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Guide to Working from Home (for Those Who Have Never Worked Remotely)

  • by: Adrian Mansfield
  • On: 2, Apr 2020
8 min read

Whilst remote working has a number of significant benefits for companies and employees, a sudden or major change to your working life can prove difficult at first. Here are our tips to ease into a new way of working for maximum productivity, effectiveness and enjoyment.

8 Ways to Stay Productive and Happy When Working Remotely

  1. Speak to Other Remote Workers

The best way to get a head start when approaching something new is to learn from those who have already mastered it. Many technical specialists including Design Engineers, Network Technicians, Electronics and IT Support Specialists are already used to operating remotely part- or full-time. Before you being remote work (or as soon as you are able to) identify people in your workplace or network who can provide direct insights into the experience of working remotely and help you predict any challenges or issues that may arise.

Ask your colleagues and networks the following questions:

  • How did you effectively transition from office/site jobs to home working?
  • What challenges do you most commonly face?
  • Do you experience any issues with technology?
  • Are you always able to communicate effectively with colleagues, managers, suppliers and stakeholders?
  • What would make your working experience better?

Use this direct knowledge to understand which problems and challenges you may face when changing your working style, and come up with solutions for them.

Guide to Remote Working

  1. Find Your Routine

Remote working doesn’t have to mean operating in silos or experiencing frustration at a lack of collaboration or technology connectivity. Remote workers are 30% more productive than office or site-based employees, because they get hours back from their daily commute and experience fewer distractions. During the first two weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, employees in the UK and US were working 11-hour days on average. With the right routine, remote working can benefit the majority of businesses and employees.

Without a commute it can be tempting to get straight to work as soon as you wake up or stay online past the official end of your working day, and sometimes projects have urgent deadlines or colleagues need help, but maintaining a good work-life balance is vital. Separate your days between work and personal time by working to regular hours as a rule.

If your employer allows, you may be able to spend some or all of your remote working hours outside of the normal 9-to-5 or shift pattern. Many people find the early hours of the morning allow them the peace and quiet to get on with their activities, some are more creative late at night, and others are more effective with a staggered day that involves breaks for exercise and personal admin is best for them. Take a note of when you feel most energised, sociable and inspired to create a schedule that works for you.

Create your own dedicated working space to mimic your usual working environment as much as possible. If you can, carve out your own space away from the other people you live with, who could prove distracting, and work in a room where you don’t usually do anything else such as sleeping or exercising, to maintain a working mindset when you spend time in that room.

  1. Enjoy Your Work Day

As part of your routine, start your most difficult or most laborious task first thing. The ‘Eat the Frog’ technique, famously used by start-ups to manage workloads and deadlines, involves thinking of your day in a more strategic way and making your work time more enjoyable at the same time. If you eat a frog – i.e. your worst/most time-consuming/most difficult task – first thing in the morning or when your shift starts, nothing else you do for the rest of the day will be as bad or difficult. Eating the frog also means you enjoy your work day more, as the remainder of your schedule contains more interesting and positive tasks, and increases productivity by limiting the desire to procrastinate.

For better work-life balance and reducing stress, try the Pomodoro technique. Named after a Pomodoro kitchen timer, this popular method involves splitting your daily tasks into short intervals, usually 25 minutes, with 5-minute breaks in between. The technique works by empowering short bursts of energy that are easily sustained throughout the day, meaning you will be more productive, effective and efficient, as well as reducing the chance of burnout and fatigue.

  1. Communication

When separated from your usual team and colleagues, office or site relationships can prove harder to maintain and processes and projects can become confused amidst a lack of communication. Whilst you can stay in touch using email and phone, calls additional free or low-cost software can help you stay part of group video meetings and conference calls. Supervisors, managers and team leaders team leaders can decide on and roll out regular team meeting times and communications platforms, as well as project management software to ensure processes and activities run smoothly.

