10th March 2020

Essential Tips for Working From Home

Ormeau Baths Resident and freelance writer, Niamh Crawford-Walker shares her insights and tips for working from home.

This week I welcomed two new colleagues to my office. Not because I’ve hit the big bucks and been able to hire employees but because of the work from home, social distancing and self-isolation guidelines issued in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

Over the last four years, the majority of my working life has revolved around working from home whether freelancing or fulfilling full-time roles on a remote basis so it’s safe to say I’ve gathered a few tips and tricks along the way. What may pose the biggest challenge this time around is, adjusting to sharing my WFH space and routines with the rest of my family. 

So far our approach has called for a lot of open communication, a sense of humour and a heck of a lot of patience. Day one began with a team meeting where we discussed workspace etiquette, working hours, managing boundaries between work and home life and spent some time discussing how we would deal with Sandra and Stephen – our two (imaginary) colleagues we’ve called in to blame our most annoying habits on – leaving dirty cups around, talking loudly on the phone (constantly) and interrupting when we’re working on intense tasks. Trust me, now is not the time to argue with those around you.   

By midday, to avoid tensions we were forced to introduce an anonymous suggestions box for improving the workplace…

It’s safe to say it’s been an adjustment for all, as I’m sure many of you reading this can relate to but with one week down, we’re getting there. 

To the majority of you who are now embracing new terrain of working from home, I’ve pulled together a few of my tried and tested tips for making the transition a smooth and productive one. 

P.S this post on settling into your new co-working space can be adapted to a shared work from home space while this post is packed with productivity hacks during the adjustment. 

Respect the routine

For those based in an office, the fantasy version of working from home includes spending all day in your pyjamas, working from bed and spending time taking leisurely lunch breaks. Hate to break it to you pal, that’s just not the reality. Sure, you’ve got a heck of a lot more freedom and there’s much less need to whip out your three-piece suit and office attire but it’s important to stick as closely to your usual routine as you can. Replace what would have been your commute with a walk around the block. If you and your colleagues like to take a tea break at 11am, take your tea break at home at the same time and call them for a quick chat. Most importantly, take time to get up and get dressed each day. It’s crucial for your mindset. 

Ditch the devices…

…not all of them, obviously. With no one to hold you accountable or watching you from across the desk, it’s easy to slip into a social media scroll, accidentally losing 20 minutes of your day (especially with the current media landscape and constant updates right now). Take note of when you’re at your most productive – I’m an early bird – and make the most of your focus during that time, leave your phone in another room and turn off notifications to ensure you’re still getting your most important work ticked off. Two hours of focused work can totally transform your workload management as well as the overall quality of your work.

Set up your space

Before your work from home day begins, gather up everything you need and take time to set out your space, just as you would at your office desk. Figure out where you work best from. Check for nearest charging points and avoid working from the sofa as much as you can. Spoiler: this isn’t a space conducive to productivity. This workspace is part of your work from home daily routine now and making it somewhere that’s productive and comfortable makes it easy to get into the zone as you take your seat at your desk each morning. 

Know when to call it a day

There’s a fine line between working hard, being passionate about your work and burning out. Somehow when working from home, that line becomes even more blurred. Now, perhaps more than ever, we’ve got to pay attention to our mind and our mental health and that includes setting boundaries in place to set a clear end to the workday while working from home. For me, that’s the physical boundary of closing the office door at the end of the working day but with more of us working from home right now, I’ve switched up my workspace to the dining room. It might be as simple as closing the laptop and putting your work belongings out of sight for the evening. This is not to underestimate the need to get work done and not to say that as in your normal working environment there will be times when late nights are necessary. Just don’t make these late nights the norm while working from home simply because you can. 

Like everything, working from home takes time to adjust to but you’ll soon get into the swing of things. It’s not as strange as most people think and you may even learn to love it, I know I have. Keep in touch with your teams and support networks as much as you can and let’s embrace the joy of technology keeping us all in touch virtually when we need it most.