Working From Home (The right way)
So I really wanted my first blog post to be about IT, Technology and the methodologies I use in my day to day job. The problem with that is it takes time to pull content and tutorials together, and given the current global crisis with Covid-19 I felt it was more relevant to get something out there that will help a larger number of people other than those who just work in IT.
So in case you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m a senior IT Systems Analyst with around 12 years experience behind me. I have worked for some of the biggest companies in the world with access to the latest and greatest technologies. Even before Covid-19 was even a thing I did a 50/50 split between working in the office and working from home. It took me a while to get to grips with working from home the right way, and I made many mistakes along the way, but with research and dedication I think I finally nailed it. I’m now able to maintain a high level of productivity (and sanity) over a long duration of working from home. Something to note is that my tips are what work for me. Everyone is different, so try different techniques and try a different approach if you feel that will work better for you. Trial and error with the process of elimination will help steer you to the best approach , this is merely a guideline. Regardless, I hope this helps some of you get to grips with the new short term reality of isolation and that you are able to take something away from this post to apply to working from home.
For those who won’t be bothered to read the full article i’ll list out the tips here, however for a more detailed explanation keep reading!
Tip1 – Set yourself a routine
Tip2 – Get a good setup
Tip3 – No household chores allowed! Draw a line!
Tip4 – Limit/Restrict Visitors
Tip5 – Video and Voice Call frequently
Tip6 – Swap your pyjamas for literally anything else!
Tip7 – Go for walks
Tip 1. Set yourself a routine
One of the things I struggled with initially was keeping my day in a routine. I would find myself working non-stop without breaks, staring at the screen for far too long and without a proper lunch. As a result I would get headaches throughout the day and blurred vision. Now this is Tip 1 for a reason, because no matter how great a setup you have, without a good structured routine you are going to fail or run yourself into the ground. Put pen to paper and write out the routine you would usually go through just as if you were going to an office. An example of my daily routine is set out like this:
8.55 – Make myself a delicious cup of my favourite coffee (For those wondering its Azera Americano, cant get enough of the stuff!) and fill up either a bottle or big glass of water.
9AM – Start Work
10AM – Eyes off the screen, make myself breakfast
12PM – Coffee Break
1PM – Lunch! Lunch! Lunch! Force yourself away from the computer and make yourself something to eat. When we are in the office we go out to grab a sandwich, or sit down and eat lunch we prepared the night before so being at home should be NO different!
3PM – Break from Computer – Usually i’d fill up my water bottle again and just stretch out a little.
5.30PM – Log off promptly and spin my chair as i would in the office!
I know sometimes the day can get away from you, and for this reason I have setup multiple alarms on my phone to remind me that it’s time for lunch etc. The force is strong, but step away from the mouse people! Obviously there will be times where meetings run over or you’re required to work a little later than usual but the great thing is, you’re at home! So you have all the flexibility you need.
Tip 2. The Setup
I understand not everyone has the luxury or space to have a proper home office setup, but it is highly important you are NOT working from the comfort of your bed, with your laptop resting on your lap, whilst being slightly perched up against your headrest. You wouldn’t work like that in the office (I hope?) so you shouldn’t work like that at home. Not only will you damage your posture and cause yourself neck pains but you’ll be less productive. Everyone has a table of some sort so grab a chair, even a dinner table chair will do if you don’t have an office chair, perch yourself up and work at the table.
Most of us nowadays work remotely using laptops. I for one am not a fan of using a laptops keyboard and mouse. I prefer to have my laptop perched up on a stand (stops your from slouching) so its almost at eye level, with a wireless keyboard and mouse at my fingertips. These items are very cheap and highly available, and will help you feel more like you’re “at work”. A mouse will make for easier navigation around your operating system, and a keyboard is just….well, better?
Some of us are happy and able to do our jobs using one laptop screen….but due to the nature of my work this isn’t possible, I need at least two! Below is a photo of my home setup.
I have my laptop screen, with an additional dual monitor setup. This gives me more screen real estate and helps me separate the various things I am working on for better visibility. No more switching between tabs or applications! Screens aren’t as cheap sure, but if you can afford to invest in even just one I promise you will be better for it (no refunds sorry) and productivity will increase! The screens I have were only £75 a pop, which is quite reasonable but they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to how much they improve my productivity. If you don’t have the space to hoist up an additional monitor or two, or if you work at the dinner table then perhaps a USB Monitor will be a good option. No power supply needed, just plug in via USB and away you go! I have an ASUS Portable Monitor which I use when I do sometimes fancy changing location and working downstairs for a while.
Tip 3. No household chores allowed!
One thing you need to realise when you’re working from home, is that you are WORKING from home. This needs to be clear in your mind, as well as the minds of those who live with you. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean your significant other can ask you to, do this, or do that. Household chores should be kept to strictly before work, on lunch, or after work. Don’t step away from an important document you’re working on to hoover the living room or do some gardening. The cupboard you need to fix will still be broken at the weekend, so just as if you’re working in the office, it can wait until the weekend and you are off the clock. This line needs to be drawn with whomever you live with from early on. If you agree once as an exception then I guarantee you there will be a second, and third, and fourth and so on. Stop it in its tracks and stick to your daily routine as if you were in the office.
Tip 4. Limit Visitors
When I first started to work from home I went through a phase of having friends over more often then I should have. As a result my productivity decreased and it showed in my work. I nipped this in the bud right away. I’m not saying don’t have visitors over for a tea or coffee, but if you do, try and have them over on your lunch break, and when lunch is over go about your day as normal.
Tip 5. Video and Voice Call frequently
Working from home can be lonely business. The urge to instant message or e-mail a colleague is always going to be tempting, but try and video/voice call colleagues as much as possible. I remember a few times I went through a full day without literally uttering a single word. The human interaction you get from video or voice calling will combat the loneliness that comes with working from home and in turn will keep you mentally healthy with that level of human interaction we all crave and need sometimes. You wont feel as alone!
Tip 6. Swap your pyjamas for literally anything else!
We’ve all been there…..logged on for work by 9AM, checking through e-mails…then up pops a video call from your boss. You answer whilst forgetting you look a mess and still wearing your pyjamas…..where a boss like mine found it quite amusing, it’s not the most professional approach and other managers may not be as laid back as mine! So do yourself a favour, and stick to your daily care routine…..wake up, wash, sort your hair out and get out of your pyjamas!
Tip 7. Go for walks
It’s easy to get caught up when working from home, but that comes with a lack of mobility. You’re not walking to the station, then walking to work or walking around at lunch trying to find a half decent sandwich to eat. Keep your body and mind healthy by going for regular walks. Instead of a coffee break go for a walk round the block or pop to the local shops. Whatever you do just get up and move around OUTSIDE. The fresh air will do you wonders. Obviously I write this in the middle of a pandemic where social distancing is advised so if you do go for a walk just keep your distance.
So I wasn’t expecting to rant on for so long, but in doing so only made me realise how many small steps I take to ensure my work productivity is kept high, my mind is kept healthy and body kept nourished. I really hope you have taken something from this article and are able to apply some of what I’ve said to your daily routine when working from home. If you have any questions about my setup or anything else feel free to comment below and I will make sure I get back to you!
Below are some links to the equipment I use in my work from home setup:
Good luck and stay safe! Don’t forget to wash your hands!!