Many people are working from home for the first time. It can be a struggle to maintain healthy boundaries between your professional and personal lives. But with a little forethought and planning, you can make working from home a better experience for you – and for those who share your space.
Here are eight top tips for how you achieve a more satisfying as well as productive remote-working life.
- Create a structure for your working day. Get into a routine and maintain a regular timetable for work activities and personal appointments. Planning out your days will help to restore a sense of purpose and normality to your daily life. Organising activities around mealtimes and bedtime can also help you keep to your schedule while ensuring you eat regularly and get enough sleep.
- Beware the mindreading trap. Establish ground rules with other people in your home or who share your workspace. You may think that your partner is aware of an important deadline that you face, but unless you explain what is going on, then they are unlikely to know. Try setting up protocols that you can both agree. For example, “When the door is closed, it means I am on a call. When it is open, I can chat.” Swap your work schedules. Be open about your needs and willing to understanding theirs. Try taking a coffee break or have lunch together away from your workspace, so you can catch up, relax and share a laugh.
- Avoid self-interruption through multitasking. You might think that you are saving time and achieving more by jumping between activities. Switching focus between different tasks drains energy from your working memory which is the information held in your mind while deciding what to do. So, what we think of as multitasking is just toggling between one thing and another. It ruins your focus and quickly depletes your energy. A smarter way to work is to purposely focus on one task at a time with regular planned breaks.
- Work with time and plan for important tasks. Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time so that you can think, plan or work on important tasks. Try using time chunking methods such as the Pomodoro Technique which focus your attention on a job for a sustained period, for example, 25-minutes, followed by a short 5-minute break to clear your mind by doing something else. You can stretch, take a short walk, play with your pet, have a healthy snack or a drink of water. Just do not be tempted to check email or social media. Repeat maximum of 4 times then a more extended break before starting on another task.
- Be considerate when managing others remotely. There are three elements to consider when working with others remotely that can encourage collaboration and improve the experience for all: support, connection, and communication:
- Being supportive means making sure that the people who report to you have what they need (devices, new tools, or increased flexibility) to continue being successful at their job. It also means taking time to listen to their challenges and working with them to resolve these.
- Maintaining connections is about giving time and attention to individuals. Remember to check-in to find out how things are going before you leap into project plans and task progress reports. It demonstrates empathy and will make a difference in the quality of your interactions.
- Effective communication is deliberate and transparent. Try not to leave room for ambiguity about your requests, and ask clarifying questions. Be clear about what you expected of them and how things are changing. Try setting up a weekly routine to reflect on the last week, and to plan for the next week. Remember to listen as well as talk.
- Pause and reflect upon your day. Inspire yourself for the next day by noting what has gone well, what you have learnt and what you can build on or do differently. If you find yourself worrying or overthinking, try this exercise. Set aside a specific time each day to record what is on your mind. Write down anything that is causing you to worry. Do not set expectations about solving your worries or generating solutions. If you catch yourself worrying outside of this time, try deep breathing, reframing, or jotting down your thoughts for your next reflection session.
- Focus on your wellbeing. If you are finding it hard to get things done, replenish your energy and find something to do that lifts your mood. Perhaps go for a walk. Or listen to your favourite music. Why not read a book or listen to a podcast for fun. Get up from your workstation and stretch. Take regular breaks away from technology and sip water to stay hydrated. Notice what times of the day you are most energised where you can be most creative, focussed and productive. Then try structuring important work for those times. Then batch up routine and less taxing activities for later.
Set a wrap-up routine. Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. Try creating a wrap-up routine that you start at least 30 minutes before you need to end work. Check that critical emails have a response. Look over your task list to know that you have completed what is essential, and if you do realise that you will need to work later at night, decide on precisely what you will do and by when. Then set the alarm to remind you when it is time to stop. Think of it as a conscious decision to switch on to personal time rather than worrying about switching off when the workday is over.