Tips to Improve Your Work-From-Home Environment

We’ve already done an article on working from home in general, for helping the transition to the work-from-home life during the pandemic. But seeing as this way of life seems to be sticking around, here we go through some top tips and tricks to make sure you are working from home rather than just surviving at home. We deal with procrastination, planning and a whole plethora of other aspects, so let’s take a look at how you can be your best work-self, even when you’re staying at home.

Quick disclaimer! This is all informal, personal advice and friendly suggestions. Please ensure you take the necessary precautions so that you, in whatever your current situation might be, can work safely and comfortably from your home.

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1. Location, location, location

This one answers itself, right? The location is home, that’s what ‘working from home’ means. But we have to be more specific. Choosing where within your home you work is essential to striking an effective work-life balance. If possible, dedicate a room or part of a room where you will keep your desk and work materials (assuming your work is ‘office focused’). This will help you keep your ‘work life’ separate from your ‘home life’, allowing you to truly switch off when you clock off.

If you can’t manage this with the space in your home, then try to put your work materials away at the end of the day. Store them in a drawer or anywhere else out of your general eye line. Out of sight, out of mind!

2. Sorting Out Your Gear

Plenty of other articles and advice on working from home suggests you need to set yourself up with a top of the range, luxury office. This isn’t possible for all of us, and while you should make sure you have what you need to do your job (software, equipment, etc.), there are still small changes you can make to help you get into work mode.

For example, if you don’t have an office chair, and can’t splash out on one, rather than just making do with a dining chair, add pillows or a blanket over the back to ensure its comfortable and suitable for a full day at the desk.

If you’re working from a home laptop, maybe adding an inexpensive mouse will help give you that feel of being at work. Once you’re done, unplug and you have your laptop back.

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3. Limit Distractions

An article on this subject is coming up very soon, but limiting distractions is essential. Ways of doing this may include communicating your working hours to partners or other family, and asking them to be respectful of this (emergencies aside, of course).

If you have young children, ensuring they have enough distractions of their own is helpful, especially if they need to still be in the same room as you. What activities you’re comfortable with your children doing is up to you, but some examples may include colouring books, writing exercises, headphones or even homework.

If you don’t need your phone to work, then set it to one side or leave it in another room. You will still hear it ring if you are needed urgently, but you remove the distraction of social media or internet browsing.

In this same vein, if you’re prone to wandering the web (and reading Kickstart Careers articles!) you may consider blocking certain pages for certain times (apart from kickstartcareers.work of course!). This can be done in different ways on different devices and browsers, and can always be removed. But adding that extra step to reaching YouTube or Twitter should be enough to keep you on the right path.

4. Use Technology and Devices to your Advantage

This may sound contradictory to the above point, but technology is able to help as well as hinder your focus. Make use of great apps like To-Doist or your computer calendar to help structure your day.

One technique that I find extremely useful is, if you find yourself procrastinating, set a timer for 20 minutes. Commit to doing the task you were previously avoiding for those 20 minutes without distractions. If any distracting thoughts or worries occur, jot them down so they will be there at the end. After 20 minutes, you have likely entered a flow state and will be annoyed when the timer goes off, as you’re just getting going. Great! Keep going, you crazily productive genius! If, after 20 mins, you still find yourself unmotivated, it’s possible that your frame of mind is not right to be completing this task now and you may need to consider other changes that need to be made.

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5. Treat Yourself (Well!)!

There was a recent news article about people working from home significantly increasing their chances of obesity, which makes sense as you need to move less. So this advice should come with more than a pinch of salt and is not to be misinterpreted.

You have to be sure to take care of yourself when working from home, both physically and mentally. What this means is different for each person. If you’re a compulsive snacker, then ensuring you drink enough water and get sufficient exercise is important (though, if going outside, please conform to your government’s guidelines regarding isolating etc. during this pandemic). If you’re a stressed workaholic, treat yourself to a break every once in a while.

This can sound a little messy, so I would take the time at the end of each day to reflect on what work you did, what you did outside of work, how your decisions made you feel and what, objectively, are the health benefits of those decisions. This will then help you plan out how you intend to take better care of yourself in the future. Don’t forget to listen to advice or observations from those closest to you, as they may often know you better than you know yourself.

6. Keep Organised

This ties in to separating work-life from home-life. At the end of each day, make sure your work space is clean, organised and inviting. Waking up to a stack of papers and used mugs could be a barrier to getting started, which leads to procrastination. If you work messy and don’t have a problem with that, that’s fine, I guess, but having a grip on the order and layout of your workspace remains essential, whatever that may mean for you.

Ways of doing this include filing away documents, keeping materials in drawers and generally remembering to care for the cleanliness of your equipment. Your office at work was likely cleaned by someone else. Here, that person is likely you! Don’t forget that, and take pride in the space where you do your job.

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7. Communication

An article rarely goes by on this site without communication getting a mention. This may not be a problem for some, whose bosses are incessantly calling or emailing to try and keep an eye on them. But if you live alone or now find yourself conducting most of your work solo, never forget the importance of human interaction, however small these moments may be.

The professional benefits of this are endless. You keep yourself accountable and informed. A team works more harmoniously in the pursuit of a common goal. But the personal side of things is important too.

Do your best to be proactive in arranging Zoom or Skype calls. Engage with people over messaging systems and email. Call family or friends at the end of the day. If these aren’t possible, there are always helplines that can assist with loneliness. In the UK, try campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk.

This comes back to the ‘Treat Yourself’ point. It’s difficult and brave, but essential to know what’s best for us, even if, and it often is the case, it’s not the easy choice.

However you’re working, please ensure to do so safely and healthily, with both your physical and mental wellbeing front of line. If you are struggling, seek out help from professionals or friends and family that you trust.

And just in case anyone needs to hear it: you’ve got this, ok? Working from home isn’t as easy for us all as others make it out to be. And it may not be forever. So, with just one step at a time, we’ll all figure it out.

We can all handle this, but most of all, you can handle this.

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