Working From Home: Setting Yourself up for Success & Avoiding the Pitfalls

Working from home image

Working from home can present it’s own set of unique challenges, particularly if you are not accustomed to working this way. With so many people forced to work from home due to current global circumstances it adds even more chaos into the mix. 

It’s time to ditch the PJs and get back into work mode! Here are some tips to help you transition to working from home and some of the pitfalls to look out for. 

Get Dressed!

As tempting as it might be to stay in your pyjamas all day, it won’t help your motivation levels. So, get out of bed, have a shower and get yourself ready for “work” like you would on any other day. I’m not saying you have to wear your corporate office attire around the house, but do yourself a favour and at least get out of your sleepwear. This simple step will help your brain get into “work mode”. If you are doing any video meetings during the day, make sure you are wearing something work appropriate. Unless you are a fitness instructor, wearing your workout gear in a video conference is probably not the best choice. You still want to maintain a professional image when dealing with others, even if you are working from home.

Have a dedicated work space

Not everyone has the luxury of having a dedicated home office, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a work space at home. At the moment most people are having to work from home as a temporary measure, so you may have to make do with what you have available. Having an area of some kind that is set up just for working will help to keep you organised and productive. Set up a small desk in the corner of a room, re-purpose a cabinet as a desk or even take over part of the dining table if you need to. If you are set up in a shared/ open space in your home, make sure you have a quiet space available, which is away from the kids and/ or your partner, that you can use to take calls etc. Clear some space on a bookshelf or in a cupboard or wherever you can to keep all your work equipment or paperwork together (this is particularly important if you need to clear your work space each day, e.g. if you are working at the dining room table). Even an empty box or washing basket can help you keep your work things together and easy to find as a temporary fix. Make sure you space has good lighting too. 

Don’t work from your bed or couch 

Yes I know, your bed/ couch is SOOOO comfy, so what is the problem with working from there? Firstly, it is not at all helpful for maintaining that ‘business’ mindset when you are laying in bed. Secondly, whilst it might be ok for a very short term, working on a laptop from your bed in particular, is terrible for your posture! This is going to cause you all sorts of aches and pains and can lead to long term issues.  Sitting at a proper table and chair of some description is going to be much better for your posture than the couch or bed. Here is a link to some ergonomic guidelines if you want some more information on how to properly set up a work station. Obviously, working from home in the current environment means that you may not be able to have everything set up 100%, but try to do as much as you can to improve your posture. Think out side of the box for solutions – like using some books to raise your laptop to a better viewing height. 

Stay Connected

Just because you are working from home it doesn’t mean you can’t keep in contact with your colleagues, clients or staff. You just have to adjust how you do this. Many people find the isolation of working from home difficult at the best of times, especially if they are used to being in busy workplace. So, check in and see how everyone in your team is going. Organise a weekly/ daily catch-up dependant on your needs. There are loads of online resources and tools out there to help facilitate remote working. Zoom is great for holding one on one or team meetings. There are also project management tools like Trello, Asana or Clickup that allow everyone to keep on track with projects and see where everyone is at. These programs allow you to assign tasks to others, update your progress and you can comment directly on tasks. There are also a range of chat and messaging programs to help you stay in contact and feel connected (without breaching any social distancing regulations). Or why not go old school and pick up the phone for a good old chinwag! 

Separate Work From Home

But I’m working from home, how on Earth do I keep the two separate? I know this can be hard when you are working from home, and there will be some overlap, but try to have dedicated “work time” and “home time”. Try to stick to your usual work routine as much as possible. For example, focus on your work rather than worrying about the pile of washing in the corner of the room during your “work time”. Leave the washing to deal with during “home time”.  Scheduling blocks of time for each task may help to keep you on track. Check out some of my other blog posts to help you with your productivity if needed. 

**TOP TIP: If you are having trouble separating work and home mentally, consider going for a quick walk outside before and after “work” (even doing a couple of laps around the outside of the house can help). When you are ready to start working, go for a quick walk first to focus your mind and get into “work mode”. Then at the end of your work day repeat this to clear your mind of all the “work stuff” and have some down time and fresh air before jumping into home tasks. Having this quick break between the two can help you adjust your focus and make it easier to transition between home and work mode.

Working With Kids At Home

If you don’t have any (young/ school aged) kids you can skip over this bit, but before you do I just want to say one thing      – BE UNDERSTANDING OF THOSE WHO DO HAVE KIDS. These are not normal times and things are tough for EVERYONE right now. Having to work around your kids adds another level of complexity to things. So be flexible, understand that a co-worker may have to do a video conference with a child sitting on their lap and show some compassion in these difficult times. 

If things weren’t crazy enough at the moment, let’s throw in working with the kids at home, oh and some homeschooling too just for good measure 😱. With 2 primary school aged kids myself I totally get how difficult this can be some days. (The constant fighting and arguing over the most random things is enough to drive anyone mad, am I right?!). This is a huge topic on it’s own so I have created a separate list of tips for dealing with kids while working from home so check it out if you need some suggestions. 

The biggest thing to remember is to be understanding and compassionate. All humans have a basic need to feel loved, safe and secure, so make sure this need is being met for your children. We know you love your children but they need to FEEL that at a deep internal level to feel safe, and this will look different for each child. This current pandemic is affecting everyone globally – kids included. Their worlds have been turned upside-down too. Even if they are too young to understand what is going on, instinctively they know things are different, and different can be scary. Kids are likely to need more reassurance at this time, meaning they probably want more of your time and attention in order to feel safe and “normal”. I absolutely get that this can be very tough to juggle when you are trying to work also, but if they are feeling secure and loved this will ultimately make it easier for you to get on with what you need to. So that might mean spending a little more quality time with them, and it doesn’t have to be anything huge either. Shorter more frequent interactions are often more beneficial, but judge this based on your own child’s needs because you know them best. 

Be kind to yourself (and others)

This is an unusual and stressful time for everyone, so we all need to show a little more kindness to ourselves and others. Accept that things are not “normal” at the moment so that means we need to adapt and be more flexible. This whole situation is likely to negatively impact people’s mental health more than we realise, so make sure you look after yourself and those around you.  

  • Keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy will help you to deal with stress better 
  • Give yourself a break and don’t be too hard on yourself if things aren’t “perfect” at the moment (by the way, have you read my blog “Are you letting perfection get in the way of your productivity“?)
  • Reach out for help if you need it, don’t be afraid to speak up if you are struggling
  • Celebrate even the small wins in your day, this will help to counteract some of the negative stuff going on at the moment
  • Spend time doing the things you enjoy
  • Take some time to relax
  • If business is slow look at learning some new skills that can benefit you after all this is over
  • Look for other opportunities to grow your business in a way you haven’t considered before
  • Now is a great time to focus on all those things you never normally get a chance to do
  • If you are finding it stressful listening to all the news about the virus all the time – turn it off! Keep informed, but limit how much news you expose yourself to

Hopefully these tips will help you find your way and make adjusting to working from home just that little bit easier.  Remember to be kind to yourself and others and look after yourself (including your mental health) in these strange and stressful times. If you have any other questions regarding working from home, please contact me as I work from home all the time so I just might be able to give you some more pointers specific to your circumstances. 

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