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Top Tips for Working at Home

Read our top tips to ensure working from home works for you.

  1. Working Space

It is best to carve out a designated working space when you are working from home to create a boundary between work and home life. We are not all blessed with having a designated office but if you have a spare bedroom or area that is not frequently used, that could be ideal for working in. What you ideally need is an area that you can leave and shut the door on to ‘leave work behind’ for the evening as you would when you leave the office. Alternatively, set up a work station at your kitchen table but clear your laptop and paperwork at the end of each day so you don’t have a constant work reminder all evening as it can then feel like work is encroaching on your own time and it is tempting to ‘send that one email’ while you remember and then you can get involved in other work-related issues. Never work in your bedroom. Sleep experts will say you shouldn’t even have a tv in your bedroom as it should be a calming environment for sleeping. Working in your bedroom during the day is not conducive to a good night sleep.

2. When are you most productive?

Are you a morning person or do you work better as the day progresses? Do you have other factors to take into consideration regarding the time that you can work such as taking the children to school? Are there key core times that you need to be at your desk? Office opening hours can often dictate the hours we work but working from home may enable more flexibility. Naturally employed professionals need to speak to their line manager about working hours whereas Independent Social Workers and psychologists who are self-employed can dictate their own working hours. Often we end up working certain hours out of habit such as 9-6. But if you get up at 6am and are more alert first thing, you may want to start work at 7am and finish earlier if you have children returning from school late afternoon to enable you to be more available to them. Working from home enables us to re-evaluate our working practices including working hours and this can, in turn, make us more productive.

3. Treat working from home the same as in the office

For years, people have asked me if I am tempted to watch daytime television because I work from home. I wouldn’t watch daytime television in an office, so why would I at home? To me, the environment in which I work is actually irrelevant. Whether you are working from home or in the office, you have a job to do and it will soon become apparent if you are not doing that job in either environment. I treat my front room as my office, there is no noise, tv, radio on, nothing which enables me to concentrate on the job in hand. I then spend my evenings in the family room so I’m not looking at my paperwork. Yes, you have to be self-disciplined when working at home but this soon becomes second nature if you set out boundaries to begin with. I think some people can feel like they are missing out on a ‘team spirit’ by working from home but with all the various technological advances there is no need for that to be the case. We have a Microsoft Teams chat that keeps everyone in the loop, I have weekly, if not more frequent, updates with my manager and I attend meetings/training/catch ups via Zoom. As opposed to sitting next to someone at their desk if I have a question to ask them, I call them – the outcome should be no different.

4. Stick to a routine

Establishing a working from home routine helps working from home to become second nature. I walk the children to school, come back, make a coffee and sit at my desk while I’m checking my emails and messages and I’ll run through my to-do list in the same way that I would in an office.

5. Keep active and healthy

In lockdown, many of us put on a few pounds due to being less active as it was hard to go very far and eating more out of boredom. While anyone who could work from home did during that period, it was a very unique time and the lockdown pounds were not down to working from home, they were due to a sedentary lifestyle, uncertainty, boredom etc. I know in our house it was definitely a case of ‘well if we can’t do anything this weekend then we’ll make something nice to eat’. In some people’s minds, working from home becomes synonymous with putting on weight because sub consciously we associate that time of working from home during lockdown as when we gained a few inches here and there. But actually, working from home can work in your favour. If you don’t have a commute to do because you are working from home, you can use that time far more productively by going for a walk/run/swim or doing some yoga stretches when you would otherwise have been crammed on a sweaty tube. Prepare your lunch the night before – make a soup or box up a salad or sandwich as a packed lunch and keep in the fridge then you can have a 30 minute brisk walk in your lunch hour and come back to a ready made lunch which keeps you healthy, active and maximises the use of your time.

  • 6. Team-work

You don’t have to be visible in the office to be present as a team member, but you do have to approach things differently. Experts among us will be more used to working from home and being self-employed, but if you work for a local authority or organisation and are now encouraged to work from home, bear in mind the following:

  • Ensure key dates where you are required in the office are diarised.
  • Plan a full day when you are required in the office for a monthly meeting for example by organising meetings with colleagues, arranging to discuss cases with peers, maybe check in on less qualified team members to ensure they are coping ok.
  • You are required to carry out CPD so see what training/events are of interest and maybe arrange to go with a colleague and plan a catch up at lunch/afterwards to discuss cases and talk through anything that is bothering you.
  • Utilise technology – have a Microsoft Teams chat set up bringing you and your team together to share information, have Zoom meetings with colleagues or FaceTime them.
  • Think of your colleagues – can you help/support them in any way?

    7. Line Management

If you have been used to line management while working in an office and are now working from home, ensure supervision and regular catch ups/meetings with your line manager are scheduled to take place virtually. If something crops up such as a case you wish to discuss, ask to schedule a meeting with your manager to support you. In the office you can see when your manager is busy or tied up with other things whereas it is not as easy to do that when you are working from home. So ask to schedule a meeting outlining briefly what you wish to discuss to enable your manager to allocate time accordingly. If you are a self-employed expert or even new to self-employed work, it can be good to have a colleague you can call on. Even the most experienced professionals need help/support at times, so it is worth having a ‘buddy’ – someone in the same profession as you and where you can both support each other.

8. Mental health

If you are not used to working from home, it can be quite daunting at first and people fear that they can become isolated which can cause stress and result in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Many of you are working with children with mental health problems but learn to recognise signs in yourself. Talk and Walk. Getting out in the fresh air daily if possible works wonders, even if it is a 20 minute brisk walk, or do an exercise class in the time when you would have been commuting. Talk to someone – a colleague, line manager or friend to ensure that you are not bottling things up. If you are experiencing problems, talk to your manager – your employer still has a duty of care.

9. Do something to mark the end of the working day

As you are working/living at home you need to make the transition by marking it with something to set your brain that ‘work time’ is over and ‘your evening’ is beginning. This could be any number of things such as a shower, cooking, going for a quick walk to top those steps up, watching the news or even reading for 20 minutes. When you are working in an office your commute establishes the end of the working day and the beginning of ‘your time’ so do something to ensure that you are marking the end of your working day when you finish for the day at home.

10. Make your evening yours

It becomes very easy when you work from home to over-work. The desire to ‘just get this done’ can lead to several other jobs and cut into your wind-down time which is important to ensure you are fresh for work the next day and don’t get burned out. Sending the occasional email in the evening is fine or taking an extra 20 minutes to complete a report makes sense to ensure something is not ‘hanging over you’. But it is important not to fall into the trap of working every evening and if you feel that you are having to do this to keep on top of cases, you need to discuss with your line manager.

If you have any top tips to share about working from home, do get in touch and contact Clare Jerrom, Head of PR & Marketing at clare@willispalmer.com

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