How to work from home successfully

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15 April 2020

Millions of people across the country regularly work and successfully run businesses from their homes. With a shorter commute, a cosier dress code and a smaller tea round, it’s clear to see why working from home is an attractive option for so many people. The TUC published research which shows that home working is becoming more popular than ever before, with 374,000 more employees working from home than there was 10 years ago. 

However, for employees finding themselves working from home for the first time, it might take a while to settle into a routine and feel motivated. Stay-at-home accountants might work differently to graphic designers or business consultants. It’s all about finding out what works for you.

Here at AXA, we want to help you work from home successfully, no matter what you do. That’s why we spoke to the experts at AXA Healthcare and some of our colleagues who regularly work from home to give you their expert insight and advice.

 

Working from home tips and idea

When you’re not surrounded by co-workers, it’s easy to lose motivation because there isn’t the same sense of communal obligation to get your work done. Plus, it can get quite lonely. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to working from home and it can take a bit of trial and error before you find a routine that suits you.

If you’re struggling to settle into a new way of working, here are some things you might want to try out. 

How to avoid distractions

It’s easy to get distracted with home comforts when you’re… at home. The novelty of daytime television, a well-stocked snack cupboard or an overflowing washing basket can easily steal your attention away from your duties. That’s why it’s important to take regular breaks and reward yourself for completing tasks. Make sure your goals are realistic and don’t be too harsh on yourself. The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations help employees by minimising the risk of working with computers. They suggest taking a 5 or 10-minute break or changing your activity every hour.

Smartphones also have a lot to answer for when it comes to distracting homeworkers. If you don’t need your phone for your job, it might be worthwhile keeping it in another room and check it on your breaks. If you do need to keep your phone beside you, try turning off or muting your notifications to help you avoid temptation.

Check out these apps!

When you’re working from home, technology is your best friend. There are lots of free apps and online software designed to help employees and teams connect with each other, no matter where they are in the world. These tried-and-tested digital products are a great way to get started. So, if you’re ready to dip your toe into the world of instant messenger and online to-do lists, or if you want to master the conference call, you should check out these apps.

  • Slack for instant messenger
    It’s important to keep in regular contact with your colleagues and clients when you’re working from home. Instant messenger can be a great to stay connected because it’s usually quicker and more informal than email. With Slack, you can create private channels, start open group messages, share files and have 1-2-1 conversations. And, it’s free for small and medium-sized businesses!
  • Zoom for video and phone conference calls
    There’s no excuse to miss your Monday morning catch up meeting when you have Zoom. You’ll have unlimited 40-minute video conference calls, even with the free version. But don’t worry, you can switch to a regular phone conference call if you’re a little camera shy.
  • Trello for an online to-do list and organisation tool
    When you’re juggling lots of tasks and trying to meet tight deadlines, your to-do list can be really overwhelming and it’s easy for things to get lost in your email inbox. Trello is like a digital whiteboard where you can clearly see what’s being worked and when. You can add files and attachments, so everything’s kept in one place.

A breath of fresh air

Unless you’re self-isolating or shielding, you can still leave the house to exercise. Just remember to keep a safe distance (two metres) from other people. You’ll be surprised how much a brisk walk and some vitamin D really breaks up your working day and gives you a new perspective on tasks you might have been struggling with.

If can’t leave the house, it might be a good idea to open a window to let some air in. And make sure to keep your curtains or blinds open to let in as much natural light as possible.

Let’s exercise, let’s exercise

Everyone knows that you need to stay active to live a healthy lifestyle. This is especially true when you have an office-based desk job. There are lots of things you can do to stay active from the comfort of your own home without any equipment. For some exercises, you don’t even need to leave your desk!

#Headstrong Desk Exercises To Boost Energy from AXA PPP healthcare on Vimeo.

But what about the kids?

Working from home when you’re looking after children isn’t easy. Changing nappies on conference calls or speaking to customers during snack time is common for parents who look after their children when they’re working from home. 

Speak to your employer about your circumstances and ask if there’s any flexibility when it comes to the hours you work. A standard 9-5 isn’t always ideal when you’re looking after little ones. If you can be flexible with your hours, you could try scheduling your working day around naptimes and bedtimes and get your most important work done during those times. 

If you need to work set, specific hours each day, use fun and educational apps and games to your advantage and try to an establish a routine where you can.

In any case, the most important thing to remember is not to be too harsh on yourself and be realistic about what you can achieve. You can’t be all things to all people.

 

Working from home pros and cons

There are lots of benefits to working from home, but it can be hard to see it that way when you’ve had a bad or unproductive day.

No structure

Freedom to work the way you want

Less access to equipment

You’ll become great at improvising

Feeling lonely

No annoying colleagues

Can’t attend every meeting

You’ll be a whizz on the phone

 

The disadvantages of working from home and how to overcome them

Working from home isn’t always as easy as you think it might be. Here are some of the common problems people face and suggestions on how to tackle them.

Feeling isolated? Try…

  • Picking up the phone to a colleague instead of emailing them.
  • Starting a group message with your colleagues for non-work-related chat.
  • Listening to the radio or ‘background noise’ music.

Not able to switch off? Try…

  • Creating a dedicated ‘workspace’ area
  • Putting your laptop or other work equipment away at the end of your shift.
  • Planning an activity for when you’re due to finish.

Struggling with a lack of routine? Try…

  • Getting up at the same time and enjoy the extra free time you have without a commute.
  • Writing down what you want to achieve each day.
  • Going easy on yourself! You’ll be working a lot harder than you realise.

 

Advice from someone who regularly works from home

We spoke to Dr Suzi Siebenaler, a Customer Behaviour Analyst, qualified in Psychology and Human Computer Interaction. She’s worked from home for over 10 years and is as part of a large team in a busy Marketing department. Here’s her advice on how to work from home successfully.

  1. Stick to a ‘working day’ time routine. “I try to follow set hours as much as I can because it works for my family life and it’s better for my mental health. I feel like I’ve completed a proper shift and I’m left satisfied with the work I’ve achieved that day. Before I started doing this, I felt like my to-do list was never-ending and I got little sense of accomplishment from a day’s work.”
  2. Do a 3-minute meditation each day. “When I feel myself losing concentration, I try to do a 3-minute meditation or just some simple breathing exercises. It’s much easier than it sounds! Just breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for six seconds. And do that for 3 minutes. All of this ignites the parasympathetic nervous system which does lots of good things like reducing stress!”
  3. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. “Some people squirm at the idea of talking on a conference call. But I think it’s so important to feel confident and connected to people whether that’s through zoom meetings, walking conference calls or slack chats. Staying connected to others on a regular basis helps to combat feeling isolated; especially if everyone else is working from the office.”

Working from home can be really rewarding when you strike the right balance. You’ll just need to try out different techniques and strategies to find out what works for your lifestyle and the type of job you do. When you find a routine that works for you, it’s easy to overcome the challenges and difficulties that come with working from home.

*Apps featured in this article are examples only and are not endorsed by or affiliated with AXA Business Insurance.

 

If you’re working or running a business from home, it’s important to make sure that you’re covered for whatever you do. Find out more about the insurance cover you might need if you work from home.

 

Sharing makes us stronger

Whether you work from home or run your own business, it can be all too easy to feel stressed or overwhelmed. But talking about these issues is the first step towards solving them. Hear others share their mental health stories, learn how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.