How to survive when you’re working from home

Working from home has lots of advantages and probably just as many disadvantages depending on what you do, how you like to do it and what sort of person you are.  I’ve been working from home for quite a few years and I love it.  Here are my top tips to help keep your mind and body healthy and how to survive when you working from home:

1. Get Dressed

When working from home you don’t have to dress as smartly as you might for a professional environment but getting dressed in the morning will help get you in the right frame of mind for work.  Ambling round the house in your PJ’s just doesn’t say I’m taking my work seriously.

2. Go for a walk 

morning-walk-working-from-homeI find that going for a walk before I start work really helps my mental and physical well being.  My walk not only helps keep me physically fit but it also gives me time to think through what I’ve got on that day.  I don’t do a huge walk, about a mile or two at a brisk pace.  I have a few set routes, sometimes around the local area and other times to the station and back or into town if I need to pick up a few supplies. 

Either way it’s psychologically good to get outside and get some fresh air. I think of it as my morning commute.

Another advantage of taking your walk before you start work is that it stops you from putting it off once you’ve got stuck into work.

3. Be disciplined

work-schedule-working-from-homeWhen you work from home organisation and discipline is the name of the game.

More than ever the responsibility lies with you to make sure you actually do any work.  Working from home requires good time management especially if you’re juggling lots of other things as well as work like childcare, school collections etc. 

It’s a good idea to set yourself regular work hours when you can and putting together a weekly schedule can also be very helpful: 

  • Keeping regular work hours will help you get into a routine and collaborate with any colleagues/clients.
  • When you’re working remotely from your team a shared work schedule will help you keep track of your projects and your colleagues work progress too.    

4. Limit distractions

This can be much harder than it sounds.  Obviously, if you’re working from home stay well away from the television.  To be honest this isn’t too difficult as daytime viewing is generally pretty dire. My only exception is that I like to watch the news at 1 pm while I have my lunch break. 

The real distraction is social media and/or the internet in general.  It can be really easy to think you’ll have a five minute break to check Twitter or look at new clothes/houses/pictures of cute animals/the news. Next thing you know 30 minutes have passed and you have nothing to show for it.

Everyone needs a break from work at regular intervals but you have to be strict with yourself and make sure that you’re still getting your work done. 

6. Have a dedicated work space.

working-from-homeThis is more important that you would imagine and really depends on where you live as to how well you can manage it.  I work from home all the time so I have my own study.  It’s at the top of the house away from prying eyes and the thieving hands of children (mostly).  Because it’s a separate area I can literally close the door on work at the weekend which is great.

Having your own dedicated work space also means that at the end of each day you don’t have to clear everything way. 

As well as having your own work space it’s also a good idea to try and have a healthy chair/desk set up.  Working on your lap isn’t a great idea as you’ll soon start to have back and neck problems, ditto working sat in bed with a laptop. It’s worth spending some time looking online for the optimum seat/desk/monitor height set up.  It’s the sort of thing that you don’t think about if you get it right.  If you get it wrong you could end up with eye strain, neck, should or back pain. is a good place to start.  

5. Take regular breaks away from your desk

man in garden working from home illustrationIf you’re away from your desk you’re hopefully more likely to do something different than stare at a screen and you’ll have the added advantage of moving around a bit. Your eyes, joints and your mind will thank you for it.  Without colleagues around there are loads of apps you can use to remind you to take a break that can be customised to your requirement.  I use a Chrome extension called Break Timer which allows you to set break frequency and length of break.  It’s not draconian. You can ignore it but it does have the benefit of helping you notice that time is passing and you should be getting up once in a while.

You can use your break to do some stretches to help loosen up your shoulders and hamstrings and to waken your body up a bit.  When you’re sat at a desk for prolonged periods of time it can be really bad for your lower back in particular.  Stretching your hamstrings and moving around will help alleviate any lower back stiffness.

If you have a garden you can step outside for a break or if you’re feeling energetic you can take a walk.

7. Know when to switch off

When you work from home it is imperative to separate home and work otherwise you could be in danger of either working all the time or dipping in and out of work so much that you never have any proper leisure time.

If you want to maintain any sort of work life balance while working from home then you ideally need to be able to close your door on work in the evening and at the weekends.  

8. Be sociable

phone-chat-working-from-homeJust because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you can’t be sociable.  To stop yourself feeling lonely and isolated take a break to have a chat with friends/family and colleagues. 

In fact in most jobs its absolutely necessary to have some interaction because even though you’re working from home you’re still a member of a team and all have to reply on one another.

Taking a break for a chat on the phone while you have a coffee break can really help stop you from going stir crazy..

9. Enjoy the perks of Working from Home

While you’re working from home either temporarily or on a more permanent basis you may as well enjoy the perks….

  • Yes, it’s a great idea to get dressed, but it can be in more casual/comfortable clothes.
  • You can have lunch/breaks in your garden/on your balcony.
  • Enjoy not having the daily commute which could mean you have a couple of extra hours in each day.
  • You can use your time more efficiently and do a few chores that would usually wait until the evening/weekends like putting some washing on or receiving an online shop.
  • You can work flexibly. Ideally, I like to keep my work hours 9-5 Monday to Friday but because I work from home, I can be flexible if necessary.  If I feel unwell I can work less when I’m ill and work more hours when I’m better and if I have a sick child I can catch up in the evening or at weekends if necessary.

These are my top tips for how to survive when you’re working from home.  It’s not everybody’s cup of tea but in the coming weeks a lot more people are going to have to get used to it and hopefully my suggestions might make it a bit less painful.