2020 will probably stand out as the year in which a significant proportion of the population discovered the benefits of working from home. It offers the chance to trade in the daily grind of a commute to work for an improved work-life balance built on the precious time you have saved.
But the chance from office routines to working from home is likely to prove a radical departure from the way you have coped with everyday life in the past. It might be helpful, therefore, to look at some of the tips and suggestions that have surfaced from those who have already made the transition.
Flexible but structured
Probably the biggest feature of your transition to homeworking is the loss of the structure that was almost certainly provided by your office environment. Even in the most relaxed or organisations, there is likely to have been the kind of managerial hierarchy that ordered your day, your schedule of work, and the working relationships with your colleagues.
While working from home replaces that structure with a welcome flexibility, a report by the BBC on the 20th of April 2020, suggested that you do not completely lose sight of the value of a structured approach to work – and strive for a “structured flexibility” in working from home.
Establish a routine
That message about structured flexibility is echoed in advice from the NHS about working from home in a way that sustains your mental health. Set a routine – and stick to it.
That means getting out of bed at the same time each day, getting showered and dressed before eating your breakfast – and using some of that saved commuting time to take some exercise, read or listen to some music. Remember to take regular breaks from your work during the day and, once you reach the end of your working day, bring all work to a full and final stop.
Work time/home time
An article in the Independent newspaper on the 17th of September 2020 made a similar point about establishing a sense of routine by ensuring that you draw a firm line between working time and home time – even when all of that time has been spent at home.
Working time is set aside for just that – work; but home time means putting down your work, leaving it alone, and trying to put it out of your mind until the next day.
One of the main obstacles in separating work time from home time may be the temptation to get “just one more thing done” or finish off a project the same day.
You are likely to be glad to have fought off such temptations to work longer and later than you would have done in the office. Probably the best way of resisting the temptation is to set out with realistic expectations of what you can reasonably achieve in the working day.
That sense of routine, within a structured flexibility, may be reinforced by ensuring that you have an appropriate workspace.
You’ll probably need a desk or table to work on and sufficient peace and quiet to concentrate on the work in hand – if possible, close the door to shut out extraneous noise and distractions.
Make sure to inform your insurer that you are working from home, that your cover remains suitable for those purposes, and that you extend cover, if necessary, for particular pieces of equipment.
Video replaced the water-cooler
Just as the water-cooler attracted its fair-share of non-work related chatter and socialising, try to maintain the same sense of community and social contact through video calls to colleagues, suggests the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Video calls and virtual meetings can also take the place of the daily “huddle” that managers arrange not just to check on work schedules but also to keep up to date about the team’s mental and physical wellbeing
Work from home … and leave the house
An article in Vogue magazine on the 11th of March 2020, made the point that working from home is not all about being housebound.
It remains important to make the effort to leave the house every day, both for the exercise you need and to remind and reassure yourself that you continue to be a fully-functioning member of society.
The longer-term view
If you are serious about making a transition to working from home, take a longer-term view about quite what that might mean – specifically about how you can make your working environment more comfortable, more productive, and more suited to your changed work-life balance.
How radical was the change for you?
Once you have been working from home for a while, you might want to reflect on some of these tips and suggestions to consider just how radical was your transition to this new life-work balance.