At TARGETjobs most of us have been working from home – a new experience for some of us – since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March. We’ve noted pros and cons: on the one hand, there’s no commute to work, but it can feel a little lonely at times; you’ve got the bonus of extra time in the day, but unreliable WiFi can cause a lot of stress. We’ve also gathered our tips on how to make working from home go smoothly – whether you’re a student doing uni work, or a graduate about to start a new job.
Where to work
If it’s possible, set up your workstation in a room that you don’t associate with chilling out; it’s important to have a separation between ‘home’ and ‘work’. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t look very professional to have your bed in the background during Zoom calls. The kitchen table is a favourite place to work for a lot of us at TARGETjobs. Make your temporary ‘office’ as pleasant as possible: in a tidy area of your accommodation, near a window for fresh air, ideally with a comfortable seat, and, unless you live alone, in a room with a door that can be closed. And, it may sound obvious, but keep yourself ‘tidy’ as well. We’ve all seen those memes of Zoom meeting mishaps on social media! PJ bottoms are okay, but try to look smart on top, not just when you know a video meeting is on the agenda – unplanned video calls can and do happen and you can’t keep pretending your camera only works ‘intermittently’.
When to work
You may be keeping to standard hours of 9.00 to 5.30 pm or doing flexitime. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to go through your morning routine and have breakfast before your start time; the ‘office’ may only be a few metres from your bed but don’t get into the habit of rolling out of it five minutes before you need to log on. For one thing, you don’t want to have bedface during your video meeting. Whatever your hours are, when it’s time to start work each day, don’t be tempted to delay just because there aren’t any colleagues around: ‘I’ll just sort this laundry/scroll through my Instagram feed before I log on…’ is a slippery slope to an hour later.
Equally as important as your start time, finish at a set time. It’s easy to let ‘work’ spill over into ‘home’ when you’re already at home.
Make time for lunch and tea breaks, just as you would in the traditional workplace, and step away from your ‘office’ when you do so. This will reduce stress levels, help your productivity and keep you focused.
Your mum walking into the room in her bathrobe with a cup of tea for you while you’re on a Zoom call is sweet… but embarrassing. Dogs, housemates, siblings, parents, kids…. they’re all lovely, of course, but when it comes to working from home, they can pose a challenge. If you have a call scheduled or if one of your tasks particularly requires peace and quiet, put a post-it note on the door to give your fellow house dwellers a heads-up. Then they’ll know not to disturb you or make too much noise in the room next door. When it comes to pets, it’s probably best, if you can, to keep the door to your ‘office’ shut while you’re working so they can’t distract you – you can make it up to them on your lunch break!
If you don’t have lots of meeting during the workday, and especially if you live alone, it’s easy to feel isolated, but there are ways to increase human interaction. Instead of emailing a colleague, call them instead. You could even schedule a tea break video chat… try to give yourself a screen-free break later in the day, however. Keep up with physical exercise, ideally in fresh air if you are able to leave the house. And, as always, if you find you’re struggling with working at home (because of technology or another aspect), speak to your colleagues or manager. It’s very likely you’ll find that others have experienced similar issues.