Working from home tips during the coronavirus outbreak

The extraordinary coronavirus situation means that suddenly hundreds of thousands of us are either already working from home, or at least considering that we will be required to in the near future.

Although it is likely that many of us already have some experience of working flexibly, most of us have never been forced to stay at home to work. Beyond the novelty of working in your pyjamas and being able to put Netflix on in the corner, it can be quite challenging, especially if you have been used to compartmentalising your work to an office or location outside of the house.

Do not fear, here at Four Day Week we have been there and operated for several years as a full-time flexible team. We have come up with some working from home tips during the coronavirus outbreak that might be helpful to get used to the new working environment and, importantly, to prevent you from losing your marbles.

Do things different on work days

Most of us have a bit of a morning routine, which tends to be a bit different during our days off to that during the working week. This might include showering later in the day on a weekend, eating breakfast when in fact its lunch or skipping your normal exercise routine.

During my four day working week, I make sure that I get the personal administration out of the way as early as possible; I set an alarm, run, shower (so important for me to feel like I am in work mode) and have breakfast immediately after. I then feel work-set and as I can sit down at the computer without procrastinating in my pyjamas.

One of the major difficulties that I first found with working from home is the blurred lines between when to work and when not to work. Many homeworkers admit they tend to work longer hours, find it difficult to switch off from the job and maybe even start to feel like a prisoner in their own, lovely homes. Getting a morning routine really helped with this and allowed me to separate my weekend at home from the other working days.

Fix a time to break and switch off

Easier said than done I know. Many of us will experience that nagging little voice in the back of our heads asking if we have done enough work today (“was that a full day, did I work efficiently, maybe if I work longer it will compensate?”).

Don’t worry, efficiency can be your best friend working from home and you will likely do way more work in the long term than in an office environment. Again, some structure here really helps. Plan your breaks in advance and try to stick to them as much as possible. Your brain is not a long-haul airliner and frequent rest periods will help you to be better and more efficient in your work. Bang out a bit of yoga, cook some food for dinner, call a friend. Simply get away from the screen for a while.

The old adage Rome was not built in a day massively applies to home working. Beyond frequent breaks make sure you set a switch-off time. Studies have shown that longer hours are not productive. It is better to call it a day, even with things pending, and do it fresh the next day than become exhausted and even more frustrated by the situation. Close the screen, take it easy on yourself, ensure you eat properly and do whatever you do to relax.

Get comfy and avoid desk injuries

In addition to adapting to the new circumstances in working from home for long periods, many people will start to feel physically different. Common issues such as an achy back or neck are usually directly linked to the change in work posture between the company office and our new home office. Companies correctly invest a huge amount into ensuring that they avoid work-based injuries like this, but we often don’t have these resources in the house, especially if we had not planned for an extended period of home-based working.

Posture is essential. Hunching over the laptop on a sofa is fantastic for about an hour but it will hurt after eight. Most of us who don’t frequently work from home will not have an office desk and ergonomic chair at home which is really helpful in avoiding physical damage.

In this case try to raise your screen and ideally get this as level with your head as possible (stack some books or magazines) for those long stints in front of the screen. Force yourself to sit with your back straight and, although this may feel uncomfortable at first, your back muscles will strengthen and adapt very quickly to protect you from any long-term issues relating to your prolonged period at home.

For more information on Covid-19, see how flexible working can stop the spread of the Coronavirus.