The trend of working from home is on the rise. People who have avoided layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic are more likely than ever to have to adapt to an unfamiliar yet familiar working environment.
You may be surprised at how difficult it can be. Endless noisy team calls, a child who needs guidance on their homeschooling assignment, the loss of structure and continuity: they can all be disorienting and exhausting.
It is still true that not having to go to the office can offer surprising opportunities to develop a better work-life balance, as well as to adapt your own schedule.
The Benefits of Working From Home
COVID-19 has made it easier for many people to work from home. Other remote workers are already accustomed to working from home. Working from home is probably more of a part of your life these days, or the life of those with whom you live, than ever before.
In the best case scenario, working from home benefits everyone, including you, your household, and your organisation. Stay connected and positive, and you can work productively while maintaining a satisfying homelife - without the stress of a daily commute.
Despite this, there are challenges. Managers may wonder how much work home workers are really doing. At the same time, many remote employees may feel isolated. They withdraw from the team dynamic, and they may experience stress and anxiety. Thus, maintaining contact with your coworkers and cultivating a sense of belonging are crucial.
Working Safely from Home
When you work from home, you create your own environment, typically in a space quite unlike that of an office. It is important to stay mentally and physically healthy while working from home.
Choosing a Workspace
In order to stay on track and get things done, it is important to design an effective workspace. Ensure you have access to all the tools you need, and that you have ample room to work comfortably.
Your home should be your favourite place to spend time. Additionally, you should make it clear to yourself and your household that, at certain times of the day, it is a place of work. You can still add personal touches to your workspace, such as fun posters or family photos, while keeping a few office-like touches to increase productivity.
It is wise to invest in a good office chair. If you don't have the space or money for such an item, make sure you can sit comfortably. There will likely be plenty of reasons to get up and go somewhere else if you don't!
Whenever you are working, you should be as assertive as possible and keep people and pets out of your home. Work in a place where you're not distracted - including your partner if they're also working at home!
Light, air, and noise should all be taken into account when choosing your spot. Make sure you have enough light to see your keyboard clearly, but avoid reflecting screen glare. Make sure you have access to fresh air.
Adopting healthy routines
When you work from home, it presents new challenges to your physical and mental health. Make sure that your routines prevent you from falling into unhealthy habits.
If you did not have to commute, you might be tempted to start earlier and finish later. Make sure you keep regular hours for starting and ending work, otherwise you may feel fatigued.
Maintain a regular eating and sleeping schedule. Having snacks at the wrong times can result in you feeling hungry and irritable. Eating snacks at the wrong times is also unhealthy.
Regular short breaks can keep you energized and focused, and will also allow your eyes to rest from prolonged screen time. While you are working for an hour, set a countdown timer. Get up five or ten minutes earlier and make coffee or go for a walk. Keep in mind, the idea is to take a break from screen time, so avoid choosing your phone before taking a break!
As important as it is to make sure you're comfortable to concentrate and avoid backaches, it's also crucial that you get out of your chair during the day. We have tips on improving physical health and well-being at work in our article, Improving Physical Health and Well-Being at Work.
Safely working from home
It's likely you'll access data and systems remotely on behalf of your organisation, so be sure to protect yourself. Protect yourself in the same way you would at work.
Make sure that WiFi networks require a password in order to be secure. Make sure you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and keep strong password protocols. The organisation will almost certainly insist on this, but if they don't, ask them. Increasing cybersecurity is a huge benefit.
Back up your data to a hard drive instead of a removable media, such as USB sticks or flash drives. The removable media can contain malware and viruses, as well as be easily lost.
You should lock your computer if you are leaving it unattended, even if you will only be gone for a few minutes. While your partner and family probably aren't security risks, they shouldn't have access to confidential data, while random keystrokes from your children or pets can create confusion!
Make sure your devices are away from any passersby who may be passing your window or working area. Especially if your home can be reached by anyone you don't know well, this is crucial.
The key to working from home is being productive
It can be challenging to be productive when you work from home. Working away from your co-workers with only remote online meetings can lead to emotional disconnection. Remote meetings can also cause hesitation.
Wearing a particular type of clothing might prove useful when working at home. You can prevent awkwardness by dressing for work - and avoid being dialled into a virtual meeting while still in your pyjamas!
You may also want to avoid going into certain parts of your home, or sitting in certain chairs, so you know when you're in "work mode" and when you're not.