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This year, many of us have been swept away from our familiar office working environment and we’ve found ourselves navigating the uncharted waters of remote working.
For those of us that like to keep our home and office environments separate, working from home can be challenging on many levels. To help you continue adapting to life working from home, we’ve created the following list of remote working tips to improve your home office space.
1. Designate a permanent workspace.
Not everyone has the luxury of having a spare room they can turn into an office (I certainly don’t!) However, if you can, try and designate a permanent workspace that will allow you to work with minimal distractions.
Try to avoid working in the living room if you can because this is an area where other people tend to congregate and spend time on activities that will distract you (such as watching the TV for example). Also, if you’re someone that likes to spend the evening in the living room, then the last thing you want to do is spend all day in there aswell!
What if I don’t have a spare room?
If you don’t have a spare room, then perhaps you could setup a desk in the Bedroom if you have the space. This will allow you to close the door and further avoid any distractions and interruptions.
2. Set down some ground rules.
Where possible, set down some ground rules for other people in your household to observe and respect. For example, you can ask other house members not to disturb you during your normal working hours, unless you are taking a scheduled break.
Set expectations and make sure that people understand that although you are at home, you are there to work – not to do chores or other tasks that may be asked of you because you are housebound.
3. Set regular working hours.
Try and stay to the same routine you had when working in the office. Set regular working hours and stick to them. Get up at the same time every day, make sure that you start work on-time, take scheduled breaks throughout the day and take a proper lunch break.
If you have a job that allows you to be more flexible with your time, then you should still try to incorporate a routine into your flexi-hours.
Make sure that you finish on-time as you would in the office and try not to let work creep into your personal time.
4. Structure your day.
If you have access to a Company CRM, Company calendar or planner, then you can continue to use this these tools to create a work schedule for the days and weeks ahead.
If you’re using Microsoft 365, then take full advantage of Microsoft Planner, your Outlook Calendar and your Outlook Task list. These are great tools for scheduling tasks, creating milestones and keeping you focused on your work responsibilities. Indeed, why not add your scheduled breaks and lunch breaks to your calendar so you don’t forget to take them?
5. Check in daily with your co-workers online.
When working remotely, the team at Ohso Technical check-in to a Microsoft Teams group chat first thing every morning to say hello to each other, have a general chat, discuss tasks for the day ahead and of course, have a bit of healthy online office banter!
Why do this?
Checking in every morning keeps everyone focused on the job at hand. It also promotes teamwork, team bonding and collaboration between staff on current and future projects.
6. Choose your background music wisely!
We are all different. Some of us like to work in silence so we can concentrate, others prefer to listen to music in the background.
What music should you listen to?
It is worth considering that the type of music you listen to can affect your working day. For example, if you’ve got to blast your way through a series of repetitive tasks in a short space of time, then it may be advantageous to listen to hi-tempo music. If you need to focus on project work or writing an article (such as this one), then listening to soothing music with less lyrics will be less distracting.
You may just choose to have the same radio station on that you listen to in the office because it is familiar background noise.
7. Stay off social media.
It can be very tempting to take a “quick” look on Social Media now and then when you are sitting in from front of your Computer. Unless you’re in charge of your Company Social Media accounts, then it’s probably a good idea to stay off personal social media channels.
If you have using Social Media extensions in your tool bar or your Internet browser, then log out of these. If you are not using your Smart phone for work purposes, then hide it away in a draw until you take a break or finish your working day. Maintain your productivity by getting into good working habits!
8. Make sure you are using the right technology.
It is important to have the right technology that will allow you to do your job safely and correctly from home. Many of us have a capable desktop PC or laptop in the house, but If your employer has asked you to work from home and you don’t have the right equipment, then don’t be afraid to ask them for assistance.
Equipment to consider using.
Ergonomic keyboards, an ergonomic mouse, a docking station that allows you to use your laptop on a bigger screen, a bigger monitor that will help you to avoid eye strain, or dual monitors for multi-tasking.
It’s not just about hardware.
You also need the right software that will allow you to complete your daily tasks just the same as you would do in the office. Many applications are now available to use directly from the Cloud. Microsoft 365 for example is a popular application suite that can used either online, or the applications can be downloaded and installed locally. Many other software developers have now moved their applications to the cloud. For example, Sage is now available as a cloud-based accounting platform.
9. Use Collaboration technology.
It’s important to utilise software applications that allow you to stay connected with your colleagues and peers. If the Organisation that you work for is forward thinking, they’ll have already invested in a collaboration application that is freely available to its employees.
Examples of such applications include:
- Microsoft Teams – A collaboration platform that allows you to setup group chats, direct chats, video conferencing, document sharing and more.
- Slack – An instant chat and video messaging platform with many features. Slack is often used by Organisations that work within the creative sector.
10. Get comfortable.
If you are working from your desk all day, then it’s important to ensure that you get as comfortable as possible. Consider your health and safety. With regards to your seating position, it is always important to consider your posture. If you don’t have a chair that’s comfortable enough for working on all day, then it will be wise to invest in an ergonomic office chair.
If you’re working from a laptop, then you should avoid the temptation of working from the sofa, or sitting on an uncomfortable garden chair if you are working outside for long periods.
Always consider your health and safety. This PDF on the HSE website provides helpful guidance on seating in the workplace.
11. Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
If you suffer from RSI, or you are taking preventative steps to ensure that you don’t suffer from it (which you should be) then it’s likely that you are already using ergonomic equipment in the workplace – an ergonomic keyboard and mouse being the two most obvious examples.
If you’re already using a keyboard and mouse in the office that you’re comfortable with, then you may wish to consider using the same familiar keyboard and mouse at home.
You can find out much more about RSI on the AbilityNet website.
12. Take regular breaks.
Although many people see working from home as a perk of the job, the truth is that many homeworkers feel under pressure to work even harder because they are working from home.
Don’t be too hard on yourself!
It is important to ensure that you don’t over commit yourself when working remotely. Taking regular breaks has been proven to increase productivity in the workplace, so make sure that you stick to a stringent work schedule that includes regular breaks and a full 1-hour lunch break. Working straight through the day without a break will only hamper your productivity.
Room lighting is important.
If possible, try to work from a room at home that has both adequate and suitable lighting. Try to avoid working in a room that is too dark, otherwise you risk suffering from eye strain when working in front of your monitor. If you are working during the day, then try and let as much natural light into the room as possible.
13. Always consider your work life balance.
When working from home, there is always the risk of allowing your work to encroach your personal time. This is also known as work creep.
Get into the habit of finishing work at the same time every day. If you’re using the same computer for personal use, then ensure that any work applications remain closed. If you have work email or a work chat app installed on your phone, then be strong and resist the temptation to open them!
14. Don’t forget to stretch!
Try not to get stuck in front of your desk for prolonged periods. Stretching is important for maintaining a good posture, so try to do some basic stretches intermittently throughout the day.
This article on LifeHack provides a list of stretches that will help maintain your posture and keep you productive.
15. Get help from your employer.
Working remotely can be challenging, especially if you have never done it before. Making some small changes can have a positive impact on your working environment and ensure that you stay fit and healthy during your time working from home. Don’t be afraid to approach your employer for advice and guidance and make sure that you keep in regular contact with other colleagues that find themselves in the same situation.