Are you working from home this week? It can be all too easy to stay in your pyjamas, sit on the sofa and be distracted by Loose Women. But it doesn't have to be this way...
1. Stay social
Though working from home may give you a welcome distance from the office politics, never underestimate the importance of interpersonal contact in the working day. ‘If you’re an extrovert you might need company after only a short time,’ says Judy Heminsley, author of Work From Home. ‘Introverts tend to be happier in their own company, so it’s important to regularly plan contact into your diary.’
On days when there’s no face-to-face time booked in, you should still keep in touch with people, explains occupational psychologist Suzy Dale. ‘Check in with others remotely at least once through social media and emails,’ she says. ‘The temptation to stray on to Facebook or Twitter may be greater, but while you’re updating, remember your boss could be watching. Apply the same common sense approach as you would in your workplace.’
2. Dress to impress
You’re not expected to pick out your best skirt suit and splash on a full face of make-up for a day in front of your laptop, Suzy Dale recommends that you stick to your morning routine as you would for a day in the office. ‘While working in your PJs may be more comfy than your normal work clothes, it does not encourage you to get into the right psychological mindset for a day’s work,’ she says. ‘A smart-casual approach is best.’
3. Set yourself deadlines
There are tendencies both to underwork and overwork when you run your own schedule. The best advice for structuring a day’s work at home is timing. Suzy says, ‘Generally, it is best to stick to your usual office hours. This automatically gives you a structure and helps to focus attention. The key is to be pragmatic. Break up the day by setting yourself deadlines to keep things on track, then take a short comfort break after each.’
Judy Heminsley agrees: ‘The post-lunch afternoon slump is a classic sluggish time of day,’ she says. ‘Use this time to get out for some fresh air – moving your limbs and changing your environment will refresh your mind as well as your body.’
4. Plan your meals
In a lot of ways, following your own eating routines is healthier outside of the office environment, explains Judy Heminsley. She says: ‘Working from home means you can listen to your body instead of trying to conform to the conventional break and lunch times.’ You must try to avoid the natural temptation for these to break down into all-day snacking, Suzy Dale advises. ‘Sticking to good eating habits is important for a productive day. If necessary, keep a bowl of fruit nearby so you don’t find yourself gravitating towards the kitchen each time.’
5. Suss Your Space
If you don’t work from home regularly you may not have a home office, but this is not always important for the quality of work. ‘It’s really important to set aside a physical area for work and keep the bedroom off-limits as your sanctuary,’ says Suzy. ‘This helps with concentration, and sends out a message to others that you take your working time seriously.’
After more work and career advice? Don’t forget to check out our MC@Work section.