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By On March 19 2020 News With 0 Comments Permalink

3 Do’s and Don’ts of Working From Home: A Step-by-Step Guide

Working from home isn’t all fun and games. For all the benefits of no commutes, home-cooked lunches, and all the comforts of home, there’s the downside of trying to fit too much equipment onto a small desk, being interrupted by people you live with, and struggling to remotely access your files. 

If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably been learning this the hard way this week. As many of us adjust to the realities of working from home, we thought we’d help ease stress by putting together this simple, 3-step guide to the do’s and don’ts of working from home. 

Here’s how to stay safe, stay sane, and stay on schedule: 

#1. Less Housework, More Work-Work 

DO: Make the Most of Your Extra Free Time 

The first thing you might notice while working from home is all the extra free time on your hands. By avoiding the morning traffic, staying off the bus, and saying goodbye to e-scooters, suddenly, your mornings look a whole lot less stressful. Likewise, there’s no more 5pm rush hour traffic and frantic horn honking. No more rush to pack your lunch. No more snoozing your alarm and missing the bus. No more hoping the lights turn green in time so you don’t miss your train. 

So, how do you make the most of this extra, commute-less time? Some may choose to catch up on lost sleep – although I don’t recommend setting your alarm for 5 minutes before you’re supposed to start work. From a psychological perspective, it is still important to give yourself time to mentally and physically prepare for the day ahead.

Others may get into the healthy habit of exercising when you would have been commuting, or sneaking in some extra reading time, which is a great way to mentally prepare for the day. Some may choose to spend extra time with loved ones, spend a little extra time catching up on chores or planning for the day ahead, or just enjoying a slow, relaxing morning. Or, for the ultra-dedicated, there’s always a chance to get a head start on work, or catch up on something from yesterday. 

Whatever the case, it’s a great idea to make the most of your extra free time!

DON’T: Spend All Day Focussed on Chores

While enjoying your extra free time is definitely important, it’s equally important to make sure that new found ‘free time’ doesn’t seep into your work day. It can be a slippery slope. One minute, you notice the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. It’ll only take 2 minutes, you tell yourself. Next thing you know, it’s 2 hours later, and you’ve dusted the living room, wiped down the bench, folded your washing, vacuumed the house, and made the bed. You’re admiring a nice, clean house…but you haven’t actually started on your work for the day. 

Wherever possible, it’s important to minimise distractions, and avoid the temptation to let housework seep into work-work. 

#2. All Work and No Play 

DO: Separate Work & Play 

As mentioned above, it’s important to maintain a clear distinction between your work and home lives. To do this, it’s imperative that you set and maintain clear boundaries. 

Often, perception is reality. So, if possible, it’s a good idea set-up a professional-looking home office, so you can easily switch into work mode. This also means logging out of your personal social media accounts (unless, of course, your job involves social media), and setting clear boundaries with friends and family so they are aware you are working and know not to interrupt you. If possible, it is also a good idea to maintain separate work and home devices (i.e. laptops and phones). 

Not only does this minimise distractions, but it helps you flip the mental switch between ‘work mode’ and ‘home mode’. These lines can easily become blurred, so it’s important to stay vigilant!

DON’T: Stay in Your Pyjamas All Day

This is a big one. While it can be extremely tempting to stay in your nice, comfy pyjamas all day, this probably isn’t the best idea if you plan to actually get any work done. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, you don’t want to be surprised by an impromptu video call, and have all your colleagues catch you in your favourite fluffy onesie. 

But there’s also another, slightly more scientific reason to get out of your pyjamas and into some work clothes. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, “professionals perform better on tasks when wearing clothes with ‘symbolic meaning’.” For example, they found that doctors perform better and are generally more attentive when wearing a lab coat[1].

These findings are corroborated by workplace expert Matt Donovan, who says, “although a dress code may seem silly when you think about working from home, work clothes impact you on a business and personal level and can affect your career”[1]

While this doesn’t necessarily mean putting on a suit, tie, and your least comfortable pair of business shoes just to work from home, it’s definitely beneficial to get out of your pyjamas, and into a pair of productive pants. 

#3. Stay Sane, Stay on Schedule

DO: Create a Schedule

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how important it is to minimise distractions, such as housework, family members, and social media. But, I hear you screaming, that’s easier said than done. That’s where schedules can come in handy. Write down all the tasks you need to complete for the day, and set aside dedicated times for potential distractions such as housework. 

If you’re lucky, you might already be the kind of ultra-organised person who sticks to schedules religiously, even when you’re in the office. If so, you have a great head start. But scheduling becomes doubly important when you’re working from home.  According to Psychology Today, “it is important to establish clear goals and priorities in order to set aside non-essential tasks that can eat up time, and to monitor where the time actually goes”[2]

By creating and sticking to a schedule, you are able to hold yourself more accountable, while also prioritising essential and non-essential tasks. This also gives you the added bonus of setting a definitive end time for your work from home day, rather than allowing work to blur into your daily life. 

DON’T: Go Crazy! 

Last, but certainly not least, it’s important to stay sane! While working from home can have many benefits, it can also be an isolating experience. 

First things first, remember to take the time to breathe. Step outside, and get some sunlight and fresh air – even if only for a few minutes.

It’s also important to keep in touch with other team members, even if it’s just dropping GIFs into the team Slack channel, to maintain some semblance of social interaction.

Finally, find your optimal noise level. Going from the low hum of office chatter to total silence can be very off putting for some. This may mean playing background music or podcasts to offset the silence.

While studies vary on the optimal level of background noise, according to Make It, “music psychology researcher Teresa Lesuick found that IT professionals who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because their mood was boosted by the music”[1]

Similar studies have also found that background noise can increase information processing and creative thinking[1]

There you have it, get some fresh air, stay in touch with colleagues, and, most importantly blast that music!

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Image by: Sara Torda from Pixabay