With the Olympics now looming, Londoners will hopefully have their continuity plans already in place to deal with the increased commuter traffic. For many people, that will mean working at home – which always sounds great, but can be tricky for those more used to an office. So, how to make the best of working from home if you’re unaccustomed to it? Follow these tips:
Do a trial run: if your office has remote log in, try it before ‘D-Day’ – you don’t want to find out at crunch time that your broadband can’t cope, or your system is incompatible (this can be a problem especially if you have a Mac at home, and your office is Windows-based – check with your IT department now to see if there are compatibility issues). Your IT team will no doubt be run off their feet on the first day of the Olympics: identify your issues now and you can get them dealt with ahead of time.
Remind people that homeworking is still work: it can be tempting for your family or partner to assume that if you’re working from home, you are suddenly available to do all of those chores that they don’t have time to do at the weekend. Remind them firmly that working from home does not mean ‘running to the bank/dry cleaners/supermarket/ looking after the kids’.
Do be flexible: conversely, if your job is more about what you get done than when you do it – ie, there is no expectation to be constantly available in office hours – then it may be easier for you to work in the morning and evening and set aside some time in the afternoon for domestic duties.
Take a break: if you’re not used to homeworking it can feel, no matter how much you are working, like you are somehow getting away with skiving, and to imagine that, if you don’t answer emails the minute you get them, your boss will assume you are sitting in the garden with a G&T. But you can’t stare at a screen all day any more than you can in an office: take regular screen breaks, allow yourself a cup of coffee or a proper break for lunch – you’ll be more productive for it!
Set boundaries: anyone who regularly works from home will tell you that one of the most difficult things to do is to keep the boundaries between work and home life separate. It’s easy when you’re busy to simply think, ‘well, I’ve started so I might as well keep going’ – and find yourself working till 10pm! That’s fine occasionally, but a recipe for burn out and frustration in the long-term. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time based at home over the Olympics, you need to be strict with yourself: set a reasonable time to switch off the laptop and stick to it.
Stay off Facebook/Twitter: even if you usually update your status throughout the day, it’s wise to use caution in doing so when you’re working at home. You may know you’ve been flat out all day, but if you’re posting photos of your garden or joking that you’ve got lots of washing done, it looks unprofessional, and can breed resentment amongst colleagues who are still stuck in the office.