Working remotely can be difficult sometimes, due to distractions in your home, inefficient communicating or a poor working environment, and can even lead to loneliness or unhealthy living. This article unpacks some of the key problems you may face when transitioning to working from home more often, or starting a new role that is completely home-based, and how to tackle them.
- Routines and boundaries
- Communication is key
- Health and wellness
Routines and boundaries
Without the need to commute, working from home should mean you will have more time to yourself and a better work-life balance. However, for many people who make the transition, this is not the case. It can be difficult to stay focused and productive and, without the proper boundaries, you can struggle to take adequate breaks from work and downtime when you should be finished for the day. To keep motivated and enjoy the benefits of working from home, you must maintain discipline and a good way to ensure you do this is to work to a defined routine…
Create a dedicated workspace
To avoid distractions, and help you get your head into work mode, it is always a good idea to create a workspace. Ideally, you would have a separate room to turn into a home office, but failing that any old desk would do. Here is a quick guide to help you get set up for working from home:
- Start by getting everything you need for the day’s work together in your workspace: chargers, pens, papers, laptops etc.
- Remove all distractions as much as possible. It is always a good idea to ask the people you live with to give you some space and not distract you and you should also turn off the TV, radio and other noisy appliances.
- Get comfortable: Make sure you are at the right height for working, have proper back support (avoid using the sofa if possible), and padding.
- Lighting: Ensure you have good lighting for your workspace that does not overstrain your eyes. If you are using the computer, position the lamp so it will not reflect on the computer screen and so the shadows from your hands are not cast over your work. For right-handed people, this means positioning the lamp on the left side of their workspace.
If you still find yourself distracted and feel your workspace is not secluded enough, you could block out your surroundings by positioning some cardboard boxes or books to make the area more private.
When spending all day at home it can be easy for your home life and work to become too intertwined. You could find yourself distracted with household chores or spending too much time dwelling on your work when you should have finished for the day. It is therefore important to give yourself space from your work, both physically and mentally.
Keep in mind that you are only contracted to work a certain number of hours, so try and limit yourself to that and, when you are finished for the day, step away from your workspace and mute any work notifications on your phone.
Dress to impress
For many people, one of the obvious benefits of working from home is you no longer have to worry about dressing up for the office. However, experts suggest that staying in your pajamas all day and skipping showers is not great for your state of mind and can make it difficult to stay motivated, disciplined, and professional.
As psychotherapist Andreas Pichler explains: ‘If you dress sensibly to work from home you enter a different mindset, although there are certainly people who can manage this in their pajamas. Your ability to organize yourself and your level of maturity will determine how far you can successfully deviate from the usual pattern.’
Here are a few ways dressing up for the day can help you while working from home:
- Gives you a more professional image during video calls and means people are likely to treat you better
- Helps boost your confidence and makes you feel more ready to work
- Makes it easier to create boundaries between your work and home life as people are less likely to distract you if you are clearly dressed for work engaged and, when you are ready to finish for the day, changing into your lounging clothes is a great way to switch to a more relaxed mindset.
Although dressing up to work from home has obvious benefits for many people, that does not mean you need to wear a full suit every day. Just keep in mind that washing regularly and wearing some nicer clothes than your pajamas or tracksuit bottoms can put you in a good mindset.
Optimize your schedule
A healthy work schedule is the key to a healthy mind.
Plan your activities
Organizing your goals and tasks for the day or week on a to-do list is even more important when working from home. Being able to tick off those tasks as you work through your list will give you a sense of accomplishment that you are sure to find motivating.
Begin your day earlier with simple tasks
Start with some simple tasks you can easily complete independently. This will help boost your confidence and set you up for a productive workday. Plus, you can then have more regular breaks and will be less stressed later in the day when you start to focus on collaborative and more difficult tasks.
Take clear breaks
When creating your daily routine it is important to include breaks. Resting your eyes from the screen for 5-10 minutes per hour, scheduling a full lunch break, and taking a short walk outside are great ways to clear your head, de-stress and maintain motivation.
Keep calls to the afternoon
In the mornings, you or the other parties on the call may be too tired to fully focus on the call which can mean you waste time with a slow-paced discussion that nobody is ready for. The same can be said for taking calls too late in the day.
