15 working from home tips for productivity and wellbeing

Working from home tips

With the homeworking trend set to continue, it’s more important than ever before to stay productive and manage your wellbeing effectively. To help you achieve this, we have prepared 15 top-tips for feeling good and excelling at work, while working from home.

Your homeworking environment

Create an effective workspace
Set your desk up correctly and maintain good posture
Try to limit distractions
Don’t be consumed by social media
Set healthy boundaries with your household

Introduce an effective homeworking routine

Start the day off right by getting ready for work
Create a schedule that suits you
Develop a short routine to end the working day
How regularly should I take a break and how long should it last for?
How can I use my breaks to boost productivity and wellbeing?

Communication and connectivity for remote workers

Tools to help you stay connected with your colleagues
Internal communication strategies for remote teams
Substituting verbal communication for written communication
Virtual conferences, online training and networking
How to socialise with your colleagues remotely

Your homeworking environment

As comforting as working from your bed or favourite spot on the sofa sounds, selecting a space specifically for work will increase your productivity. If possible, choose a separate room with a good source of natural light, which can become your dedicated home office. Using different spaces in your home, like this, can help to create a physical distinction between working and relaxing, making the boundaries between home-life and work-life much clearer. If this option isn’t available to you, opt for a space in your home which is furthest from household noise and distractions.

For employees who spend several hours each day at their desks, looking into the ergonomic factors relating to your desk set-up is a must. Making small enhancements to workstations can have a wealth of benefits, from reducing the likelihood of lower back pain and tension headaches, through to increasing energy levels and boosting confidence. Try to follow these steps from the NHS for setting up your desk to improve comfort, posture and productivity whilst working from home.

While there are many benefits to working from home, it can introduce a number of new distractions to contend with. It might become tempting to start household chores during work time or to turn on the TV whilst at home. To overcome these potential distractions, try to allocate a certain time for completing housework and ensure that your workspace is clean and tidy, ahead of
the working day. Instead of turning on the TV, try listening to music instead. Research from Harvard Medical School explains how listening to certain types of music at different times can boost your mood, reduce stress levels and enhance cognitive performance. Not only will you overcome a distraction, but you will discover a solution that boosts productivity instead!

As more time is spent on devices, one of the most popular sources of distraction comes from an increase in social media use, which can become addictive without the usual boundaries that limit access in an office environment. If you’re losing too much time to social media, our team suggests logging out of your accounts during working hours or turning off notifications, especially on mobile devices. In addition, removing social media links from your desktop browser can help to reduce temptation and encourage you to make a more conscious decision about when you would like to browse and publish updates there.

It’s easy for family members, friends and flatmates to forget that while you’re at home, you’re also working. To maintain healthy relationships and minimise disruption, have a conversation with your household in advance so that they are aware of your working hours and appreciate the type of environment that will support your arrangement. If it isn’t possible to follow your usual pattern, depending on individual circumstances, modifying your working hours and responsibilities might be an option. Discuss this with your line manager in the first instance and communicate any changes to your colleagues and professional network, where required. If your hours do change, we would also recommend updating your diary to manage expectations and help you to maintain the boundaries between your work-life and home-life.

Introduce a homeworking routine

Whilst there is no pressure to ‘get ready’ when you’re working from home (unless you have video calls scheduled), it’s a good idea to change out of your pyjamas and maintain usual levels of grooming and hygiene. In the same way that setting aside a space for work helps to establish boundaries, getting ready in the morning will help you to adopt a professional mindset, while signalling that your working day is due to begin.

Having a schedule helps employees to manage their workload, complete allocated tasks on time and recognise when they can take on more work. While there are many templates available to help you plan your day, and we would always advise using one, have you ever considered how to optimise a schedule for you, personally? Informed by genes, age and environment, each person has their own biological rhythm (chronotype), which determines when they feel most awake, ready to get up in the morning and fall asleep at night. An article in Business Insider outlines the best sleeping times and work schedules for Dr. Michael J. Breus’ four chronotypes: dolphins, lions, bears, and wolves. Identify your chronotype and combine this with the flexibility homeworking offers, to create an effective schedule, tailored to the needs of your internal clock.

Without the journey home to mark the end of a working day, it can become more difficult to switch off afterwards and get the rest that’s needed to stay productive and maintain high standards of wellbeing. To combat this threat, we recommend introducing a
short routine at the end of your working day, to replace the usual endpoint that travelling home provides. As the end of the day approaches, review and update your to-do list, check tomorrow’s schedule and try to finish on a positive note, so you feel more relaxed and prepared for the next day. Before switching off, say goodbye to your colleagues, so they know that you’re leaving, and tidy your workspace, ensuring that all equipment is packed away. This last suggestion is particularly important if you don’t have a dedicated room to work in, as it will help your house to become a home again.

