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Working from Home - The pros and cons.

I've worked from home since covid - 2020 - and I love it! But for many it can present many challenges:

  • Being in the same place 24-7

  • The distraction of "home" tasks that need to be done

  • Lack of colleagues and catch up time

  • Time management

  • Task prioritisation

These are the most common challenges so let’s look at these in turn.

BEING IN THE SAME PLACE 24-7

Working from home saves on travel time and travel costs, but it does mean that the separation of home and work disappears and it can be hard to switch off because of it. My top tips for this are:

  • Have a separate workspace that isn't your bedroom or living room - these are the two main rooms you want for relaxation and downtime, so if you are able to not work in them then it helps. If you are able to work in a separate room where you can close the door at the end of the day that helps with the separation but understand that isn't possible for everyone.

  • Have a defined workspace - if you can't have a separate room, have a defined space that is for work and that you can leave tidy and ignore at the end of your working day.

  • Put your old commuting time to good use - if it was 30 mins each way before then go for a walk before you start work, do an exercise class, read a book - don't fall into the trap of hitting your desk early!

  • Take your lunch break and get away from your desk - popping to a local café for lunch isn't doable on a daily basis, but it might be something you can do once a month to change things up. Not eating at your desk is important! When the weather is nice (if you can get outside) then try to do that too - a 10-minute walk around the block will help freshen your brain ready to go again.

  • And switch off at the end of the day- use time limits on your phone to stop you from accessing apps that are work-related (or don't have work email on your phone at all). It is definitely OK to have boundaries in place and to enforce them.

DISTRACTIONS OF "HOME" TASKS THAT NEED TO BE DONE

Getting disciplined with yourself to focus on work during work time and home tasks outside of work is hard and sometimes it's not always practical… on a sunny day, you are going to want to get a load of washing on and out on the line after all! It's one of the perks of working from home! My top tips for not getting distracted are:

  • Plan in breaks and do quick tasks then, i.e. empty the dishwasher whilst the kettle boils

  • Hang out the washing between calls

  • Plan a mid-morning break to pop to the post office and then take a shorter lunch if you need to

  • Develop a healthy dose of "house blindness". The world won't end if you don't push the hoover around or if the dishes are in the sink until the end of the day!

LACK OF COLLEAGUES AND CATCH UP TIME

Not being around colleagues to have that "water-cooler" moment can be hard, those social interactions are important for us all. If you are an employee and working from home then make sure your team has regular catch up sessions that aren't just about work - these won't be for everyone so they do need to be optional. If you work for yourself and don't have a team then there are other options for that social aspect:

  • If it's an option where you live look at co-working spaces that you can pay by the hour / day rather than an ongoing commitment - you can then work there once a week, once a month etc to get out of your house and interact with others.

  • Look at whether you can work from a coffee shop for a few hours a week, the noise of others can give you that office "vibe" and background noise.

  • Find your business's besties and create a support group - these are the people you can drop a message to when you are having a bad day and they will offer support and pick you back up, they are the ones you can ask the questions to - it will make a big difference.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Working from home, with no commute, time ought to be your friend but when there isn't someone "looking over your shoulder" time management can become hard as it's easy to find other things to do! My top tips are:

  • Look at techniques like the "Pomodoro technique" - you work 3 or 4 blocks of 25 minutes work and 5 minutes break and then take a longer break before starting again. In those 25 minute blocks, you focus solely on the task at hand - close your emails, mute your phone, delete social media if you need to - focus on what needs to be done and you will find that you get a lot more achieved than before. In your 5 minutes, there is enough time for a movement break and to grab a drink etc.

  • Look at time blocking - this is where you divide your week and days into types of tasks, i.e. you may have a marketing day, an admin day, a client calls day etc. Or there may be shorter than a day. This then means rather than jumping from one task to another you are focusing on similar work for a longer period and your brain can get more "in the zone".

  • Stop checking your emails! It is so easy to be always on these days, but there really is no need to constantly be checking and replying to emails. So close them down and open them up a couple of times a day at set times to read and deal with - and set an auto responder up so that people know this is what you do.

TASK PRIORITISATION

Getting overwhelmed by all you need to do can be a real problem, but the reality is that not everything needs to be done at once... and in fact some tasks probably don't need to be done at all. My top tips for prioritisation are:

  • Have a system to log the work that you need to do and when it needs to be done by - and be realistic about the timescales. It won't all fall under the ‘urgent and needs to be done now’ category. There are varying systems you can try: Asana, Trello, Monday etc and use the features it offers i.e. recurring tasks can be set up, reports can be run to see what you need to do and when etc.

  • Use the 4 D's to help you: do now, do later, delegate, delete - if you keep pushing something back again and again and again, then chances are it doesn't actually need to be done!

  • Set tasks up with a category 1) Urgent and important, 2) Not urgent but important, 3) Urgent but not important and 4) not urgent and not important - again the tasks on (4) many well need to fall off your list.

  • Remove distractions - many people work with the TV on, with the radio on or whilst listening to a podcast, but if that's taking up some of your concentration and focus then look to mix it up and if it's something you need to properly concentrate on but you don't want silence try and find some music that gives that background noise but without the distraction.

Hope these help and if you have any other tips on working from home please feel free to share.

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