Most freelancers know all about working from home. But for the vast majority of employees and business owners, office life is all they’ve ever known. That could all be about to change, with the UK government on the verge of advising those with ‘even minor’ symptoms to stay at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. The virus has already impacted gig economy workers, and now full-time office workers are likely to be forced to work remotely, many doing so for the first time. For those unsure how best to approach working from home, here’s everything you need to know.
Most freelancers learn this the hard way, but staying disciplined and focussed whilst working from home is a must. Rise early, shower, get dressed, eat, and start work. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in ‘just the one’ game of FIFA or episode on Netflix before you clock on.
Deep down, you know you aren’t mentally strong enough to resist the addicting pull of a day-long binge. You’ll be on the verge of a Champions League final with Southport FC when your fugue state is finally broken by your flatmates returning from work, shaking their heads in disgust.
Put the kettle on
During long, sedentary hours at home you’ll realise that office block central heating is usually set to ‘volcanic’ whilst your house is closer to ‘baltic’ during the day. Stock up on tea, coffee, and biscuits to beat the chill. Think of it this way: at least you don’t have to remember 6 different hot drink orders every time you stick the kettle on.
Find a desk
You can’t ‘work’ from your bed or the couch. You won’t be the first to try but, like all others who came before you, you will fail to get anything done. Set up your laptop in a well-lit room on a desk or table and elevate the screen to eye level with a stack of books.
If you don’t have enough books to build a stack, spend a few minutes thinking about what you’re doing with your life, before ordering some. Sit in a decent chair—no beanbags, please—and consider investing in a backrest if you’re going to be working from home for more than a few weeks.
Stick to the schedule
No-one’s keeping track of how many coffee breaks you’re taking and, in theory, you could take a 2-hour lunch. But that’s how it happens! Before you know it, you’ll be pissed on Schnapps at 4.30 pm when an urgent, last-minute brief comes in. Take a morning break, a proper, restorative lunch hour and clock off roughly when you normally would.
Checking your step counter after a day spent working from home ain’t pretty, especially if the only movement you make is to the fridge and back. When your desk is seconds from your bed, it’s important to stay active and get out at least once a day. Take regular screen breaks to stand, stretch, and do light exercise, and go for a walk around the park after lunch.
Keep in touch
Fire off a morning email to your manager to let them know what you’re working on and keep other team members in the loop with deadlines, client contact, and project developments as the day unfolds. Keeping communication flowing fosters a work-like mindset and can help stave off any feelings of isolation.
Ban social media
If you sat at your desk in the office scrolling mindlessly through cursed memes, you’d get bollocked within minutes. At home, you need to police yourself. If you lack all self-control, just use one of the many apps or browser extensions that limit or block access to social media during working hours (unless it’s necessary for work).
Wherever you are, it looks increasingly likely that the coronavirus outbreak will force you to work from home, with cases rising rapidly on both sides of the atlantic. If you’re a newbie to remote working, it can be difficult to adjust. But if you stick to our advice—and stay away from FIFA and Netflix—you can be prepared to make the transition. Bulk-buying hand sanitizer won’t get you through this, but learning how to work effectively from home probably will.
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