Work from home

How to work from home effectively

3 Jan 2017

Whether you’re clocking some work hours from the comfort of your own home, switching half your office time to your house or planning to work remotely full-time this year, you’ll need to stay productive.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you woke up this morning and all you had to do to go back to work was head downstairs to your at-home office?

If you have the option to work from home, even some of the time, it can certainly take the edge off coming back from a long break. No commuters, no traffic, no going out in the cold.

Future Human

But it’s not as simple as telling the boss you’re working from home today. You need to have a strategy in place to make sure you can work from home effectively, whether it’s for a day here and there, for a temporary period or full-time.

Create a killer workspace

OK, this is the fun part and a great way to get you motivated, especially if you’re just starting to work from home. You can’t just take your laptop to the couch in your pyjamas and start working. Well, you can, but it won’t be very effective.

If you have a room to spare for a home office, this is the best option, but if you’re working with a smaller space, a desk will suffice. However, it has to very clearly be a work desk.

Keep it clean, distraction-free and comfortable. It needs to be the perfect blend of a desk you’ll want to sit at all day and a professional space that will keep you focused.

Get a routine

We all know that this is the first step to motivation with anything, so take this habit from any new year’s resolutions you might have and adapt it to your home office.

When you work from home, you have to treat the day as close to a day at the office as possible. You might not have to put your suit on, and you might be happy to work in the evening at home in exchange for an extra hour or two in bed, but decide what your routine will be and stick to it.

You should still set an alarm in the morning, don’t spend too long getting ready, decide when you’ll be at your desk and start working. Plan when you’re going to take your breaks and stick to your schedule.

Try to keep to a routine that you can easily keep consistent every day. The more uniform a routine is, the easier it will be become an effortless habit.

Ignore the chores

It can be tempting to get distracted by housework when you work from home, but this is why you have to think of the day the same way you would a day at the office.

You’re not working from home so you can do the ironing in between emails, so once you’re ready for work, sit at your desk and mentally take yourself out of the house. For all intents and purposes, you’re not in the house – you’re ‘at work’.

If part of your plan was to stay on top of a few things at home or even just get the shopping done early, factor it into that routine we talked about. Instead of heading to your desk at 9am, take an extra hour in the morning to get something done and plan to sit down later and make up the hour in the evening.

Stay contactable

When you work from home, you still need to be in touch with your colleagues in the office, especially if you were usually in the office full-time.

You need to ensure that your decision to work from home is minimally disruptive to the rest of your team. Decide whether you’re going to go to the office for meetings, or attend them remotely via Skype.

Stay active on work messaging systems, keep your emails open, and have your phone on and beside you. To avoid distractions, ask your colleagues to call instead of text if they need you. For emails, set up alerts that come from your colleagues’ addresses so they always get priority.

Get tech savvy

One of the drawbacks of working from home is a lack of the usual technical support you might be used to in the office.

You won’t be able to fix every problem, but getting more familiar than usual with the equipment you’re using will go a long way in saving you time when you run into some technical difficulties.

Speak to your IT department about working from home and get a crash course in some simple troubleshooting that can take place at your home office. For bigger issues, make sure you know who to call and how to compensate if you can’t work.

Use your lunch break to leave the house

Staying in the house all day can be mentally exhausting, sometimes more so than if you stayed in the office, where you at least have your colleagues to talk to.

Use your breaks wisely when you’re at home to get some fresh air and go for a walk. It can feel quite isolating working from home by yourself all day, so it’s important to make contact with other people, even if it’s just a passing hello.

Again, don’t use your lunch breaks to do chores or other work. It might seem obvious, but your breaks are important for you to actually take a break and avoid burnout. Just because you’re in the comfort of your own home, it doesn’t mean you’re not working hard.

Keep your data secure

When you’re planning to work from home, you need to make sure the machine you’re working on is secure. You will also more than likely need remote access to office files and databases without compromising their security.

Make sure your company and IT department are fully aware of your intentions and have taken steps to ensure your data and the company data will be secure while you’re working remotely.

Remember that avoiding personal emails or internet browsing goes a long way in reducing the risk of malware attacks, so even if you work from home, keep any work devices clean and free from personal use.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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