The Best Advice on Working From Home

2nd July 2020

There are a lot of articles online about how to work from home during the Coronavirus pandemic. To save you reading them all, our friends at Desana have rounded up the best tips from across the internet.

It’s just you and the laptop for the foreseeable future, huh?  Well, there’s (literally) a million articles out there on how to work from home. To save you panic reading them all in a corona-induced brain fug, we summarise the best of them here.

As the coronavirus continues to spread and more and more companies close their offices, thousands of employees find themselves working from home for the first time. They may be uncertain on whether this means a snack-filled pyjama party or concerned that they will feel isolated.

Unsurprisingly, the media has been quick to capitalise on this trend, with everyone from the BBC to Vogue coming out with an article with their top tips on working from home. They range from the frivolous (“make a cat proof barrier around your keyboard”) to the practical (create a dedicated workplace). We’ve compiled the best advice into one easy resource.

1. Start the day as if you were going to work

Act as though you were going to an office job: get up, shower and dress. Apart from making you feel better, it will also mean you aren’t caught off guard by a spontaneous video call. Jennifer O’Connell relates the cautionary tale of her colleague Zoe who tried to avoid switching on her camera for a conference call when working from home. When she was forced to do so, it emerged that she was sitting in her bed, wearing her pyjamas. She wasn’t a colleague for much longer.

Instead of commuting, Vogue suggests you use that time to do some exercise. It may just be going for a walk round the block, but it helps you mentally prepare for the day.

2. Work defined hours

Ideally your work should introduce some way of clocking in and out – not so they can monitor you, but so that they know when you can be contacted and expected to respond to messages or perform tasks. Rebecca Eisenberg suggested that companies set up a channel in Slack dedicated just to this.

3. Take breaks

Mika McKinnon pointed out on Twitter that it is very easy to feel guilty about stopping work when you are working from home – you can feel like you are slacking off. Many at home workers don’t take lunch breaks. Make sure you aren’t one of them.

Harper’s Bazaar recommends spending any money you would normally spend on buying work lunches on an indulgent Ocado shop so that there are lots of scrummy things for you to eat when you stop for lunch – and you don’t have to think about what to eat.

4. But don’t let breaks spill into the rest of your day

Caroline Ferry reminds us how easy it is to get distracted when working from home. The TV is your worst enemy – even if you say you are just going to have the morning news on in the background, it will spill into the rest of the day and you’ll get to 5pm and wonder where the day went.

Similarly, logout of social media – it’s easier to remember you should be working if every time your mouse clicks on [insert social media of choice] tab you have to sign in.

More insidiously, you may be tempted to do housework. Putting on a wash is fine – it takes all of two minutes. But don’t get caught up in longer chores or cooking elaborate meals. This is not the day to tackle Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

5. Socialise

Loneliness is the curse of the stay at home worker. See if you can meet up with friends who live nearby in a lunch break or make sure you have plans with people for the evening. Obviously, if you are self-isolating this won’t be possible. But you can still phone or skype people.

Michelle Ruiz says that if you aren’t a fan of podcasts, you had better start now, saying that podcast hosts have become her “faux friends” while working from home. If it’s really not for you, the radio could be your next best home-working companion.

6. But let your family and friends know that working from home still means working

If you live with other people, it can be difficult to ward off interruptions. Or you may have friends who think that because you are working from home, you will be open to them popping by or phoning you up for a chat. Make clear from the start what your working hours are.

Let those you live with know if you are on a call. This is important not only to avoid unprofessional-looking interruptions but also as a way of preserving their dignity: Jennifer O’Connell tells the story of how she was on a video call when her boss’s wife walked out of the shower completely naked.

7. Stay in touch with your colleagues and boss

It’s important to maintain the lines of communication while working from home. Hopefully your boss will make clear their expectations and outline the differences to a regular day in the office (for example processes may be slightly different).

You may want to video call a colleague who you are working with – even if you both just get on with your own tasks, having someone else working away in the background can help you focus and feel more like you are at the office. If you don’t want to call a colleague, Focusmate does the same thing but links you up with a total stranger. It’s supposed to help you avoid procrastinating if you know someone else is also working.

8. Have a defined place where you work

Ideally, you want to have a study. But not everyone’s home is set up like this. At the very least, try to ensure it is a place where you can work uninterrupted. To help you mentally separate work from the rest of your life, try to work in a different room to the one where you spend your evenings. Sophia Gad-Nasr suggests that if your bedroom makes you sleepy, work elsewhere, or at least fill the place with light.

At the end of your working day, switch off your laptop and put it away. Just because your commute has only lasted a second, doesn’t mean you should be tempted into unnecessarily starting work again after the day is over. Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean your home has become your work.

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