Ideas to help working from home
When I came to KDAB to work, working at home was a bit of a culture shock for me – I’d previously only ever worked in an open-plan office and had sworn that home working was not for me – I’d never manage to get anything done! However, I’ve found that home working suits me quite well, and given the current situation I thought I’d write a little about it as some people might be experiencing home working for the first time.
The first concern I had when starting to work from home was the loneliness. This is particularly relevant now, however there are still ways to ensure that you don’t get completely isolated. One thing would be to have meetings via video call – and not to forget that you can also do this with friends in the evening! Having social contact is important, even if you can’t meet up face to face.
The other main concern I had was how to separate working time from non-working time – both the physical and mental aspects. As a physical space, I use my PC desk for gaming which is not ideal, but I make sure after I work I move to another room to differentiate ‘work’ and ‘play’. A better way would be to have two different spaces set up, however with limited space – I live in a flat – I make sure that I at least have a break in between the two uses. Mentally, at the end of each day I like to plan what I’ll do first in the morning, so that it’s part of my wind down for a working day – which allows me to start the next day without getting distracted. At the end of the week I upload my timesheet to say to myself ‘that’s it’ – a very definite point where I’m done for the week.
As most of my colleagues have been working from home for longer than me, I asked around for some other tips. Here’s a selection of what they suggested:
- have a dedicated desk/space that you keep reasonably clean and free from private stuff
- everybody says this, but I find it helps: get up at the usual time, shower, get dressed properly as if going to an office and then dress down at the end of your working day to show to yourself that you are now off work
- using a ‘commute’ to simulate going to work, for example cycling or walking round the block
- set a work schedule for yourself that you need to determine (mainly so it’s easier to keep personal/family life separate from work life – work can be a distraction from personal life if you don’t keep them separate)
- plan your meals just like you would if you were to bring your lunchbox to an office, otherwise you’ll keep escaping to the kitchen for snacking
- consider eating more frequently throughout the day (6 small meals), so you don’t get too tired – it’s easy to get tired when you are inside all day every day.
- having a wide selection of teas/coffees/drinks is also a nice thing
- unless you have small kids with whom this isn’t going to work, tell your family that you can’t be reached during work hours except in emergencies and stick to that
- everything that forms a routine probably helps
- vary the position you sit in – maybe even creating a homemade ‘standing desk’ by putting a laptop on a higher table
- make sure you take breaks to stretch and to allow your eyes to refocus – programs used by my colleagues to help with this include https://userbase.kde.org/RSIBreak and http://www.workrave.org/
- using the Pomodoro technique to split your work time into intervals of 25 minutes, then taking a break. More can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
- also taking breaks gives time to for the brain to work in the background: I solve many complex software design problems when drying up the dishes
- getting fresh air, even if it means just standing in an open window for ten minutes at a time
- exercise indoors, maybe even replace your desk chair with an exercise ball – proper exercise helps you feel happy; it is a known treatment for mild depression
- Some tried and tested suggestions from colleagues:
How has working at home worked for you? Are you facing any particular challenges? Have you any tips that you would like to share?