitting down for dinner.
At the end of the day, close the door (if you can), walk away, and try not to return to your workspace until the following morning.
3. Look the part
When you work from home, appearing professional can be just as important as when you work in a traditional office.
That answer didn’t cover video conferencing, which will be important for many people pushed out of their corporate nests. Even if it’s not essential for meetings, it’s useful for quick video chats with colleagues. This fosters camaraderie, especially if you start to feel lonely working on your own. It’s also easy to do, thanks to software such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, TeamViewer and more.
You will look and sound a lot better if you buy a decent webcam with 1080p (Full HD) resolution. In previous answers, I’ve recommended the Logitech C920 HD Pro webcam with microphone. It’s still a good buy at £63.99, though there’s a newer C920S model at £84.99.
If you won’t shell out for a webcam, at least get a headset with a microphone. Gamers love them so there are all kinds of models available at reasonable prices. You can also use them to listen to music, thus eliminating background household and traffic noises.
4. Build boundaries
When it comes to working from home, I often encourage people to “build” and not “set” boundaries – because it’s truly a process.
It took me years to figure out that even though I work from home, I don’t have to answer an email at 9:00 p.m. when I’m sitting on the couch with my husband watching This Is Us. (Trust me, I’m way too fragile to respond to anything after that show anyway.)
If an emergency arises, you can, of course, make an exception, but try to limit your work to business hours only, even if that means having a template reply on-hand. One of my personal favourites: “I will be happy to look at this tomorrow with a fresh set of eyes!”
Building boundaries can be even more important when you work from home, and your environment can often always “feel” like work.
Written by: Natalie Zfat – Social Media Entrepreneur