Working from home – a 10 point checklist
Migrating from working in a communal business environment such as an office, studio or portacabin can be somewhat of a culture shock. As the lines between work and home risk blurring into a nondescript soup of professional-domestic purgatory, it’s important to start out with clearly defined boundaries in order to prevent your occupational obligations from infringing on your personal leisure activities – and vice versa.
The following guide is a tick-off list to start you on the right footing.
1. Define a physical area to work in (and only use it for work)
This is, in our opinion the most important step to occupational-domestic success. Clear physical boundaries create mental boundaries and quarantining (no pun intended) your work from your outside of work existence, sets you on the correct path to avoiding a feverish work-life freak monster which will slowly but surely consume you on a day-to-day basis. Dedicate a space and use this for strictly work only.
2. Treat yourself with new furniture and stationery (If you can)
This is (probably) a new experience; a new era for you. Give it a boost by treating yourself to some new accessories. The inevitable advantage that this will create is mutually beneficial to you and your employer, so your company might even be open to funding part or all of this exercise. List, browse and shop for the items that you need. It could be anything from a new workstation to a new ergonomic chair or a full set of snazzy new stationery. It’s both important in aiding you to perform your job successfully at home and giving you that fresh physical and mental edge in defining this new chapter.
3. Start your day as you normally would (as if you intend on actually commuting)
Although your daily commute will have inevitably been drastically slashed down to a matter of metres, it’s vitally important to maintain the morning ritual. Wash, get dressed and lock away your pyjamas – burn if necessary (sleep naked). This is an important reinforcement of the first point where boundaries are king. Keep them clearly defined and avoid that work-play soup hell!
4. Stick to your working hours (breaks & stretching your legs included)
This may seem obvious, and at risk of sounding like a scratched record – sticking to your working hours is further recognition of work-leisure boundaries. It also works wonders (quite ironically) for slaying your to-do list. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you need something done, then ask a busy person’? Well – this. There’s a psychology behind time limits and to-do lists, compared to open ended space-time odysseys. Inevitably, the structured day wins hands down. Exercise is also important – even if it’s to make a coffee or to grab a snack, you need time away from the desk to give yourself physical and mental respite.
5. Plan your day
Following on from the to-do list psychology sermon above, planning your day is both useful and rewarding. It also helps with evaluation on how you are progressing - things that are going well and not so, and how you can adjust things to get the most out of your time. It also keeps things interesting. There’s nothing worse than performing a thankless task with no end in sight. Variation is the secret sauce which fuels creativity, positivity and enthusiasm.
6. Phone colleagues
‘Water cooler chat’ is that elephant in the room which is slightly frowned upon, inevitable and ultimately taken for granted. ‘The elephant that was taken for granted’ – a good name for an album!? Working from home, in relative isolation, thrusts the perceived lowbrow inanity of said water cooler chat into realms of importance and benefit. You need to interact with your colleagues for (probably) work-related reasons, but also as a superfood to nourish sanity and focus. Speaking with colleagues gives you a personal and professional anchor point and is of vital importance in keeping you from drifting away into a vortex of solitary deep space (like George Clooney did in Gravity). Seriously though, solitary confinement is generally bad. Social interaction = good.
7. Set limits to internet browsing
Despite variation and breaks being key to a rich and fulfilling occupational existence, internet browsing is the procrastinative antichrist waiting to lead you into a realm of getting nothing or not much done. Like a domino effect or someone pressing their brake pedal on the motorway, the effects can be long and far reaching. Seriously and without meaning to patronise – it’s dangerous to stray from the beaten path, because minutes can lead to forty minutes, to like, three hours and is a breach of purity - thus adversely affecting your work output and boundaries.
8. Keep the music lyric free (and TV is a definite no!)
This is a personal one, learnt during the days of college assignments and exam revision. Working with music is great and can enhance your bubble, but music containing lyrics interferes with it – especially if you’re working with words, ideas or data. It’s distracting and keeps your mind from the task at hand. Try classical music, or a soundtrack from a film. Personal favourites such as ‘Moon’ by Clint Mansell and ‘Being John Malkovich’ by Carter Burwell are great places to start.
9. Set boundaries with family members
This is perhaps self-explanatory, but nonetheless very important and with most of the other points, can be adversely impactful on your day if not nipped in the bud. As with most non-work activities, they are completely innocent and often unavoidable, which emphasises the need to set strict boundaries. Put a sign on your door and/or speak to your significant other, child(ren) and stay away from the feline, canine or parrot between set times.
10. Prepare your meals the night before
There are reasons why most employers don’t furnish your place of work with full kitchen amenities – unless you work for Google et al. Apart from the cost, it’s simply not practical or time effective for employees to be constructing elaborate culinary creations. You should treat your food for working at home with the same regard. If you make your food the night before, you will then be able to eat and relax during the allotted time for eating and relaxing – thus sticking to your schedule and maintaining work-life Zen.
We hope that you’ve found this useful – we’ve certainly learnt a thing or two. JA