Home Office: Survival Guide

how to survive home office

Working from home can be challenging. It's important to set boundaries and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here are some tips to survive the home office:

- Maintain a standard work schedule and regular hours to keep your day balanced between work and free time.

- Get dressed for the day, just as you would for the office. This will help you keep your work routine and separate your work and free time.

- Create a dedicated working space to keep your personal space separate from your work area.

- Stay in touch with your coworkers through video conferences, instant messaging, and other virtual collaboration tools.

- Plan and take breaks, just as you would in an office. Step away from your desk, get some fresh air, and move your body to improve your physical and mental health.

- Use your extra commute time to focus on your health and well-being. Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep to reduce stress and improve your overall productivity.

- Interact with other humans, whether they are colleagues, friends, or family. Social connection is important for maintaining your mental health and preventing loneliness.

- Prepare meals ahead of time to optimize your time and energy during the workday.

- Set a definitive finishing time for your workday to create a clear boundary between work and personal life.

Remember, working from home can be a blessing, but it's important to establish routines and boundaries to stay motivated, productive, and balanced.

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Maintain a standard work schedule

Maintaining a standard work schedule is crucial when working from home. Here are some tips to help you establish and stick to a consistent work routine:

Set Clear Work Hours

Decide on specific work hours that align with your personal preferences and work requirements. Having a clear schedule helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance. You can use time-tracking apps like RescueTime to monitor your adherence to your work schedule and identify your most productive times of the day. This knowledge will enable you to protect those hours and maximise your output.

Create a Morning Routine

Establish a morning routine that prepares you for work. This routine could include activities such as exercising, making a cup of coffee, or getting dressed for the day. These activities signal to your brain that you're about to start work and can help you transition into a productive mindset more effectively than simply relying on the time of day.

Be Consistent, but Allow for Flexibility

While it's important to set a schedule and stick to it, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility. There may be times when you need to accommodate a colleague in a different time zone or handle a personal matter during work hours. In such cases, be sure to compensate by wrapping up earlier on another day or sleeping in a bit later to make up for the lost time.

Plan Your Breaks

Breaks are essential for maintaining your focus and productivity throughout the day. Schedule breaks in advance, including a lunch hour and shorter breaks every hour or so to move around and stretch. Taking breaks helps improve your blood circulation, especially if you're sitting for long periods, and gives your mind a chance to recharge.

End Your Day with a Routine

Just as a morning routine helps you start your day, creating an evening routine signals the close of the workday and allows you to transition into your personal time. This routine could be as simple as shutting down your work devices, changing out of your work clothes, or engaging in a relaxing activity like yoga or reading.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively maintain a standard work schedule while working from home, contributing to a healthier work-life balance and improved productivity.

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Get dressed for work

Getting dressed for work when working from home is an important part of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It can be tempting to stay in your pyjamas or a comfortable pair of sweatpants, but dressing for work can have a positive influence on your mindset and productivity.

Fashion stylist Sally Mackinnon recommends maintaining a daily routine of getting up, having a shower, and putting on a comfortable outfit. She says that "when you feel like you've made the effort to get dressed and put on something you feel good in, then you'll be more likely to approach your day with confidence and with purpose".

Personal stylist Jude Stevens agrees, saying that "getting dressed helps you feel more productive because it signals to you that you're in work mode". She also emphasises the importance of changing out of your work clothes at the end of the day to signal the shift from work to leisure time.

So, what should you wear when working from home? The key is to strike a balance between comfort and professionalism. Opt for loose-fitting garments in soft fabrics. You want to feel comfortable, but also presentable. Here are some specific tips on what to wear:

  • Wear something fun yet stylish. Choose outfits that make you feel comfortable, productive, and good about yourself.
  • In warmer weather, go for cotton pieces that can be mixed and matched, like a jumpsuit over a tube top or t-shirt, or wide-leg stripe pants paired with a singlet or smart top for important video calls.
  • In winter, try jeans and an oversized but flattering cardigan, ideally with a long-sleeve top or high neck. You can also reach for a soft and comfortable blazer or a long, sleeveless vest to get into the work zone.
  • Mackinnon recommends choosing clothing that you would actually leave the house in. She suggests jogger pants, a cashmere sweater, and tops in soft and stretchy fabrics.
  • Stevens recommends soft, loose-fitting garments like tailored jogger pants, chinos, or a skirt with an elastic waist for comfort while working at a desk that may not be ergonomically set up.
  • A casual chambray shirt or a light knit is ideal for keeping warm yet comfortable.
  • If you want to feel more put together, wear a proper pair of shoes instead of slippers or Ugg boots. Slip-on loafers, soft flats, or casual sneakers are ideal.

In summary, getting dressed for work when working from home can positively impact your mindset and productivity. It helps to create a distinction between work and leisure time and sets a tone of professionalism. Opt for comfortable yet presentable outfits that make you feel confident and ready to tackle the workday.

