As we all try to find our feet during this unprecedented outbreak, we know that, for many of you and your employees, working from home permanently will be completely brand new. To help everyone adjust to their new workplace, we’ve pulled together some of the best advice on how to remain productive and, most importantly, healthy. While these tips may come naturally to some people – particularly those who have worked from home before – bear in mind that this is entirely new territory for a lot of people, and there are many employees whose productivity could benefit from taking these small, conscious steps.
Find a suitable space to work from
If you don’t already have a desk at home, you might have to improvise and use a dining room table or spare room. Be mindful of health and safety aspects of your work area: adjust your chair so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. Make sure you use a sensible chair that you can sit at for hours at a time without hurting your back. Consider using a comfortable-height shelf or counter space for a standing desk.
Separate work from home
It’s important when working from home that you psychologically switch from home to work mode. This means working in a different area to where you relax and unwind. If you don’t have the space for this, or have others working in your home, it’s even more important to try and do other things to mentally separate work and home time. For example, you can create a ritual that helps you know the working day has started. It can be something like going to another room to work, making a particular kind of tea or going for a walk before you start work (if it’s safe for you to do so and you can maintain a distance from other people).
As tempting as it might be to stay in your pyjamas all day when working from home, washing and getting dressed helps to prepare you for the working day. You should also set yourself working hours like you probably already do. Be ready to start work at the same time you would normally arrive in your office, take a lunch break (away from your working space!) as normal, and finish at the same time too. This also means not staying up later just because you don’t have to go into the office!
At the end of the working day, turn off your computer and tidy all of your work equipment away, especially if you don’t have a separate room to work from.
Work in short bursts and take regular breaks
Your usual day working in the office is broken up by chats with colleagues, meetings and moving around from desk to desk. When working from home, this lack of movement and face-to-face interaction can mean you end up working for hours at a time without realising. It can also be difficult to step away from work when you’re at home if you’re worried people might think you’re not working hard enough. It’s easy to overcompensate when home working – many people don’t want others to feel like they aren’t working so can overcommunicate to let others know what they are working on. The best advice is that you know what you are doing and what you are working on, so keep yourself in check. A large portion of the workforce is now in the same position as you.
Schedule in regular short breaks. This helps to break the day up but will also help your concentration. When it’s time for lunch, leave your work area if you can. You also need to make sure you eat properly and drink water regularly. It can be really easy to just snack when at home, so make the effort to have a proper lunch, as you would any other working day.
Make time for being sociable
Social distancing doesn’t mean you should avoid all social contact. Make the time to chat with colleagues using things like video chat or FaceTime. It’s important you at least talk to people on the phone. Imagine all the small interactions you have in the office on a daily basis – try to replicate some of these by calling your team members even if it’s just for a quick chat to start and end your day (these conversations don’t all have to be strictly work-related, either). This will help you feel more connected to the workplace and help you get away from work for a few minutes.
Don’t put the TV on while you work and only use music if it won’t distract you. If you’re working from home and your children are home from school too, finding a place to work where you aren’t going to be disturbed is really important. Try to agree times with your family, where possible, that you will be able to play with them for a short while or answer their questions.
It’s also helpful if you are working from home with a housemate, spouse or partner that you let them know when you need to get your head down and work, and when you’re available for a chat.
Trust yourself and trust your people
Many people can work just as effectively from home as they do while at work. It’s just a matter of setting a routine, a small amount of discipline, and making the most of the technology available to you to keep connected. Employers need to ensure they’re making regular contact with their people, letting them know that they’re trusted, and reminding them that they’re appreciated. We are all working together to get through this.
For the latest information from Benefex about our activity during the coronavirus pandemic, take a look at our Covid-19 help page