Homeworking, working from home, teleworking (does anyone say that now? No), WFH…whatever you call it, it’s on the increase thanks mainly to improvements in communication and work technology, and for some people it’s more of a necessity because of their location or home circumstances.
Personally, I work from home 2 days a week so that I can do the school run twice a week and I’ve had periods of my working life where I’ve been full time working from home and also part-time homeworking, so I kind of know the territory both with kids in my life and without kids.
Today’s podcast is about how you can make homeworking work for you, whatever your individual work preferences and style may be.
My name’s Dr Paul Brewerton, the strength guy, trust me, I’m a psychologist. I podcast each Monday in time for you to catch me as a Monday morning motivational energy boost before you start your week. My podcasts relate to life and work through a strength lens and this week’s podcast focuses on just that, so let’s waste no further time.
Here’s the science bit: in a recent review (well five years ago anyway), researchers found that, overall, working from home several days a week actually INCREASED workers’ job satisfaction, work performance and commitment to their employer. And people who worked from home also reported less stress. Reported downsides were feelings of social and professional isolation, fewer opportunities for sharing information and blurred lines between work and personal life (Allen, T.D., et al., Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2015).
So here’s my top tips, based on all the study and the science, to get the most from homeworking, whether you choose to do it or whether it’s out of circumstance – maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides. I have 7 of them, here they come:
Whether you choose to homework or you have to homework, focus on the benefits to you to get your mind right to get the most from it. Those benefits could be less commuting time, quieter environment, more opportunity for quick breathing or meditation exercise, more relaxed dress code, better home/work balance, easier to look after your life admin.
So first up, acknowledge the benefits for you and keep acknowledging them.
2. Personalise and ritualise
Whatever kind of person you are, make working from home you-shaped. If you’re more of a morning person, make sure you max that time of day to get the most benefit, if you’re more of a night owl, organise things so that evenings are your productive time.
If you’re more extroverted, make sure you bake in enough connection time with others during your working day; if you’re more introverted, enjoy the social distancing but still boundary work so that it doesn’t interfere too much with the rest of your life.
Think about work clothes – you could opt for more relaxed (dressing gown anyone?) but that depends on what’s going to work best for you (some people prefer to wear exactly what they would wear in the office), and also to how much video contact you’re going to have, it also relates to boundarying which I’ll talk more about in a moment.
Last point, play to your strengths – if you’re relational put in enough connection time to your day; if you have a thinking preference, use the time alone at home for quality thinking and problem-solving; if you’re more execution-focused, get your to do list together at the start of the day and smash through it by the end.
So make it work for you and your preferences and keep the rituals that allow you to bring the best you to your home working environment.
Boundaries here has multiple meanings – so first up, have a dedicated room or space for working that you can shut off or walk away from at the end of the day and get breaks from and make sure that you boundary your working day in a way that works for you so it doesn’t bleed into the whole of the rest of your life.
Be real as well, having small kids at home while you work isn’t great boundarying, but if you have to, shut the door, and use a sign or symbol that you can’t be interrupted if you have other people around, particularly little people, who might see your presence at home as an open invitation for fun (or cuddles).
Good scheduling depends in part on your preferences (for example morning or evening for different kinds of work) but for most people, sprinting and taking frequent breaks is a good approach, particularly the frequent breaks part, because we know that we need to move around regularly to stay at our most productive, giving our bodies and minds a rest from being seated and staring at a screen.
Also, at home, with no one walking past your desk like there might be in an office, many people need greater discipline around social media and internet browsing time, so if that resonates for you, perhaps give yourself times during the day (actual break times, lunch time, evening, whatever works) when you do allow yourself a browse or social media catch-up break – possibly even as a treat or way of relaxing.
One of the downsides of homeworking for many, if not most, people, and this was picked up in the research review I mentioned earlier, is a feeling of being disconnected, isolated from work, particularly if homeworking 5 days a week every week. Thanks to technology, this can be made better by using video technology for meetings, which as we know is now becoming more and more the norm.
Again though, it’s important to stay connected the best way for you – for some people, that may be little and often, for others it may be all the time, almost as a continuous drip feed of people connection and, for some, it could be that no contact for hours or even days on end is actually absolutely fine, maybe even preferable.
So try out what you feel is the best approach for you and turn it into your ritual.
If you can, pick the right content for homeworking rather than being in the office. For me, as a part-time homeworker, content creation, so basically, writing stuff, I know is best going to be done at home. When I’m in the office, I organise mainly face-to-face meetings, coz that’s where the people are.
When I’m at home, most of my time is going to be solo working, with the occasional local face-to-face meeting and some video and voice calls as well to keep myself feeling connected. I’m extroverted and have relational strengths, so I do need to feel connected, so I organise my schedule in the best way that works for me.
Do make sure that you take the opportunity when you are homeworking for good self-care: take proper breaks – in your garden if you’ve got one, going for a walk or connecting somehow with nature (even opening the window), basically doing something else that isn’t work; meditation/breathing if that’s your thing; exercising, with more flexibility on timing than maybe you’d get when office-based; eat and drink well too so that you stay fueled and hydrated with the good stuff.
So 7 tips for making homeworking work for you there: mindset, personalise and ritualise, boundaries, scheduling, connect, content and self-care. I hope that’s useful if you ever find yourself needing or wanting to homework for a period of time.
That’s all for today, I’m off out for a walk now, see you next time.
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