Seven Tips for Working from Home

Working from home is a new challenge for many. Seven things that I reckon help are:

(1) Set up ergonomically.

(2) Communicate your needs with your housemates.

(3) Keep good records so you can claim costs later.

(4) Take breaks.

(5) Dress the part.

(6) Schedule your workday.

(7) Keep your "work" space separate from your "home" space.


I've been working home for 10 years, and certainly there's nothing that I've experienced like this before. I'm not saying that in terms of COVID-19 necessarily being unique but more along the lines of having worked from home for over 12 years. There's not been a time where even I have imposed the kind of isolation that we're now facing.

So, a lot of the working from home tips. I guess it provided in the context of knowing that you might be able to get out and do something, but we can't. So, we're all learning something new. Even those of us that have worked for home for a long time. This is new. For example, I'm used to the idea of being able to go out and do sport or go out and take a drum lesson or you know, even do a meditation course. We're all finding new ways to do things. Any advice that I could give around working from home is in the context of this is going to be new for everyone. Not just for me or not just for you.

So, there's more standard stuff out there. So, make sure that you set your workspace up correctly in your office. You're probably got a relatively ergonomic desk, and chair. I've heard some people even taking their chair home because they expect to be home not just weeks but probably months. A comfortable proper work chair is what they need. If that's you, I would. Any workplace is okay with it. Feel free to do that, I think. It'll make for a much better work environment.

Another thing that I've found from working from home a lot is that having the opportunity to stand up is really useful in your work environment even if you don't have a standing desk. You're getting up. You're getting up to go and meet people. You're getting up to go and get something from the printer or the fax machine or maybe you're getting up to go and ask someone a question. But when you work from home, you don't have that. If you want to go on ask someone a question, you pick up the phone and you make a call or you send them an email. Standing up is really important throughout the workday. I would definitely encourage people to schedule in a 5 or a 10-minute break every hour or so just to get up stretch your legs. Get your muscles moving. If you've got a standing desk use one of those. If you don't have a standing desk you know, I've seen people invent them. An ironing board perhaps is a good hack to use to have as a standing desk or at least an opportunity to change the height of the desk to more appropriately match your height.

The other thing that I would do is set up some kind of routine and you know, humans are creatures of habit, and habits create the kind of person in the corner of environment we want to be in. What you might not be aware of is how much the routine that you have pre-work impacts your readiness for work. For example, you know the idea of getting dressed in commuting to work is really important. You know, that's one of the things that I do. I make sure that I'm dressed for work every day. I don't wear my pajamas to work if that makes sense. Making sure you stick to those kinds of routines that could be waking up at the same time, having breakfast you know. If you listen to the radio doing that. If listening to the radio is your normal routine but all the coverage around comfort is causing problems. I would you know, say choose a different station or perhaps just you know, listen to music. But certainly, you want to keep in that same routine because that'll be what gets your game ready. That'll shift your mindset from one on that home to one on that work even though the location is no different.

The other thing that I would do is set up a place inside your apartment or house that is dedicated to work. That is the work only space, and one of the reasons this is really important is about getting your mind ready but also allowing you to pop up. When you leave that space you no longer at work, you no longer doing work. Having two kids at home through primary school as part of working from home for me just taught me that creating that space means that they know that when dad's there he's at work. For parents out there, I can strongly encourage the idea of having a dedicated space where work takes place. That will quickly get kids into the routine of when, and how they can interrupt you. If you're working at home and you've got other people in your household that are also working from home whether that's your partner or you live in a share house, I would talk to them about what the routines are, and what the expectations are. You know, we've already seen massive increases in the use of video conferencing. If everyone's on a video call what's in the background matters. If you can't set up a virtual background that it's gonna matter even more, and the noises that happen in the background or the activities that happen in the background could be distracting. So, you might want to set up sometimes when you want to you know the household to be quiet or sometimes if you're you know, in a relationship with kids. You might say well, one of you will do work for the first half of the day, the other one will look after the kids and then you swap over for the second half of the day. But making sure that you work with your housemates around what the routine is, and that could be all sorts of things as well. That could be getting lunch. That could be getting dinner. That could be going to the shops. All of those things, and things that you probably take for granted when you don't work from home. But now that you are working from home though the routines around those things are all going to change.

The other things should really be mindful of is making sure you keep a set time that you work. So, working from home it's really easy to get distracted by home things. For example, you might want to put a workload of washing on the dishwasher might need to be stacked or unstacked. Those kinds of things you need to separate what happens you know, when you're at work, and what happens when you're at home. I would strongly discourage people from doing what might be considered home chores when you're working from home. If your work from home hours are 9 to 5 don't do home chores in that time you know, if you were actually at the office you wouldn't be stacking the dishwasher, you wouldn't be cleaning the bathroom, you wouldn't be hanging washing out, you wouldn't be doing ironing. I don't think there's any reason you should do those things while you at in your working hours.

So that leads on to another point where you should actually set your work hours rather than just assuming that they'll happen there's 9 to 5. You might want to set them as 9 to 5, or 9 to 4, or 9 to 3, or 10 to 6, or whatever it might be for you that works. Make sure you set some hours that you can keep to when you're working from home.

The other tips and I think these are the ones that are going to be harder. So, I made a really conscious effort working from home to make sure I have other activities to keep me entertained that get me out of the house, that get me connected to other people, and with COVID-19, and social isolation or physical distancing that is really all going to be increasingly hard to do. What I'm going to do is trial new activities. For example, coming up on Friday there's a pub trivia being organized by Zoom. So, I'm gonna give that a go, and see how that works out. On Sunday, it was meant to be going to an all-day silent retreat, and now that's being offered by Zoom. So, I'm go to trial that hour. So, I'm gonna try different things in order to keep me connected with the rest of the world so that physical isolation doesn't result in social isolation.

So, there are some of my tips for working from home. I'd love to know what yours are. Shoot me a video or put some comments below, and maybe I'll get to see you on Zoom.