Communication is key
One of the major drawbacks of saying goodbye to the office and working from home is communication. It is so easy to feel isolated, harder to bond with colleagues, and more difficult to ask quick questions when you are at home on your own all day. These issues can quickly negatively impact your productivity and increase stress, so it is important to try new ways to improve communication.
Connecting through tech
Most businesses will have already thought about setting up some new IT systems to help you adjust, so make sure you make the most of them. If your business has not mentioned using a new system and doesn’t have any way to communicate other than phone or email, bring it up to your manager and ask them if they feel a business communication platform could improve company-wide communication and productivity. Other useful systems you can look into include:
- Free tools Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts for video calls and Google Docs and Sheets for collaborative working.
- Hubspot for use in client relationship management, project/task management, and more.
- Trello, ProofHub, and Workzone for project management and collaboration.
Aside from computer software and systems, you should also consider your hardware. A poor internet connection and a slow computer will hold you back in your work and could infuriate colleagues and clients when you are forced to end a video conference call abruptly. Many companies will be happy to pay for a new laptop or perhaps even a better internet router if you are struggling with technical difficulties while working from home.
Keeping close and personal
The best way to stop yourself from feeling isolated is to pick up the phone rather than relying on email or other messaging platforms. If you are feeling disconnected from your colleagues, you can be sure they are too and will most likely appreciate a quick call from time to time rather than an endless barrage of emails.
You could also schedule a more relaxed, sociable, and less work-focused video call with your team on Friday afternoons so you can have a quick catch-up and end the week on a high and friendly note. Plus, if you are new to the role or know someone who is, it is a good idea to give them a call to introduce yourself and establish a friendship as starting on the right foot like this will go a long way to helping you work well together as a team.
Request video calls with your superior
Nothing beats a face-to-face call with your manager for getting your tasks and responsibilities clear and addressing any problems, and this is doubly true if you are new to the role. While working from home avoiding your superiors is extremely easy, so being upfront and requesting time with your manager is sure to be appreciated, and will let them know you are taking things seriously.
Ask for help
Outside the office, it can be difficult to ask for help and clarification when you get confused. If you are not in contact with your colleagues as much, you easily start to feel shy and worry that, as they are not reaching out to you, you are the only one who is struggling. However, you must get in touch and let them know when you are struggling as - after all - there is a big chance that they may be struggling too.
We all know the feeling of wasting time when you are struggling to progress in a project, and reaching out sooner rather than later will mean you are more productive which is something everyone you work with will appreciate. To make your conversation go smoothly, it is often a good idea to write down your questions and start with the most important ones first, just in case the colleagues on your call are pressed for time.
Health and wellness
Spending too much time at home, especially if you live alone, can be bad for your body and mind. So to stay motivated and productive at work it is important to get regular fresh air, exercise, and remain social
Expect an adjustment period
Keep in mind that the transition to working from home is difficult and it is natural to take some time to adjust. When you are new to working out of the office, you should expect to lose some motivation, feel more stressed and be less productive; so, don’t be too hard on yourself if things are not going perfectly in the first couple of weeks.
It is important to maintain good relationships with your friends, family, and the people you come into face-to-face contact with. If you are feeling lonely, push yourself to have casual social interactions and make conversation with people when out in public. You could try heading out for a coffee, lunch, or to your local shop.
It is easy to forget to exercise when working from home every day. However, without your usual commute, you will most likely be getting less exercise than ever before which means you will feel more stressed, get worse sleep and put yourself at more risk of disease and health issues. Make time to get outside for a walk, run, or bike ride and consider some exercise routines you can do from the comfort of your home, many options require little or no investment to get started. Here are some ideas:
- Home workout videos
With more time at home, you should be able to find the time to cook. This is the perfect opportunity to avoid fast food, learn some new dishes and ensure you have a healthy, balanced diet.
Working from home can change your life for the better, but you need to make sure you do everything you can to help the transition go smoothly, even if this means a small monetary investment. The world of remote working is likely to stick around for a long time, so developing healthy habits early on will mean you can make the most of the benefits, stay healthy and be as productive and successful as possible for the rest of your career.
As a professional recruiter, I have over 10 years of experience helping candidates find work with businesses that match their skills, personalities and goals. Here on Resume Supply, I share some of the key things I have learned over my career to help job seekers with resumes, applications and interviews.