Working from home—6 tips to make the most out of your home office
With more of us now working from home, here’s how to love your home office.
6 min read
Due to the current global situation as a result of the coronavirus, many of us are adapting our lifestyles and are now working from home. This may seem a little strange at first, but these 6 home office tips will set you up in no time.
While you may no longer have access to the complimentary drinks fridge, the office dog—or, if you’re a freelancer, your favourite coffee shop or co-working space—the home office comes with some surprising benefits. Here are 6 tips on how to make the most of it:
1. Keep to a regular schedule
Without being able to watch your colleagues leave the office at the end of the day, or abide by the coffee shop’s closing times, it’s all too easy to let your working hours blend into your free time. But putting in longer hours doesn’t mean you’re being any more productive, nor does it mean you’re doing what’s best for your mental health.
When working from home, it’s important to set strict working hours, and to stick to them. Even though the only thing that may divide your business day from your free time is the closing of your inbox and the opening of Netflix, this work-life boundary is essential if you want to keep sane while at home.
Get to know when you’re most productive
A caveat to keeping regular working hours is to figure out exactly when in the day you are most productive, and when you begin to lose concentration. For many people, the morning is their most productive time, before beginning to lag in the afternoon. For these early birds, starting the day at the crack of dawn (if they’ve had a good night’s sleep beforehand), and working until mid-afternoon may be the most productive use of their time.
However, for those night owls who find their productivity spikes in the later evening, shifting their schedule forward so that work only begins in the later morning or early afternoon may be the best option.
2. Create a daily pre-work routine
Whether you’re a morning or an evening person, before you sit down to start the day, it’s a good idea to have a regular routine in place. This could mean getting washed, putting the coffee on, doing a little bit of meditation (for that little extra boost of zen), and eating your first meal of the day all before you dive into the day’s tasks.
By creating this regular at-home routine, you give yourself some structure which makes it easier for you to switch into work mode, and which sets you up for the day. Also, adding a bit of a shape to your routine can create a sense of calm, which we could all benefit from at present. Our pro tip? Dress like you were going to the office. We know it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, but by putting on your work clothes, you send yet another signal to your brain that it’s time to focus.
3. Set clear boundaries
Especially if you are sharing your living space with someone else who is also at home a lot during this period, it’s essential to set up some clear boundaries. It can be impossible to focus if you’re facing constant interruptions from those sharing your home. Setting up some clear rules and boundaries may include:
- No interruptions between certain time periods each day.
- Scheduling shared lunch hours so that minimal disruptions are made while one of you is trying to work while others are loudly making food in the kitchen.
- Set times each day where you can chat and catch up, but be sure to stick to your allotted time frame as it can be easy to get carried away.
Create a designated home office space
However, to set up clear boundaries in your home, you need to have a designated home office space where you can work, uninterrupted. Once you’ve set yourself up, make sure to keep this space as clean and decluttered as possible. Just like your office desk, the more clutter it accumulates, the more difficult it can be to feel comfortable to think clearly, so go easy on those post-its!
4. Schedule regular breaks
Just as you would in the office or in your shared working space, it’s important to schedule a regular lunch break of at least an hour every day, and to allow yourself two additional 15 minute breaks. If you live with other people, perhaps this would be a good time to come together and take a break over some food. If you live alone, consider scheduling a Skype call with friends while you all take your lunch breaks at home.
One of the best things about working from home is you can get really creative in the kitchen. Always had a few recipes you’ve wanted to try but were just too busy? Now’s the time to experiment and add a little extra fun to your lunch breaks. You could even inspire your friends’ to do the same by showing off your fancy meals across your online lunch call! After all, eating well and giving your brain all the healthy nutrients it needs is one of the best ways to increase productivity and a sense of wellbeing.
5. Limit your social media use
Without your colleagues to look over your shoulder, it can be very tempting to stay permanently glued to social media, especially during a time like this. However, whether it’s just open on the background of your desktop, or if you have your phone next to you 24/7, both our passive and our active use of social media can be seriously detrimental to our productivity. This means that we often drag our working days out for much longer than they need to be.
Another really great idea is to schedule your use of social media. Your lunch break and those two 15 minute breaks you’re allowing yourself everyday? These are the perfect timeframes for you to get the latest from your friends, family and from the world at large. But be strict with yourself! Social media is designed to be addictive, so when the end of your scheduled break comes, put your phone down—even consider putting it in airplane mode!—and close all the social media tabs on your browser before starting again.
6. Create a post-work routine
Just as you’ve started each day with a routine, it’s a great idea to end your day with one too. This is all the more important when you’re in the home office, as it clearly defines the transition from business mode into free time mode, encouraging you to really switch off and relax. And right now, we really need to be looking out for our wellbeing.
Here are some suggestions on how you might end your working day:
- A Youtube home exercise class such as a yoga or a bodyweight training class
- A guided meditation through the likes of Headspace
- Cooking yourself a healthy dinner
- Spending some quality time with your pet
- Taking some time to snuggle up with a good book
- Skyping your loved ones
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