So you’re working from home for the long haul now. We share some of our best tips to make light work of it.
Covid-19 has impacted pretty much everyone in the UK, other than the hermits that didn’t get out much before the outbreak, it’s had major repercussions for all aspects of life. Our social lives and travel plans have been pretty non-existent throughout 2021 so far and our working lives are still adapting to every change that the government brings in. One of the biggest shifts is the massive adoption of working from home.
This new work dynamic has had major implications in the work life balance, and many people have favoured this new way of working and are reluctant to go back to their old office-bound life. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to choose your optimal work location or are still working from home until this Covid debacle subsides more here are some pointers to help you through working from home for the long-term.
As a long time work from homer I feel well qualified to pass on some of my top tips to survive extended working from home. I mostly enjoy working from home, but that’s not always the case and for those of you looking at WFH as a longer term plan, note that the grass is certainly not always greener and there are many pitfalls to avoid.
Get your office desk properly equipped and setup
It’s so important to have a sensible working space, and properly setup desk. Sitting at a desk all day is a way to knock a few years off your overall life expectancy and fast track you to the front of the diabetes treatment queue, so making the best of a bad situation is critical.
A decent chair is the first place I would recommend spending money. I put this off for far too long, and endured many years of poor posture and a numb arse. Getting a decent task chair is a really good investment. There are lots of refurbished chairs on the market due to lots of offices scaling down, so do explore the used market and get a more expensive chair at a fraction of it’s retail price. I’ve got a knoll life chair which suits me well.
Lots of people rave about the Herman Miller Aeron, but I think it’s over-rated and potentially worse for you if it doesn’t fit your shape and size.
I’ve got my paperless desk down to a tee now, so I don’t need lots of space but getting your desk at the right height is really important for posture and keyboard and mouse use. Let’s face it you will be spending an enormous amount of your life in front of this desk, so make sure it’s a nice place to be. My top tips would be to get a nice monitor (your company might dictate the kit, but if you have a choice spend well and and get a decent monitor or two if possible).
Sound is also important or in some cases sound isolation. If you have kids or other house mates to contend with, you might find other people around you who aren’t in work mode quite a distraction. A decent set of noise cancelling headphones is a must if you get distracted easily.
The godfather of these is the Sony XM4’s https://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/headband-headphones/wh-1000xm4 which really do put all other over the ear headphones to shame.
In ear headphones aren’t so straightforward, as the degree of separation on price and features can be misleading. The more you pay isn’t always rewarded in better sound or features.
For example the Edifier TWS NB2 are under £100 and perform way beyond some of the more expensive options on the market and include impressive active noise-cancelling.
When you do need to hook up with your clients or teams, we’ve all become pretty proficient at using Zoom or Google Meet. Make sure you stand out by investing in a decent webcam. You know how bad it can be to be stuck on a call with a grainy stuttering video feed so make sure you’re not that person with a decent webcam. A good entry level camera is the Trust Tyro or if you have a bit more to spend than consider something like this – Logitech Brio Webcam which offers a 4k camera.
Some other great additions to your desk setup include – Moshi Dock which offers great port expansion to your desk and the added benefit of a wireless charger on the top for your phone, keeping everything clutter free.
Manage your time properly
It’s very easy to get sucked into working very long days and taking very few breaks. I find myself starting work earlier and finishing much later often forgoing breaks during the day. Sitting at a desk for prolonged periods has a significant health impact, so make sure you take plenty of breaks from the screen, and make sure your time at your desk is productive by removing any distractions. It is really important to optimise your time at your desk, and while taking breaks might seem like you’re wasting time on that busy day with a looming deadline, in reality you’ll be far more productive if you recharge throughout the day.
Don’t get distracted
There are many new distractions at home which you will need to overcome. Other family members, other ways to spend time like housework or TV. Even when at your desk it is easy to get sucked into on-screen distractions, and unless your company is using some sort of usage tracking you will have very little stopping you from getting distracted by personal internet browsing. If you find yourself getting swayed from work, there are many great focus apps to choose from which can help you stay on track by blocking web usage which is not core to your work (I recommend https://focusme.com/) As mentioned above a good pair of noise cancelling headphones can help remove background chatter and help you stay focussed on the task in hand. They will also enhance your microphone and sound quality when on Zoom calls.
Many people gain a significant part of their social interactions in and around the office. Working from home can seem very isolated in comparison, so try to maintain contact with those colleagues who you would normally see by organising social events and taking the time out of your day to stay in touch. This will not only help your mental health, but potentially keep you in the hearts and minds of those people making decisions around career progressions. It’s also a great opportunity to reconnect with people in your home area who you might not normally have time to connect with during your lunch break.
Beware of costs
There are loads of expenses that can start to build up over time, so make sure you claim for any business costs. Things like postage, electricity, IT equipment, stationary and even heating will be costs that you haven’t normally had to digest during the normal working day, so keep track of them and make sure there’s an agreement in place for claiming it back.
Don’t suffer in silence
Working from home isn’t for everyone, and despite it becoming the new norm for many workers it requires a lot of discipline and positivity to make it work long term. If you are struggling with the new work dynamic, do speak out, as there is no shame in acknowledging that it may not be the right way to work for you. The Isolation of prolonged time at home, can have a huge negative impact on your mental health, so make sure to keep your mind and body health a priority and make sure you get help if you need it. I try to escape on a lunchtime bike ride as much as possible, as it helps to separate the morning and afternoon work sessions, and also clears the head and helps me maximise my focus in the afternoon. Many a morning problem has been solved by a bike ride at lunch time!