Without the refreshment breaks, conversation and in-person meetings that naturally break-up the working day, employees may need to learn when to schedule breaks, so that they can stay productive and feel well. A long-established time management method, which improves focus and productivity, is the Pomodoro Technique. This method advocates breaking your day into 25-minute intervals, which are followed by five-minute breaks, known collectively as a Pomodoros. After completing four Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30-minutes, and repeat this process throughout the day. By giving a task your full focus for a manageable amount of time, it allows you to concentrate on completing it and rewarding yourself with a break afterwards, to stay refreshed. Use this technique to stay productive, schedule adequate breaks and feel a greater sense of achievement at the end of the working day.

When a break begins, one of the most beneficial actions you can take is simply moving away from your desk. Remaining in the same workspace all day can become tedious while stepping away during break times allows you to take stock and return with a fresh perspective. Making a healthy lunch or drink, reading your favourite book or catching up with a friend are all great options for making the most of your time out. However, with more time spent at desks, carrying out physical activity is fast becoming a crucial part of the working day. Activities like stretching can reduce aches and pains, while attending a virtual fitness class or going outdoors for a jog or brisk walk can raise energy levels while reducing feelings of stress and loneliness. To get you started, BUPA has a selection of desk stretches for homeworkers, while the Guardian has reviewed the best virtual fitness sessions on offer.

Communication and connectivity for remote workers

When you’re working in a regular office environment, speaking to colleagues is an unquestionable part of the working day, from informal conversations during refreshment breaks, through to discussing projects, news and sector trends. Working from home has the potential to strip out informal conversations like these, which can leave employees feeling disengaged and isolated. To improve connectivity at home, we recommend installing an instant messaging tool, like Slack, so it’s easy to have informal conversations with your team. Meanwhile, hosting regular video calls on a platform like MS Teams can help colleagues to maintain good working relationships, and pick up on non-verbal cues. We always advise putting a policy in place, to ensure that tools like these are used correctly by the workforce.

Most approaches to workplace communication have been developed on the basis that a team is sat together in an office building. With this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that internal communication strategies, as well as tools, should be
adapted for remote working. One of the main challenges with the transition to remote working is that it can remove the regular structure from a working day and strip out the informal conversations that help employees to stay on track. With this in mind, it’s important that employers put a communications plan in place to help team members feel connected to the business and informed about the work they are asked to deliver. Introducing a schedule for regular business updates, team meetings and 121s will help employees to feel connected, stay focused and speak up if they have any concerns. At the same time, employees should also touch base with their managers to agree how regularly they should check-in with progress updates, to maintain an effective working relationship.

As communication increasingly takes place in a written, asynchronous format, employees should be more aware of the tone they are using and how information is conveyed. This is due to the lack of non-verbal cues that body language usually provides to support your communication. We recommend using a more positive tone than usual and combining this with an active voice, to convey your message clearly, enhance your credibility and encourage others to consider your ideas. In addition, employees should also use formatting to their advantage, as this can make messages easier to decipher and instructions easier for the user to follow.

A more opportunistic aspect of the shift towards homeworking is that many meetings, conferences and training courses have moved online, which improves accessibility for all. Whether it’s the cost and inconvenience of travel, or funding for accommodation and admission that have stood in your way previously, many of these barriers to participation have now been lowered or removed altogether, so there’s no better time to learn more about your sector, grow your network and upskill. Browse your professional body’s website to discover the range of qualifications, accreditations and networking forums that could work for you. Meanwhile, sector-specific publications and their social media channels can be an excellent outlet for discovering more informal learning opportunities and virtual conferences, to boost your career.

Working remotely doesn’t mean that the social aspect of spending time with your colleagues must come to an end. There are many ways to stay social while working remotely, from virtual water cooler conversations and team lunches, through to quizzes and office parties on zoom! If you’re searching for an activity to improve health and fitness levels, then setting up a sofa-to-5k running challenge for your team could boost morale, help you all to stay connected and provide a social opportunity as you discuss progress. If you’re looking for an activity with more meaning, then a charitable endeavour could be a great option. Organising a virtual coffee morning will provide an opportunity for colleagues to catch up and socialise while generating funds for a deserving charity.

Note from the author

Our recommendations for improving wellbeing have been developed using the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which was the main output from a government commissioned New Economics Foundation study, designed to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the nation. Through sharing these principles from the study (connect, be active, take notice, learn, and give) we hope to lay the foundations for you to create new ideas, which can enhance your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of your friends, family and colleagues too!

Check out more handy tips and guides in our career advice section or browse the latest jobs here.

Last updated on 4 March 2021

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