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Create a dedicated working space

Creating a dedicated working space is crucial when working from home. Here are some tips to help you set up an effective workspace:

Choose the Right Location

Start by selecting an appropriate area in your home to set up your office. If you have a spare room, that's ideal as it provides privacy and a sound barrier from the rest of the household. However, if you don't have that option, consider setting up your workstation in a dining room or kitchen, where lighting is usually good and there's ample counter space. Alternatively, you could choose a spot in your bedroom or living room. Ensure that your chosen location allows for privacy during work calls, provides access to natural light, and isn't in the middle of other people's activities.

Get a Good Work Surface

Invest in a sturdy and affordable fold-out desk or, if space is limited, opt for a lap desk. Having a dedicated work surface helps you establish a clear boundary between work and personal life.

Upgrade Your Chair

If you're going to be sitting for long periods, make sure you have a comfortable and supportive chair. An ergonomic chair is ideal, but if that's not an option, you can create a more comfortable seating arrangement with blankets and pillows.

Organise Your Workstation

Keep your desk clean and organised. At the end of each workday, declutter your workspace so that you start the next day with a fresh slate. Ensure your screen real estate is also organised by arranging your monitors relative to the size and layout of your desk.

Create an Inviting Environment

Add personal touches to your workspace to make it a place you want to be. Include items such as plants, paintings, adjustable lighting, and family photos. These additions can boost your productivity and create a positive work environment.

Reduce Aches and Pains

Sitting for long periods can take a toll on your body. Consider investing in a standing desk or, if that's not an option, be sure to take regular breaks to move around and stretch.

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Stay in touch with your coworkers

Working from home can be challenging, and it's important to stay connected with your colleagues to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here are some tips to stay in touch with your coworkers while working remotely:

Embrace Virtual Coffee Breaks:

Instead of relying solely on emails and chat messages, schedule virtual coffee breaks with your colleagues. These can be informal catch-up sessions over video or phone calls. Let your team know that you'll be online at a specific time for your coffee break and invite them to join. This helps to recreate the social aspect of office life and provides an opportunity for casual conversations and mentorship.

Encourage Group Chats and Virtual Lunches:

Set up virtual groups or channels based on common interests such as cooking, crafts, or books. This allows coworkers who don't work in the same department to connect and bond over shared interests. You can also encourage virtual lunches, where colleagues can eat together and socialize, similar to in-person office settings.

Organise Company Challenges and Contests:

Initiate company-wide challenges or friendly competitions to boost morale and engagement. These can include diet or exercise challenges, Lego building, or even an ugly sweater contest. Such activities encourage teamwork and provide an avenue for employees to connect and interact on a more casual level.

Make Video Mandatory:

While it may be tempting to default to conference calls or text-based communication, making video mandatory for team interactions ensures that non-verbal cues and friendly facial expressions are not lost. Video chats help replicate the in-person office experience and foster a sense of connection and spontaneity among colleagues.

Reimagine Commute Time:

Schedule virtual "coffee" or "quarantini" sessions with different team members during what would have been your commute time. This allows for social interaction, mentorship, and the exchange of diverse perspectives. It also helps recapture some of the spontaneous conversations that are often lost in remote working environments.

Share a Collaborative Space:

Utilise a collaborative workspace platform, such as Samepage, to stay connected with your team. Such platforms offer features like unlimited video calling, chat messaging, and document sharing, making it easier to stay in touch and seek instant feedback from coworkers.

By implementing these strategies, you can maintain meaningful relationships with your colleagues and mitigate the feelings of isolation that can sometimes accompany remote work.

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Plan and take breaks

Breaks are an essential part of the working day, and they are just as important when working from home. Taking regular breaks helps to avoid burnout, improves productivity, and boosts job satisfaction.

How to Plan Breaks

When working from home, it can be hard to figure out what a break looks like. It is important to schedule breaks into your day and stick to them. You can use apps to help you do this, or set reminders on your calendar. Try to take your break away from your work area, and plan in advance where you will go and what you will do.

How Often to Take Breaks

There are various theories about the optimal timing of breaks. Some sources suggest taking a break every 30–90 minutes, whereas others recommend a five-minute break every 25 minutes, followed by a longer 30-minute break after three hours. You may need to experiment to find the right schedule for you.

What to Do During Breaks

During your break, it is important to do something completely different from your work. If you have been sitting at a computer, get up and move around. If you are working in a noisy environment, find somewhere quiet to be alone with your thoughts.

Breaks should be an enjoyable time that brings happiness and positive vibes. This will help to counteract negative emotions like stress and anxiety. Some ideas for your breaks include:

  • Meditating
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Socialising with friends or colleagues
  • Daydreaming
  • Laughing—for example, by watching a funny video
  • Updating your resume
  • Stretching
  • Eating a healthy snack
  • Drinking water

Frequently asked questions

Set a schedule and stick to it. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps remote workers maintain a work-life balance. It is also important to create a morning routine that guides you into the "work zone".

Create a dedicated working space. Reserve part of your home for work and keep it separate from your personal space. Get dressed as if you were going to the office; this will help you keep your work routine and separate your work and free time.

Stay in touch with your coworkers by maintaining regular contact through video conferences, instant messaging and videoconferencing tools. It is also important to socialise with colleagues and reach out to them even if you don't have a work-related reason to.

It is important to take breaks and get some fresh air and natural light. You can also try meditating, connecting with friends and family, and writing down your goals.

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