Out of sight need not mean out of mind – ensure you stay visible by reporting regularly to your manager and your team on your activities and the success you have achieved. Keep an eye on the internal communications, company updates and social activities taking place at your company, and try to get involved as much as you can. Be mindful of other remote employees and make an extra effort to include them. Your remote colleagues will be just as inclined to stay up-to-date and connected: build strong relationships with these individuals to create your own professional social and support group.

Communication for Home Working

  1. Limit Distractions

Home working is usually less distracting for the majority of employees – offices and worksites are full of talkative colleagues, loud phone calls, numerous meetings and team members clamouring for attention or help. However, spending all day in your house or flat is full of its own challenges: household chores, pets, family members and the ease of switching off to watch television or surf the internet can be tempting to those who are used to continuous direct supervision and a high workload.

Remove some of these temptations by communicating with those you live with about your working hours, and let them know when you will be taking breaks and when you need to focus. Prevent yourself from accessing social media during the daytime by blocking your access to certain accounts, or using an app on your phone to track your use of unproductive websites. Reducing distractions will not only make you more productive and better at your job, but will also make you feel as though you have achieved as much as possible.

  1. Stay Motivated

What motivates one person may not work for another, but there are many ways to add inspiration to your day. Try upbeat music of different genres or podcasts whilst you are at your desk, In your free time, read novels or poetry, seek out light-hearted or comedy films and play online or board games with your friends. Rid your life of negativity by unsubscribing and unfollowing anything in your personal inbox or social media channels that doesn’t make you feel good.

Finish your week on a high. Schedule something that you enjoy – whether a social meet-up, watching a new film release, cooking a special meal or attending an exciting event – for the end of the week to look forward to it. Keep track of your progress and stay motivated throughout your week by scheduling in mini-highs every few days.

  1. Organisation

Organisation is essential at the offices, factories and worksites, and is vitally important for remote employees. Create a plan for every week and every day to work out what you’ll be doing before you sit down at your desk. A detailed plan will help you know exactly what you have to achieve every day, ensuring you keep pace with others in your team or project group and stay aligned with business goals and needs. Crossing items off a to-do list and looking back on your progress can also help motivate you throughout the week.

Make full us of free technology like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Monday and other project management tools to keep track of your tasks and responsibilities.

Staying organised whilst working from home

  1. Look After Your Mental Health

Social isolation can have a negative effect on your mental health. Take small steps to maintain good mental health every with the following actions:

  • Work Routine – Outline a daily schedule that is as close as possible to your normal working day. For example, make sure you have a dedicated working space, get up and have meals at the same time that would normally eat, and put boundaries between work and personal life to maintain a good balance.
  • Exercise – As well as keeping you physically healthy, exercise is vital for mental wellbeing: it releases chemicals called endorphins which make you feel happier. If you don’t have outdoor space or access to gyms, online workouts or a walk around your area can help to maintain fitness.
  • Nutrition – A balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables benefits both physical and mental wellbeing. Staying clear from alcohol, coffee and junk food will improve mood, concentration and mindset as well as health.
  • Sleep – Sleep is vital to maintaining your mental health as well as staying efficient and effective in your job. Aim for at least 8 hours every night by going to sleep and getting up at the same times daily. Don’t use your bedroom for work or exercise; associating your bedroom with sleep sets the right mindset for falling asleep quicker at night.
  • Act Like You’re Going into the Office – Get dressed and ready in much the same way that you would if you were going in to the office. It may sounds like a small part of your schedule, but keeping the same routine can help define boundaries between professional and personal life and ensure you can truly switch off at the end of the day.
  • Social Connections – Arrange a time to call a different friend, family member or colleague so that you have something to look forward to and someone to speak with every day.
  • Hobbies – Activities you enjoy are pivotal to a positive mindset. Gardening, exercising, playing a musical instrument, writing, artistic projects and learning new skills are all hobbies with positive effects on mental wellbeing that also benefit concentration and creativity.

Have you been made redundant or lost your job due to the coronavirus? VHR have a variety of jobs available – find out how we can help.

Looking for support in your next career change? Read our Guide to Improving Your CV or discover New Ways to Transform Your Career This Year.

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