Coronavirus lockdown: Golden rules for working from home
With Britain under lockdown, even celebs such as Amanda Holden and Chris Evans have been hosting radio shows from their living rooms. I’ve been working from home for 18 years, so I know just how tempting it is to stay in pyjamas and watch Netflix. But it is possible to be productive – you just need a few ground rules.
Agree with yourself what hours you’re going to work and stick to them. Starting early ensures productivity. Trust me, turning on your laptop at 3pm leads to knocking off at 4.30pm.
Moving from your pillow to your desk involves 101 distractions – reading the papers over tea and toast, putting on a load of washing, watching the birds outside, plucking your eyebrows. Don’t get waylaid by displacement activity, remember you’re working at home, not relaxing at home.
Treat the day as if you’re going to work – which means getting dressed. I’m not talking about a suit, but do wear clean, smart clothes because it will lift your mood.
CREATE A WORKSPACE
You need to create a designated workspace for office hours – be that in the kitchen or a corner of the living room. Going to this space will trigger “work mode” in your mind and help you settle into your day.
DON’T WORK IN BED
Besides being really bad for your back, bed is for relaxing and you’ll soon find yourself watching cat videos on YouTube. It can also affect your sleep negatively.
MUTE THE PINGS
Turn off phone and email notifications when you’re focusing on a task. According to a University of California Irvine study, it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus on a task once interrupted. Depending on your job, you probably only need to check your emails every few hours: morning, lunch, afternoon and before you shut up shop for the day.
If necessary, ask for email confirmation from your boss and colleagues about project deadlines and details to avoid confusion. Remember, you can’t walk over to someone’s desk to discuss things.
COMPUTER SAYS NO
At home, there’s no IT department to save you. Buy an external hard drive for your laptop or PC. Set it up to automatically update every hour. Email important work to yourself as a second back-up and set up a designated email address for this purpose.
SET UP BOUNDARIES
I have two “live” distractions at home: a dog and a noisy partner (who listens to the radio full-blast). Both know when I’m working because I ask them to be quiet. Incidentally, the dog takes more notice. Getting peace and quiet when you have children at home can be more challenging, so be realistic and ask for short periods of time to work uninterrupted.
TAKE A BREAK
According to new research carried out by Harvard Medical School, the most productive way to work is to concentrate for around 52 minutes, then have a break of 17 minutes. Set an alarm – it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re working alone.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Don’t be tempted to play music or listen to the radio while you work – unless this is your usual environment. It’s too distracting, and I guarantee you won’t be able to turn it down quickly enough when your boss rings.
Taking a break doesn’t mean going on social media or internet shopping. It’s so easy to spend £100 in a few clicks on your favourite sites. Instead, step away from your desk. Do a few stretches or sit in your garden with a cup of tea.
At home you’re only ever a few steps away from food. Before you open that bar of chocolate ask yourself, “How will I feel after I’ve eaten this?” Choose healthy snacks or you’ll be going back to work with a few extra pounds.
LOVE YOUR LUNCH
Treat yourself to a proper lunch hour, make something healthy and colourful. Why not have a virtual lunch date with friends or colleagues? Put them on speakerphone and chat as you eat. Social contact is important, and lunch dates will help combat social isolation.
STEP AWAY FROM THE TV
Never eat lunch in front of the TV. You’ll soon be watching Loose Women, and that will only lead to Judge Rinder (who you didn’t even know existed before you starting working from home).
INSTALL A LANDLINE
With more people working from home it’s inevitable that the mobile networks will struggle. So why not invest in a landline? I use my landline for interviews and coaching sessions because it’s clearer and more reliable than my mobile. Look for a landline talk plan with free minutes.
SHUT UP SHOP
When you finish, close your office door or clear away your workspace and unplug. Don’t carry on checking emails, they will be waiting for you in the morning – when you start bright and early.
The Winter’s Sleep by Monica Cafferky (Jasper Tree, £9.99) is out now.
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