Tips for working from home for the first time

‘When I started working from home, I made a promise to myself to go out at least once a day’ – Jane Fallon

I mentioned on Wednesday that in these surreal times we seem to be in, no one is really interested in the normal boyband whimsy you’ve come to expect from me, so I’m doing my best to keep the blog going with more relevant content or stuff that people might find useful. Hopefully in the next week or so normal content will be resumed.

A lot of you might find yourself choosing or having to work from home at the moment, and, if you’re anything like me when I first started working from home, you might be struggling with it. If you are, I’ve come up with a few things help with the transition. I’ve also had some input from my bestie Steph who works from home as her base, so if anyone knows how to make it work for you, it’s her.

When I started my current job in October 2017, one of the massive perks for me was the opportunity of being able to work from home. Being a PA for 17 years previously meant this wasn’t possible so being able to WFH was the most glamourous thing in the world to me. And I’ll admit the first time I did it, I thought it was great and I was properly chuffed with myself. Like with anything though, the novelty of anything very quickly wears off and now I try and limit the amount of times I work from home if I can. I work in an engagement role so much as it’s nice to be able to have a quiet day after I’ve been travelling or have a paper I need to write, you can’t do much decent engaging from your dining room table.

There are too many distractions for me at home. I’ll just stick the washing machine on, or do those few dishes or tidy the spare room. You really need to dig deep and find some motivation and self discipline from somewhere so these distractions don’t get the better of you. I’m an extrovert (in the truest sense of the word – I don’t just mean that I’m a show off) and I get my energy and motivation from being around other people. If I’ve been alone all day I just feel drained. And don’t stop talking to Dave when he comes home from work. Which of course he loves.

But since most of us will be setting up office at home for the foreseeable, here’s some tips me and Steph have come up with that might help you first timers.

Get dressed

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This was the first thing Steph ever told me about preparing to work from home. It’s so tempting to sit in your pjs, because, well, who’s going to know. Psychologically I need to ‘get dressed for work’ even if it’s just a pair of jeans and a hoodie, it’s better than slobbing around in my GAP pyjamas feeling like it’s a Sunday and I’m settling down to watch Netflix all day. I find I’m a billion times more productive if I’m up and dressed. It also helps if you unexpectedly get a skype call.

Set up a good work space

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If this can be in a different room from where you normally relax and chill out so more the better. If you can be in a office environment it will much easier to avoid those distractions. I love having the radio on in the background for company, but found early on that having the telly on does me no favours and only serves as a distraction – I never knew I cared so much about Janet Street-Porter’s opinion on organic supermarkets on Loose Women until I started working from home. Plus if I’ve had the TV on all day, when it comes to the evening, I’m a bit tellied out and can’t find a decent way to relax. If your work space is different to your downtime space, you’ll find it much easier to make the distinction between work and home, even though you haven’t left the house. Which leads nicely to…

Pack everything away at the end of the day

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Assuming you’re working from a laptop, Steph’s biggest tip is tidying all your equipment away when you clock off. Put your computer away, in a drawer or in a laptop bag, switch your phone off if you have one and hide your notebook. It’s so much easier to transition from work mode to home mode if your equipment is away and out of sight and you’re not then tempted to check emails late at night when you should be relaxing.

Don’t be afraid to take breaks

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The first few times I worked from home I was so conscious about appearing ‘online’ all the time. But I’m more relaxed about that now. If I’m in the office I’m not tied to my desk all day, so will happily now walk around the house or move rooms if I’m on a call. Similarly, we’re all entitled to a lunch break so, weather permitting I always try and go out for an half an hour walk at lunch time to get some fresh air. I mean, this is inevitably when my mum or Dave will ring me, at which point you have to endure the whole ‘ah yeah ‘working from home’ are you’?

It’s even more important if you’re using a laptop which is usually connected to monitors in the office, ergonomically, it may not be that good for your posture so make sure you move about plenty. As a general rule I’ve been advised ‘bum off seat at least twice and hour’.

Keep in touch with your colleagues

One of the biggest things I miss about being in the office is just general office life; hearing about Lampers’ tales from her hot tub, TC’s thoughts on the weekend’s footy, the severity of Little Allan’s hangover or CJ’s latest Netflix recommendations. I live for that stuff. Thankfully we’re well equipped for keeping in touch remotely via skype and Teams and I have a feeling we’ll be using those a lot more in the coming weeks. A few of us have set up a daily ‘touch base’ to have a virtual coffee together and just see how we’re all doing and if any of us can help each other out. It’s not ideal, but it helps with the isolation and brings us all together a bit more.

Working aside, another piece of advice I would give is to check in on your extroverted mates. Sounds daft, but I post a lot on social media because of the blog, I’m trying to get people to read it so hopefully one day I can do it full time. The downside of that is, most of my friends just assume I’m ok and don’t check in all that much because they see me posting. Self isolation or potential lock down is an absolute nightmare for people like me who need to be around people often, and I can feel my anxiety rising just thinking about 2 weeks in isolation. So, ya know, just be kind to each other!

Are you new to working from home? How are you finding it? Do you have any tips that work for you? Comment below or get in touch via:

Twitter: @honestlyhelen
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3 Comments

  1. Karen March 20, 2020 / 7:07 am

    Thanks Helen, all really good advice, which I definitely need at the moment, as struggling to adapt from working from home 1 day a week to longer term. The interaction via colleagues via Skype or equivalent is so important and getting out of the house.

  2. Samantha Rickelton March 20, 2020 / 7:55 am

    Hehe I don’t get dressed 25% of the time, a dedicated work space doesn’t work for me and I don’t pack away at the end of an evening 😂😂😂 Great tips for first timers though ,

  3. Carol March 20, 2020 / 9:18 am

    I think the hardest bit for me is feeling guilty if I move away from the screen. I always feel people will think I am skiving yet at work I am away from my desk on numerous occasions. I honestly don’t know how I am going to cope as the days seem to drag. The weather is picking up so I am definitely going to make sure I go out for a walk during the day.

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