How to make working from home work for you
How to earn and save money during Covid-19 lockdown…
Life during lockdown carries on and is gradually becoming the new normal. Hopefully not for too long, but we are all getting used to this new way of living, and are prepared to play our part even when things are not easy.
One challenge that many people are facing at the moment is working from home. If you have not done this before, it can come as quite a shock.
It sounds idyllic. Perhaps you had visions of sitting on the sofa in your PJs all day, somehow managing to get all your work done as well as catch up with all your domestic chores. But now you realise it’s not quite that straightforward.
The main thing is that when you are working from home, you need to find a way of doing things that works for you. Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated room to use as a home office. Also many of us are trying to balance working from home with looking after or home schooling young children.
It really is not easy! So below we have a few tips that may help to point you in the right direction during these challenging times.
Establish a routine
Many people find it really helpful to have a regular routine. This can be even more important when you are trying to juggle other domestic responsibilities as well. So try setting the alarm for the time you normally get up for work, and then working your regular hours.
In reality you may need to vary these, particularly if you have children at home too. But do try and set some regular hours to at least aim for. Otherwise the danger is that you will end up working into the evening and not having any time to relax. It’s also important that family and friends understand your planned work routine, and do their best to support you during this time and not interrupt.
When you do finish work for the day, find a way to draw a line under your working day. Whether that is clearing your desk, turning off phone and equipment, or getting out for some exercise – do whatever it takes to separate work time and home time.
We mentioned PJs earlier, and yes it is tempting! But most people find that it helps to get up and dressed, as if you were going into work. OK, you don’t necessarily have to put on smart clothes or a full face of makeup. But at least get showered, and change into something practical and comfortable. Then you are likely to feel ready to get going.
This is also useful if your daily work includes contact with others, especially any kind of video call. You will be prepared for these situations rather than scrambling around at the last minute trying to make yourself look presentable.
Find a place to work
It’s also important to find a place to work. As we acknowledged above, not everyone has the luxury of a home office. But you do need to dedicate a work space that you can use. If possible this needs to be away from the rest of the family, so perhaps set up a small table in a spare bedroom or a downstairs dining room or conservatory. But avoid the temptation to try and work in the living room, as you will get drawn into TV and other family activities.
Wherever you do work, it’s really important to be comfortable. Make sure you are seated comfortably, and that your computer is at a height where you can easily see it without stooping or squinting, and can reach it to type without having to bend or stretch your hands. Don’t cut corners when it comes to looking after your health and wellbeing.
Also do keep your workspace well organised and uncluttered, so that you can get to work straight away rather than having to try to remember where you put things. If you start off the day feeling annoyed and frustrated, it will probably just get worse as the day goes on!
Plan your day carefully
Depending on the type of work you do, it is good to plan your day as far as possible. So each morning, make a start by deciding your priorities for the day. Then make a list of tasks and work through them, ticking off as you go.
It is so easy to be distracted by email and other things that pop into your mind, such as just going online to do a bit of research or check out what someone else is doing. But try and break your time into chunks so that you are getting everything done.
Many home-based workers use systems such as the Pomodoro technique. This suggests that you break down time into 25 minute chunks with a 5 minute break in between. So, for example, you could work on your first task for 25 minutes then have a quick break, then check and respond to emails all in one go for 25 minutes, then another quick break and onto task 2 for 25 minutes. And so on throughout the day
One final word about planning is not to try to do too much. Because of the strangeness of working from home, and the fact that you don’t have to commute, you may end up overcompensating and try to do more work to prove that you are not slacking.
Don’t fall into this trap: just do the same amount of work that you would do normally. Use the extra commuting time to catch up with things at home, spend time with the kids and relax. It’s your time after all, and we are living in difficult circumstances right now. So keep work in its rightful place, otherwise you may find it starts taking over.
Take regular breaks
Whether or not you use the Pomodoro technique, it’s important to have regular breaks when working from home. You need time away from the screen, and time to clear your head and stretch your legs. It’s tempting to stay hunched over your screen and think that you’re working really hard, but your productivity will dip after a while, so you do need to break.
It’s good to reward yourself throughout the day. So for example you could promise yourself a coffee and something nice when you get your current task finished. Some home-based workers like to go and do something completely different for a few minutes. Perhaps catch up with some domestic tasks – whether that is putting on a load of laundry, running the hoover round, or baking a cake.
It’s also important to get exercise and fresh air during the day. So you might want to get out in the garden, do an online workout, or go for a quick walk – maybe doubling it up with a wander to the local shop. But for now you are in charge of your own time, so find what works for you. But do take regular breaks, just as you would in an office.
This one could go either way! When you work from home you can eat anything that you like: whatever you have in the kitchen. So this is a great opportunity to make sure that you eat much more healthily than you would if you were in the office. No takeaway sandwiches and crisps, no biscuits or birthday cake at coffee break, and no hidden chocolate bars in the drawer.
But the temptation is that you could binge your way through the day and end up eating and drinking far too much. So you need to be disciplined and treat your work day as a work day, with simple healthy food rather than overdoing things. You will feel better and be more productive if you are eating lightly, with lots of fruit and veg as part of your daily diet.
What many people find difficult when working at home is the lack of social contact with their colleagues. At first it feels great: no more interruptions (well, apart from your own family maybe) so you can really get on with things. But after a while, you begin to miss the interaction that you had previously taken for granted.
So try and build in some contact with your colleagues during the day. Over and above any scheduled conference calls, give someone a ring. It can be much quicker and easier to sort out a work issue on the phone rather than pinging emails back and forward. But it’s also good just to chat. Don’t feel guilty about doing that: in an office you would have everyday social interaction, so it’s fine – and important – to do this when working remotely as well.
We hope that the above tips help you to make working from home work for you during Covid-19. You will then be able to continue to earn and save money, and survive financially during Covid-19.
Stay well, and remember to check back here soon for more financial and lifestyle tips from Loans 2 Go.