In the current climate, if you are fortunate to work in an industry where you can switch to working at home then you might be having some mixed feelings. On the one hand it can feel quite liberating to have the freedom to manage your own time and not have to deal with the morning commute, on the other hand you might be worried about how you will cope on your own without the interaction of colleagues, or how you will maintain your focus.
I started homeworking over two years ago, but I can still remember the strangeness of adjusting as I worked out a new rhythm that suited me best, so I’ve decided to share what I know in the hope it will help somebody else, here are my top tips…
If you are working from home assume your employer trusts you. When I started my homeworking journey, I was obsessed with what my other colleagues thought about my progress. If what I was doing didn’t produce a physical result, for example, research or having a meeting, then I would worry that I would be seen as work shy.
If this sounds like you then a way to address it is to use a planning tool such as Trello. Trello is a web-based Kanban-style list-making application and provides you with visual boards that you can use to plan your working day, week, project and so on. You can set your board to private or invite the whole team. I use my private boards to set my goals for the week and also add what I have produced each day, this means I have a record of my work that I can discuss at my next team meeting and use it to review my goals.
Personally, I think that people working from home fall into two camps. The first will be in the zone, working so long that they will forget to take a break and end up feeling stiff, hungry and dehydrated from sitting in the same position so long. The other group get distracted at the first thing, whether that be through their phone, following their twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or other social media feeds, what they have in their fridge, the door bell…
Whatever your natural style of working it can help to put some structure around your day. If is part of your role, think about how much time you want to spend on social media checking industry updates and news feeds. It might help to allot some time to it at key points in the day, or maybe at the start of the day. If you know you need to concentrate on something turn off the notifications on your computer so they can’t distract you. You may find listening to music while you work helpful, studies have suggested (Science Alert.com) certain music that doesn’t contain words, played at a medium volume can increase productivity, for example, classical or ambient music. You may be someone who is more productive in the morning or afternoon, play to your strengths if you can, and plan your more challenging work when your productivity is at optimum levels.
Remember to take regular breaks and stretch your legs at intervals throughout the day. I find doing some sit ups, press ups and running up and down the stairs a few times wakes me up and gets my brain switched on, but I know that’s not for everybody!
If possible, get some fresh air and do some exercise, whether that be at home or in the garden or local area.
I found when I first started working at home I couldn’t wait to get outside, but over time you can get used to it and not feel like venturing out at all; taking a walk and doing exercise will help to keep both your mind and body feeling healthy.
You may have meetings planned into your day, and this can give you some structure, at ITSM Zone we use Microsoft Teams, this is a collaborative tool that means you can have a meeting with your team wherever you are. This works for us as our team is situated all over Europe. Remember that you can still contact your work colleagues even if you are at home. A friend of mine who has recently changed to homeworking has said that his meetings with colleagues were even more focused, supportive and productive than they were in person, perhaps because the separation made them appreciate each other more.
There are lots of tools to help you collaborate with your colleagues. Our favourite one at ITSM Zone is Slack. We have different channels where we can talk about different work situations, suggestions, operations, wins and so on, so it is a good way to organize, thoughts and ideas and keep track of operations, but it has fast become a place to chat to each other freely, have a laugh and be supportive. I use this daily and find it very supportive, not just workwise but in terms of social interaction too.
It is very easy in your new situation for home and work life to blend together. If this is possible, it will help you to have a designated work area. That way you can try to separate your work from your home life. Even if you have to work at the kitchen table, or in your bedroom using the top of a chest of drawers as your desktop, then try to put things away and switch your mind off when you finish.
Everyone has their own ideas about what to wear when working at home, some like to get dressed for work so that they feel ready for the day, others like to sit around in their underwear of PJs. It is totally up to you what you do, although I would suggest getting dressed if you are having a meeting, (at least from the waist up) even if you have the video turned off, just in case you turn it on by accident or some other error causes your picture to flash up, and if you are planning to get a bit of fresh air it helps to be dressed.
There’s lots of joy to be found from working at home, from more peace to concentrate and reflect, to being able to take more ownership of your day, but it can be daunting at first so I hope what I’ve suggested goes some way to making this journey a little easier.
About the author
Kat Turner is our ITSM ZONE education expert, with 12 years’ experience in writing and validating courses. Kat is responsible for course production, and ensuring ITSM ZONE courses are forward facing and meet the needs of our customers.