‘Working From Home’ is fast becoming much more acceptable in today’s society. (Especially when there’s a naughty virus pandemic at large) Whereas only a few short years ago it was often scoffed at and said with dramatic air quotes as if to suggest the employee was actually just sat on the sofa in their pants, probably watching Homes Under The Hammer whilst simultaneously looking after their kids because the school decide a random Wednesday in January was the perfect day for teacher training.
Today there are companies that are positively championing a WFH culture. Why? It’s cheaper, convenient and flexible! They don’t have to house said employees and can employ from a far wider pool of available candidates (my company employs all over the UK and we even have one team member in Turkey!) meaning more appropriate skills and maybe even more profitable output? Who knows! Either way, it’s a positive move and I for one am a very happily employed home worker.
I started with my company about a year ago, working in the same industry as I have done for the last 10 years or so but wanting to take a side step to get off the front line and put some of my skills and experience to good use. I was also craving more flexibility, less being chained to my desk 9-5 with a bunch of people I could hardly tolerate (natural introvert over here!) and more opportunity outside of my postcode area (without having to **shudders** commute.)
Since then I’ve had a fair few friends and ex colleagues join the WFH crew and had the same conversation over and over…
How do you work from home and not get distracted? Stay focussed? Not spend your time watching Judge Judy repeats and then cursing yourself and having to work until midnight because you forgot you actually have to pay the bills?
So here’s my TOP 5 TIPS for being a WFH Ninja (whilst still managing the odd episode of Friends & trip to the supermarket/gym/lunch date):
- Get up at the same time everyday. Whether that’s when your significant other gets up and heads out the door or at midday because you love a lie in, it doesn’t matter but a little routine is crucial to being in that ‘work’ mindset. I get up when my husband gets up, I don’t always shower and get dressed and can often be found still in my PJ’s, cramming toast into my face at 7am with my laptop already on whilst powering through the backlog of emails but I always make a point of being at my desk by 9am at the latest. A little bit of structure goes a really long way when WFH.
- Identify when you are most productive (and utilise it)! I am, by nature, a much more alert person first thing in the morning. If I get past 10am and haven’t managed to get much done, I can almost guarantee that the rest of my day will be as unproductive. I know this about myself so I always push my most important/difficult/mind boggling ‘To Do’s’ to the front of the list and get them out of the way while I am alert & foccussed. After about 2pm my focus dramatically reduces and I lose interest (read: get mega distracted & will most likely be posting repeat Insta stories after lunch while I procrastinate the arse off the rest of my day). If you work best at night then make your day work around you, have that lie in, pop some washing on, do the food shop and plan a 2-4 hour window of productivity when you know your brain will play ball too.
- Divide your day into units. Do you remember the film ‘About a Boy’? If you’ve never watched it basically Hugh Grant plays the lead who doesn’t have a job as he lives off of royalties from a song his uncle or similar once wrote. So he divides his days into units. Recognising that he doesn’t want to start the week on a Monday and have all his errands and chores completed by the end of the day with nothing to do for the rest of the week. When you WFH it can feel like you have the opposite problem in so far as you want to get all the chores done because they are staring you in the face but equally have to work and end up in this mildly frustrated/never quite achieving anything situation because you are torn between the ironing pile and that work project you really should be focussing on. So the first thing I always tell newbie WFH-ers is to allocate units of time. My day might start with an hour of email answering (1 unit), followed by popping a wash load in the machine and another out to dry (2 units), then back to my desk to tackle one specific task that is on my list, maybe a big one that needs several undisturbed hours or even a small one that I’ve been avoiding because it’s boring, either way I don’t stop until it’s done. Then I might go to the supermarket and get the food shopping done. Do you see how this is going? I basically reward my work efforts with domestic efforts. Double satisfaction because I’m ticking off double the lists!
- Create a work space you actually like. Despite my resistance to being chained to a desk 9-5, I actually prefer to work from a desk/table with a good solid chair rather than the sofa (where I am currently working on one of those clever Ikea lap desks which was honestly the best £12 I have ever spent). I need a clear desk to have a clear head so even when we had a study, I would need to have a tidy up, maybe dust some stuff and get everything in order before settling down for my work day. My husband however, when WFH, works from our bed! Laptop open, TV on, paperwork spread out, possibly in his PJ’s too. He likes to feel cosy and comfortable to optimise his productivity and it works. For him anyway, I think I would accidentally nap my way through the day if I worked from the bed! Anyway, find a space in your home or a cafe or wherever that makes you feel productive/important/clear headed. If you like background noise that’s great, maybe a cafe works for you. If you need silence, then it’s probably best to stay home. But don’t be afraid to mix it up if you aren’t feeling one day. That is, after all, the luxury if being a WFH-er.
- Don’t feel guilty. When I started WFH, I found myself feeling guilty for taking a lunch break or not being at my desk at 9am on the dot because the teenager in me was convinced I would be busted for bunking off and everyone would know somehow. If my work phone rang while I was at the dentist I was convinced my boss would have some super power that told him I wasn’t working hard but abusing the system and sneaking in a personal appointment during the work day (how do you go to the dentist any other time though?!). Once I realised that I don’t in fact work for the Secret Service or NASA or anyone with equally clever technology to track my every breath, I stopped feeling guilty. Sometimes my work has me on a train at 7am not returning before 7pm, some days I can get everything off my list by 3pm and can sign off in time to watch Tipping Point AND The Chase whilst having dinner on the table for when hubs gets home! The WFH balance is yours to decide on, as long as you’re fulfilling your actual job description and delivering, I think it’s hugely important to remember that you are in control of how to deliver it. A friend who recently started WFH told me that while her little one was at nursery for 6 hours, she felt she had to achieve as much as possible in that time (and those 6 hours won’t be cheap!) to justify it. If she didn’t she felt guilty. Guilty over the Mum/Wife Work or her Paid Work? Either way, guilt gets you nowhere. If your kids are in school or nursery for a set time, it doesn’t matter if you use that time to de-mould the shower with a toothbrush because it’s been bugging you for months but haven’t had a chance with all of the other things nagging at your attention or you spend the whole time at a local cafe catching up on life admin or with other WFH-ers and ignoring the washing pile. Just don’t feel guilty either way. Every day is a new day and your ‘To Do List’ will look different tomorrow so remember you’re only human and take each day as it comes. If you’re feeling super productive then go ahead and smash through the day, if your feeling like crap because you had a few too many wines last night (due to all the guilt?) then don’t get dressed today, do the bare minimum and maybe pop something in the slow cooker for dinner instead.
Working From Home is a blessing and a curse but it’s also such a privilege, if you’re lucky enough to have a job where you don’t have to be up, dressed and out the door by 7am ready to spend 9 hours with people you probably wouldn’t choose to spend time with if you didn’t have to. Just remember to grab some daylight every now and then= and move your body as much as possible, it’s good for the soul I promise.
Mrs G xxx