A guide to working from home (from people who work from home).
As more and more businesses move to home working, human connections are more important than ever. Below are some things to consider that can help you work smarter, support your own mental health, reduce feelings of isolation, and feel connected while working remotely.
This guide is not designed to have all the answers to working from home, nor is it designed to make you feel like you are not doing it right. Let’s face it we are all different, and do things very differently. We know there are tonnes of ways to approach this, so please feedback your own experiences if they differ (see last section). It is designed to hopefully be helpful even in a small way.
Some of this has been drawn from our own experiences, as at Broadstone we have a number of employees who have worked from home for many years. We can now share some of the things that work for us whilst working remotely.
Get up: One immediate benefit that you notice straight away is having some extra time in bed as there is now no commute to make. However, aim to get up around the same time every day as this helps stabilise your internal clock and improve your sleep overall. You’ll feel less tired, more refreshed, and find it easier to concentrate throughout the day.
Get ready: Keep to your normal morning routine where you can – get ready, washed, and dressed as if you are going to be travelling to work. This will help you get into the mind-set that you will soon be at work.
The commute: What do you do normally do on your way to work? Do you read a book? Listen to a podcast? Plan your day? Listen to radio or crank the music up in the car? A 30 minute commute would cost you 235 hours of your life every year. That’s almost two weeks of your year spent moving to and from work. A 90 minutes commute you would to lose an entire month over a year! You can still do all of the above before you sit at your desk ready for work feeling much more prepared for the day ahead. Use this time positively, an online yoga class, the Joe Wicks workout on YouTube, finish reading the book you started on holiday or even take up meditation. You will be floating to work on a cloud before you know it!
The set up: If possible, set up a work area separate from where you sleep, as this will help to prepare you for work mode and make it easier to switch off at the end of the day. You don’t need a home office to do this – a small desk set up in a corner of your room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table can work just as good.
Clear your work surface of clutter and set up your equipment to avoid physical strain – do a self-check using the guidance at www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/. If you don’t have a chair with back support, you could add a firm pillow.
Music/radio/headphones: Research has shown that listening to music whilst working can be beneficial for productivity. When at home there is no noise of your colleagues talking or general background noise, so the silence can be deafening for some. Having the radio on low volume helps you feel connected, be it talking, music or an audiobook/podcast as you can hear the chitter chatter going on around you, and this can help you focus. Popping your headphones in to block out any background noise to help you concentrate is a good idea, especially if you have kids or someone else at home that can be a distraction. The type of music you listen to is also key to concentration. Cerebral music such as classical music composers Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, or try more contemporary classical artists such as Nils Frahm, Max Ritchter or Olafur Arnalds. Spotify, Apple music and Alexa have playlists ready made for this, so no need to spend time finding music that works, it’s already been done for you. Listening to the sounds of nature can also enhance cognitive function and concentration. So whether you are listening to whale sounds or Vivaldi’s four seasons, find out what works for best for you.
Adapt: Make sure you keep communication open with your peers, as often and frequently as possible. Promote internally, healthy working from home habits and behaviours. Here are some suggestions:
- Call instead of emailing
- Short check-in and check-out calls during the workday
- Optional Q&A sessions for colleagues to dial in and chat through any concerns or queries they have about working from home
- You may have to work in blocks during the day to help with children
- Set up a WhatsApp group for non-work related content
- Sharing photo updates of your daily workout dog walk etc.
- Video calling and Webinars to stay in touch with clients
- Share your space, why not give your colleagues a webcam tour? Or show how your pets are now part of the team at the end of each team catch up.
Conference call/webinar etiquette: The use of tech is great but there are some unwritten rules:
- Mute button – press it when not talking, don’t be that person!
- Time keeping – treat it like a normal meeting. Dialling in/clicking the link before the meeting is due as it can take a couple of minutes to get things working.
- Practice – make sure you know the system you are using works with a colleague. Making sure you know when you have turned on the video or screen share button.
- Get dressed – at least from the waist up!
Get moving: Including some movement into your work from home routine will help maintain your physical and mental health. You’ll feel more awake and alert, and your concentration and sleep will improve. Drink plenty of water and (try to) cut down on caffeine.
If you’re not self-isolating, try going for a walk or a run before you start work, at lunchtime or at the end of the day. This can help you to feel like you have mentally ‘arrived’ at work, broken the day up or gone home for the day.
If you’re indoors, look online for an activity that suits you, such as a home yoga video, HIIT workout app or an online fitness class. Some gyms are now live streaming their classes, so you could even join a fitness community in your local area.
No matter what exercise you choose, try to take regular screen breaks and stretch throughout the day. Try to take a clearly defined lunch break and move away from your workspace.
Get connected: Keep in touch regularly with family, friends and neighbours. A quick chat on the phone, over the fence or a message on social media will raise their spirits and yours.
Check in on people who may be vulnerable or isolated and find out what they might need – can you pick up shopping or medicines safely and leave them where they can access them?
Get support: During times of stress it helps us to stay connected. Keep in touch with friends and family where you can. Communicate with your colleagues if you are feeling out of the loop or need to talk to someone.
If you’re feeling anxious or isolated, remember that support is out there. Talk to your Mental Health First Aider. If your company has trained Mental Health First Aiders or Champions, make a note of their contact details, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with them if you need to. They can use their skills to support anyone struggling with their mental health by signposting them to the appropriate support, both in and outside of the workplace.
Employee benefits: Talk to HR or contact your Employee Assistance Programme. There can be a range of benefits available to you that you were not aware of. If you have a benefits portal through your employer now is the time to get to know what benefits you have. Learning how they can support you now and into the future.
Share: Please share your own experiences so we can add them to future updates, so to keep the ideas as useful and varied as possible.