Careers advice

How to work from home productively

Here are some practical tips for making a success out of working from home.

If you're struggling to get back into the routine of remote work, here's our guide to being productive until we can all get back into the office.

What’s it like to work from home?

There’s no doubt about it, there are pros and cons of working from home. Here are some common things people both like and dislike:

The good

  • No commuting: give yourself some extra time in bed, or get up and do something you enjoy in that period you’d normally spend stuck in traffic.
  • Better work/life balance: while you’ll probably still work standard hours, being at home gives you more freedom to make the most of your breaks.
  • Comfort: no matter how modern your office, we bet you prefer the creature comforts of your home.
  • Calm: you might find yourself enjoying the peace and quiet of your home compared to the workplace. For some, this environment can actually make them more productive – more on that later.

The not so good

  • It can be lonely: humans are social creatures. You might really miss your colleagues and the buzz of the office – this is where video calling becomes your best friend.
  • You can't just tap someone on the shoulder: we’ll look at retaining lines of communication below, but it’s a lot harder to get someone’s attention urgently when you can’t just wander over to their desk.
  • Staying motivated is tough: because home doesn’t feel like work, you’ll need self discipline to keep your productivity up.
  • It can be harder to shut down: while some find their work/life balance improves when working from home, having your office in your personal space can have the opposite effect for others.

There are a lot of positives about working from home.

How to work from home productively

First things first, let’s talk about your setup. To efficiently and conveniently work from home, you’ll need:

  • A laptop.
  • A good internet connection – we can’t over emphasise this one, so maybe review your broadband allowances to see if you’ve got the connectivity you need.
  • A desk or table – for your back’s sake, this needs to be at a suitable height to work at.
  • A comfy chair.
  • All the coffee.

Sorted? Sweet – now here are some tips for a day working from home:

1. Give yourself time to wake up

Getting extra Zs is one perk of working from home, but avoid the temptation of rolling out of bed five minutes before you’d normally start and stumbling to your laptop half-asleep.

Just because you’re at home, you should approach your day with the same professionalism as you always would. At the very least, give yourself enough time to have some brekkie, brush your teeth and get dressed.

Even better, you could use your normal commute time productively – either spending it with the family, or doing some exercise or meditation to get your mind ready for work.

You wouldn't turn up to the office like this.

2. Designate a comfortable workspace

This is key for creating separation between work and leisure time now the office has suddenly landed in your home.

Not everyone has the luxury of dedicating a room to a home office, so your workspace could simply be your laptop and the kitchen table. What’s important is that this is somewhere you don’t typically use for relaxing, so you can leave it at the end of the day and slip seamlessly into evening mode.

What’s more, make sure you’re comfortable. Most employers don’t know how long they’ll need staff to work remotely for, and what might start as a small ache can become a major irritant if you’re in an uncomfortable posture everyday.

3. Dress smart(ish)

If you’re used to turning up to the office in a suit, it can be hard to get into the zone if you’re doing the same work in your PJs.

We’re not saying you need to suit up, but you might find it helpful to put on something relatively formal – jeans and a button-down shirt or blouse, for example. Of course, if you’re going to be video conferencing with clients, you might need to go the whole hog.

4. Talk to the kids

If you’ve got kids at home, they might be quite excited about the idea of having mum or dad around to join in the fun.

However, as tempting as it might be, you can’t get involved with every game of hide and seek – so explain to them that you’re still working. This is another benefit of having a designated workstation – when you’re there, they know you’re focussing.

5. Take breaks

You’re still entitled to the same breaks when working from home, so take them. No one can be productive for eight solid hours, and it’s important you keep yourself fresh.

What’s more, you’ve now got the options to do what you want with your lunch break. String up that guitar, go for a walk or read that book you’ve been putting off for months.

On the subject of breaks – stick to regular meal times. It’s tempting to constantly snack when working from home and the fridge is right there, but it can quickly become distracting … not to mention unhealthy.

6. Use video conferences

One of the real benefits of office life is idea-sharing with those around you, whether informally or in meetings.

Fortunately, we live in a digital age, and video calls are a great way to talk through concepts or issues that can’t be discussed easily through messaging systems.

Communication becomes even more important to organisations when staff are working remotely. It’s vital for your productivity that you and your workmates still feel you’re pushing towards the same goals, even if you’re no longer side-by-side. So arrange group video conferences to discuss projects to replace the meetings you’d usually have.

Video calling is important both for your productivity, and to maintain social contact with colleagues.

How to make working from home fun

1. Keep talking

Wait, didn’t we just cover this? Nope, there’s a big difference between talking shop and maintaining the friendships you have with your colleagues.

Now those kitchen catch ups aren’t possible, use Slack, Google Hangouts, or whatever messaging system your organisation has to keep your social life ticking over.

2. Get some tunes on

If you can work while listening to music, now’s your moment. And one of the benefits of working from home is you don’t have to worry about anyone judging your tastes, and you don’t have to cater for anyone else.

3. Vary your routines

You’ll find a way of remote working that suits you, and that’s great. But if you find after a few days or weeks that you’re sick of the same old, experiment with something new. This could be a new workspace, different leisure times or varying what you do in your lunch break.

4. Don’t become a workaholic

Being committed is great, but you don’t want to burn out. Perhaps the most important thing to avoid this, is finishing at your normal time, and not letting work drag on just because you’re already at home. At the end of your standard working day, pack up and relax.