Your home is your castle... and office, classroom, playroom and more
When your kitchen table is office, home and schoolwork zone, can you really be productive working from home?
The Easter break is over (sigh), and the kids are back to school, but at least you can look forward to a day away from the office over the May bank holiday. Or can you?
If you’re one of the 4.2 million UK workers currently working from home – or one of the many more planning to ditch the commute - it's a bit trickier.
When first committing to working from home, most of is imagine carving out an insta-perfect home working lifestyle – all co-ordinated box files and scented candles. Maybe a spot of yoga in your lunch break. Luxurious flat whites on demand…
Hang on, where did they come from? You haven’t even got a coffee machine...
The reality doesn’t quite match up, does it? It’s less zen productivity, more scraping last night’s Bolognese off your accounts file and desperately trying to find the least embarrassing spot for your Skype meeting.
So with children and pets under our feet, and no room for a dedicated office, how do we make
working from home manageable?
This isn’t about achieving perfection (because we all know that’s just not possible), but rather about
the minimum we need to do to feel in control.
We reckon it comes down to five basic, non-negotiables.
1. Always get dressed
Yeah, yeah, we know - working in your pyjamas is living the dream, right? And you’re not doing the school run today. Thing is, spending all day in pyjama bottoms isn’t great for your productivity or mental health. It’s psychologically important to draw a line between relaxation and work, and you’ll feel less on the back foot if you’re dressed in something you can nip out in.
2. Learn to ignore the mess
Cleaning can be a big trap for perfectionists and procrastinators. When space is tight in your house and you don’t have room for a separate office, learning to ignore a bit of mess is key to productivity.
By all means clear the kitchen table (remember the Bolognese on your accounts file?), but don’t go
overboard. Household chores are not for work hours.
"The most useful tip I’ve learned for working amid chaos, is to identify the smallest element necessary to define my workspace. For me it’s a cup of tea. I can work in a pigsty if I have a fresh brew next to my laptop.” - Jude, writer & home educating parent
3. Get out of the house
It’s no coincidence that hundreds of co-working spaces have sprung up in cities all over the UK in
tandem with the rise in home workers. Working from home can be both sedentary and lonely, so
it’s important for our physical and mental health to get out of the house every day.
Whether you choose to spend an hour or two in a co-working space, coffee shop or library, or simply go for a walk to clear your head, a change of scene and some vitamin D will help you focus and keep you sane.
"I kill two birds with one stone and walk to a café 20 minutes further away than my local Costa. It’s easier to be efficient after exercise and I’m not distracted by the Lakeland catalogue dropping through my letterbox.” - Chloe, virtual PA
4. Clock off
This one’s the hardest of all if you work from home. Because you’re always at your work-place, it’s
easy to let work-related tasks expand into all available time between childcare and life admin.
Whether it's school pick-up or a set-time later in the evening, it’s important to designate a point after
which you don’t let yourself check work emails or slog away on projects.
“I work a split shift - 5 hours while the kids are at school, then more once they're in bed. Staying off my phone and stopping work at a reasonable time in the evening takes real discipline, an alarm, and religious use of night mode" - Rachel, freelance HR consultant
5. Put in a buffer zone
Working from home means saying goodbye to rush-hour train journeys spent wedged under a stranger’s armpit. Big win.
However, some studies have concluded that office workers can actually benefit from the right length commute. A journey of around 15-20 minutes is good for our work life balance as it gives us a chance to break the connection between work and home.
Replicate this by taking 20 minutes after closing your laptop to have a walk, play some music, or sit down with a book and a cuppa.
Right, now you can put your pyjamas on.