Working from home – hints and tips from our team

There could be a lot of people asked to work from home in the coming weeks and months, a few have asked us at J4 “as we know about these things”. Canvassing the team, we’ve come up with some tips and hints – even if it only helps one person think a little more positively and help their day then that would be good. With no designated office, J4 regularly work from our own homes, and pooling this considerable experience really stacks up between us – trust us, embrace the opportunity and make the mind shift.

The main concerns appear to be: how to combat loneliness for people who like working in an office with lots of company, how to access IT support, and how to carve out some space for yourself to avoid the creep into every day home life.

Addressing the potential for loneliness, our top tips would be use Teams/Skype and you can actually chat to people if you need that extra level of interaction, it’s good to check in! Still make effort to talk to your colleagues via phone or text if you’re working at home for an extended amount of time. Just because you’re working on your own doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself completely and a good social interaction can be a nice way to start the day. Emails are useful as a record but 1st port of call should be the phone as that human voice interaction is so important and quite often a nice start and end to the day at the very least.

Have the radio on softly, it will feel like company and help the room feel less quiet, it doesn’t distract. Another school of thought is turn the radio and music up a little louder and have a dance and sing around the living room to get moving and motivated after being sat down for a while. You can’t do that in an office without embarrassing yourself but at home it’s a little less so…

IT support needn’t be impossible to get at home, using remote access the IT support can take control of your PC, help out and see your screen. Google itself is great for trouble shooting, and phoning a colleague is another easy option.

Getting the work life balance can be blended much more easily when working from home, some of us see it as an opportunity to work hours that suit families and people we live with – starting earlier sometimes to finish when children come home can work very nicely. Others like to try to keep to normal office hours, and not allow work creep – it’s flexible and we’re all different. The work will still get done, it’s a process of adjusting and finding what works best. It takes discipline which both employees and employers could initially struggle with.

Another concern is  how to shape, and define the time table for the day which really can make a difference to our work and quality of output. Get up and dressed like your’e going to the office – do not stay in your PJs. Plan what you’re going to eat and have it ready – once you get hungry it’s too late and the cupboards are in easy reach for lazy rushed choices – short term lazy sugary choices don’t pay. Go for a walk or run at lunchtime, you don’t have to stay in and breaks help clear the mind too. Alternatively, there are lots of online classes you can get involved in, spin classes, yoga, body conditioning -wellbeing is in our hands this time, and any exercise aids alertness. Being able to take half an hour out in the afternoon to chat to the kids about their day could be a real boon to relationships. Much better speak on their terms after school rather than getting home weary at 7pm and attempting a tortuous conversation. Spending more time at home with our pets for companionship is a massive bonus and can be hugely comforting.

Being productive without usual interruptions is another concern – One suggestion is to Set a timer for a period of time you can easily sustain, some people like short session of 25 mins followed by a 5  minute break then back to the same pattern. Setting a to do list with times is useful in an office, but at home by yourself it really helps. Don’t be afraid to turn off emails and the phone for genuine focus time – employers should encourage this to realise the possibilities of productivity. These short rest breaks are important, we would have them in normal office life, and need them equally at home – make a cup of tea and walk around the house! Another suggestion if struggling to focus on a task and becoming more easily distracted is to give 10 mins of meditation a go, this can really help.

From a practical point of view there are some very clear benefits to working from home: we Save on commuting time, cost of commute / parking, and our days are less stressful by avoiding traffic. We have more control over where to sit, so why not place yourself by a window if possible? We would ideally say not to work from a kitchen table – there are too many distractions and the seating and height may not be optimum (a good chair is important too).  Creating a home office space works best if you have the room, destroying that summer house you made for the children (who never used it) may feel bold, but once reclaimed the converted space away from the family home environment is a better place to work. See before and after pictures kindly provided by Dave – his office is now a place of joy and effectiveness.

We would also agree with current thinking that trialing a day at home to see if it works before doing it in anger is a good idea. Best way to iron out those IT glitches, gear up and think about routines.

Any further suggestions? We’d love to hear your thoughts!