Thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, the UK is on lockdown. That means that we at The Youth Group, like many others, are all working from home.

Working from home can be a mix of positives and negatives. On the one hand, you can wear whatever you want, and you don’t have to commute, but on the other, it can be very lonely and easy to get distracted.

In these tough times, we want to spread a bit of positivity and help. So we have compiled a list of our best tips for getting the best out of yourself when working from home, for anyone working at home now or even in the future.

 

Internet connection

Probably one of the most essential things you will need to be able to work from home successfully is an internet connection. There are very few jobs now that do not need you to access the internet in some way, and fewer that allow you to work from home. Making sure you can connect to the internet effectively at home should be the first thing you focus on when working from home.

If your internet is unreliable or just slow for whatever reason, there are some things you can do about it. Firstly, communicate this with your team or at least with your line manager; if everyone knows that your internet connection is causing you problems they will know that you may be slower at certain tasks or even unable to complete certain things and they should be understanding and offer help. If you have access to an ethernet cable that can plug into your computer this can really help to speed up the internet, alternatively, try closing tabs and applications that you are not using so that your computer can focus its power on the work you need to be doing. You could also try and find out if there’s a room that your internet works better in and work from there.

 

Communication channels

The main drawback of working from home is that you are working by yourself, without a workspace full of peers to chat with and bounce ideas off of. So, it is important to have some kind of way to communicate with your colleagues from home. There are many applications available for professional messaging using text chat, which can be great for sending quick messages and sending each other work without having to email everything. These can be great for chatting as a group or individually.

However, what you are usually missing is the face to face interaction that can be helpful for teamwork and is overall good for morale and a healthy atmosphere. To facilitate this kind of interaction, make sure you have a webcam either on your computer or on a smaller device like your phone so that you can partake in video calls. There are many applications out there that allow you to make professional video calls using your devices, allowing you to continue with face to face meetings, presentations and conferences from your own homes.

 

Neutral space

One problem many people find when working from home is that they get easily distracted from their work by the home comforts around them and the lack of people to notice them drifting off. A good way to counteract this is to make sure you are doing your work in a space that has the fewest distractions. If you have an office space or a bedroom try working in there, if not try reorganizing the room you are working in so that distractions are out of sight.

An extra piece of advice would be, if there is anyone else working from your home, try working with them in the neutral space. This way you can keep an eye on one another and keep each other from getting distracted. It may also be a good idea to dress professionally, or as you would if you were at your workplace, while you are in this place. This will help get you into the mindset of work and enhance the feeling of your environment being a workspace rather than home.

 

Structure

Just like being at work proper, it is important to organize your day properly when working from home. It can be difficult to recognize when home life ends and work begins, and vice versa when working from home so make sure you set yourself a schedule. Start and finish work at the same time each day, just as you would in the office. Being strict on yourself in this way will stop your two lives from blending and impacting on your mental health due to your ability to switch on and off from your work brain.

It is also a good idea to plan lunch breaks and smaller daily breaks ahead of time, so that these breaks do not become distractions and are just a scheduled part of your workday. It can really help if you plan and prepare what you will eat for lunch the night before, so that you don’t take up your break time with cooking or deciding.

Planning is also good for your work; knowing what you need to get done on any given day will help you focus and allot your time effectively. You can use a calendar or some kind of work planning application to help you. just remember that if you don’t get something done, do not drag out your work-time to complete it; finish your work at your scheduled time and plan to finish it on your next workday. If you must work later to get it done, let someone know and allow yourself to start your work later the next day.

 

Know yourself

No one knows the way you work better than you do, especially in your home setting. Take note of the times of day that you feel most motivated, or the most able to do certain tasks and adapt your work schedule to fix that. For example, without the need to commute, you may be starting work fresh out of bed; this will not be the best time to schedule calls or meetings as you may still be all together awake yet as opposed to after lunch when you have a kick of energy and enthusiasm.

Make sure you communicate with your team the best times for you to do certain things or let them know your work schedule so that you can all work effectively together. It is also important to be aware of any changes that may arise. One day you may be particularly struggling with a certain task or lacking motivation at a time when you usually have it. Your attitude may ebb and flow, but this is ok, just continue to communicate. Ask your team if they would like to move a call to the morning that you had set for the afternoon, for example.

 

Background Noise

As we mentioned in our relaxation at work blog post, a key to allowing yourself to relax into and focus on your work is to control the sounds of the environment around you. a good way to do this is to have on headphones and listen to relaxing or work focussed music. This way you can block out any distractions from your home surroundings such as people or electronics. There is plenty of music available on the internet for free or for purchase that is specifically designed to help increase relaxation or concentration, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something to help you.

For some people, however, it actually helps them to work if they have some form of background noise to settle into, just like the noises you would hear at an office. If this sounds like something that would help you then think about putting the radio on or even the tv on at a low volume in the background. Try and keep it to something calm and not lovely exciting like a documentary or a discussion show, so that it takes the place of background chatter rather than something exciting to watch/listen to.

 

Move

While we are at home, we can get comfortable sitting in one spot, be that our bed or our office chairs, and we end up not moving for most of the day. Just like when working from a normal office, this is not a good idea for both your mental and physical health. It is important to move about during the day, whatever you are doing. You don’t have to do overly strenuous exercise, just remember to get up and move about from time to time. This will get your blood pumping around your body and to your brain.

If you do want to do exercise, then you could go for a walk or a run around the neighbourhood or in your garden if you have one. At home, you actually have a lot more luxury and the ability to exercise harder. Do some yoga or maybe an aerobics routine in your living room. Maybe you have some gym or exercise equipment in your home somewhere, working from home is a great time to start using it on your breaks. Keeping yourself healthy in both mind and body can be great for beating the boredom and loneliness of being at home.

Being equipped to work effectively from home is not as hard as you may think. In the end, it all comes down to knowing yourself and your home and being able to manage it effectively.

We would like to extend our well wishes to everyone stuck at home in these troubling times; stay safe and we will all pull through!