The Twenty-Something Series: How to work from home (when you don't usually)

Working from home can be tough, especially when you don't normally. In this post, I share some top tips on how to cope!

Not to harp on like everyone else on social media, but it's hard to avoid the current topic of the moment: coronavirus.

(Hopefully, though, this will be some more long-lasting advice, and not just specific to the current situation!)

As of last week, I've been instructed to work from home - for the foreseeable future. Usually, I work from home two or three days a week, so right now, this isn't something that seems too difficult for me, or too concerning.

But if working from home isn't your normal, or is maybe more of a 'Friday treat', it can be a little intimidating, and confusing. Those first few days might feel like a walk in the park (one where you stay 2 metres away from anybody else, obviously) but that might wear off pretty quickly. So in this post, I'm going to share my best - and most practical - advice on how to work from home, when you don't usually.

1. Have a lie-in - but not too long

Working from home offers the luxury of being able to stay in bed a little while longer. You don't need to get ready and do your hair to leave the house, don't need to worry about the commute... And believe me, I take full advantage of the extra time to sleep. (I am not a morning person.)

What's important is that you work out how long you actually need to get up, wash your face, throw on some clothes, and have breakfast before turning on your laptop and getting to work. That might be five minutes, it might be twenty-five... but consider it your new 'commute', and get used to it.

2. Wear loungewear to work by all means, but make it ~different~

I'm all for putting on a full face of makeup, wearing jeans and a cute jumper to work from home on days when I need to really get through a lot of work, to help me feel more 'in work mode', and more productive.

But let's face it: that's not gonna happen most days. You'll end up wearing leggings and some soft, cosy t-shirts and a hoodie, and you will have no regrets. My advice? Have some different loungewear for after work. It's not just getting in to work mode that's important, it's getting out of it at the end of the day, too. 

3. Set yourself up a spot to work from

For me, it's the dining table. Sitting on the sofa with my feet up feels like too much of a relaxed, evening thing, for me, so sitting all of three feet away at my dining table just helps me feel a little more like I'm 'at work'. Although admittedly, when I get that mid-afternoon slump, I move to the sofa for an hour or so just to shake things up. (Honestly, it's an exciting life, working from home, when you have a one-bedroom flat.)

The other important thing here?

4. Keep it tidy

Listen, I like clutter. I am far from a minimalist. But when I'm working at my dining table, it is clear of everything except my laptop, diary and phone. And a cup of tea, obviously. I see a lot of advice on keeping distractions out of the way, and honestly, mess is one of them. The biggest one, for me - if only because it feels like a physical reminder of other things I need to do.

For me, this might just mean moving a pile of letters to the bedroom for a few hours, and then moving them back to the dining table at the end of the day, but hey, I never said I was perfect.

5. Keep to your normal workday schedule

This covers a few things. Start at your normal work time, yes, obviously, but take your lunch at your usual time, too. Maybe go out for a walk, if you can. (I've started doing this more this year, and it's actually really helpful.) When you're done with work, follow your normal after-work routine - so for me, that's going to take a shower, change my clothes, and then start cooking dinner. Like I said - it's getting out of work mode that's important, too.

6. Start the day right - what are you going to do today?

I am a zero-inbox kind of person, so the first thing I do every morning is clear out my inbox and check through my to-do list. That might be something that works for you, too. And there's nothing wrong with incorporating your usual day-to-day habits: maybe message a co-worker and say good morning and have a little chat to catch up, or make yourself a coffee before you sit down and crack on. Figuring out what your priorities are for the day is a must when you're working from home (check your calendar, your inbox, anything you have to follow up on or action), especially when there might not be someone else around to remind you about it.

(PS. 'Starting your day right' can totally also include slapping on a face mask before you start work. That always helps me feel like I've got my shit together.)

7. You know, you can make that email a phone call...

We all talk about those meetings that could have been an email, but if you're working from home for a while... you know, there are some emails that could be a phone call. Two minutes to get your question answered, five minutes to have a natter. Speaking as an extrovert (and someone working in a company where we don't really do video calls) a little social contact can go a long way, so don't knock it.

8. Pack up!

If, like me, you struggle to switch off, physically removing your work stuff from the equation is a big help. Normally, I'll pack my work things back into my bag after a day at home because I'm likely to go to the office the next day, but if I work from home a few days in a row, I still do it even then. It's not like I have that much space in my current flat to get away from my little work station, after all. Everything goes into a tote bag and gets tucked out of sight between my sofa and dining table ready for the next day. And, my email notifications for work emails are turned off.

What are your tips for working from home? What's the thing you struggle with most? I'd love to know, so tell me over on Twitter @Reekles or let me know in the comments!

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