Woman sat at computer desk at home

You may already be working from home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, or you may be asked to by your employer in the coming weeks. If you’re new to remote working, it can feel daunting at first, but a few changes to your environment can smooth the transition.

Creating a home office

Without careful planning, home working can quickly impact on both your physical safety and your emotional wellbeing. Consider these simple tips to make working from home more organised, productive and enjoyable.

Looking after your physical wellbeing

Your home working space should follow the same standards as any office environment and if in doubt, ask your HR team or health and safety officer for advice.

  • Create a dedicated workspace. If possible, allocate a dedicated workspace such as a spare room or home office. Wherever it might be, assigning a dedicated space will help in keeping a separation between your work and home life and can help you mentally switch off when you finish work. It also makes sure your home doesn’t turn into your workplace.

  • Organise your workspace carefully. As we all know, being organised boosts productivity and focus. Avoid clutter while working. Most of us have so many cables at home we sometimes don’t even know what they connect to! Keep cords and wires off the floor and away from common traffic areas. Most work-related injuries are as a result of not noticing obstacles on the floor so make sure that your space is as well-kept as the one in your usual office environment.

  • Use a suitable seat for working. Avoid using a dining chair and try to use a suitable seat for working; an ergonomically designed worktable is important too. Ask your HR team for advice and guidance.

  • Ensure that your lighting is suited to your work. If possible, set up your workspace by a window so you get natural light during the day. If this isn’t possible, reduce eyestrain by ensuring that you have light which doesn’t cause a glare on your screen.

  • Check your smoke detector’s batteries regularly (or buy a detector if you’ve not got one already). Most people consider having one in the home important, and your employer may also require you to have a working one for safety reasons so it’s worth checking with your employer for any home working advice or policies.

  • Don’t leave boxes or files lying on the floor. Get hold of a small bookcase or filing cabinet for this purpose.

  • Eat your lunch and snacks in your kitchen or dining room. It’s not ideal to eat while working for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that we tend to eat mindlessly when we’re sat at a desk. Instead, set aside time every day for lunch and tea breaks and remember to leave your workspace when taking breaks.

Working from home infographic

Look after your emotional wellbeing

Human beings are social animals, so working from home can feel really unnatural. It’s important to remember that you won’t be working from home forever, and things will return to normal at some point. View some additional tips to manage your wellbeing.

Becoming distracted when working from home happens to us all from time to time, but in the end, we only end up feeling guilty, our productivity is affected, and we run the risk of letting those people down who depend on us to be available to them during working hours.

 Here are some easy things that you can do to remain productive and focused when working from home which ultimately benefits both you and your employer:

  • Wake up at your usual time. Granted, you won’t have a commute ahead of you, but you’ll need enough time for your morning shower, breakfast, and any personal tasks before you start your working day. Don’t roll out of bed and straight onto your computer or work calls – you’ll feel disorganised and this will come across to others.
  • Even though you’re not in an office, wear something smart casual during working hours. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit when working from home, but day clothes will help you to start your working day mentally focused and ready.
  • Let your friends and family know that even when you’re working from home, you’re unavailable for visits and you’ll return their calls and emails after working hours.
  • Hydrate throughout the day to maintain mental focus but avoid consuming too much caffeine.
  • It can be tempting to tidy the house, do the dusting or throw the laundry in while you’re working. But before you know it, one thing leads to another…how many times have you started tidying only to find that the table needs polishing or the houseplants need watering? Use your lunch hour to tidy or do the laundry and be sure to set a timer. Lunch hours are restricted to a certain length of time in the office and working from home is no different.
  • Many people enjoy social media and it can be tempting to log on for ‘just a minute’ to check for updates. Ensure that your favourite websites aren’t open during the day and if you receive updates to your personal email account, disable them during working hours. Dealing with distractions is about minimising distractions in the first place.
  • Update your online office diary every day and ensure that your colleagues have access to it. You and your co-workers may all be working from home but it’s important that you all know when you’re unavailable due to conference calls.
  • Connect with your manager and colleagues during the day – even a quick ‘hello’ can help you to feel a part of office life. If you have the IT systems in place, you and your team might also choose to have face-to-face contact via video conferencing.
  • When you finish for the day, shut down your workspace for the night. Get out for a walk (heeding public health precautions), catch up with friends and family, or simply relax. Working from home doesn’t mean that you don’t have a personal life.