5 Top Tips For Working From Home During A Crisis

I think it’s true to say that everyone’s world was shaken by the events around COVID-19 and suddenly having to work from home. Even those of us who work virtually from home anyway had to deal with big changes in routine, homeschooling our children and not really knowing what was happening from one day to the next.

I’d like to share with you my top tips for working from home and things you can do to be more productive during a crisis.

1. Deal with stressful issues first

You’re simply not going to be able to work if you don’t know how to go about homeschooling your children or how you will get your next load of shopping if you can’t leave home and delivery slots are like gold dust.

Write a list of everything that’s an issue for you and brainstorm how you’re going to solve them. Check out online/school resources, see if there are any local community groups assisting with groceries/home deliveries, and make those phone calls to sort out benefits and bills if appropriate.

Even if you just tackle one of these issues a day, you’ll feel better having a plan in place or knowing where to turn to for support, which should put you in a more productive frame of mind for work.

2. Create your own workspace

Working from the dining room table is not ideal, although I know it’s the only option for many of us. If there is a garden shed or spare bedroom, you can convert into a temporary office, it’s a good idea to do so. Alternatively, try rearranging furniture to block off a space to call your own and deter your family members from venturing too close during “work time”.

Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can help with blocking out background noise, but it might be worth trying some background music to help you work. Many people have reported that the sound of “coffee house chatter” helps them to work, while others prefer mood music like rain or storms to create some ambient sound.

3. Block out your time

This is a stressful time, and it’s not going to be possible to spend your regular 9-5 day working from home. The main difference you’ll find with home-based working is the amount of distractions there are! From the postman to the neighbourhood dog’s hourly bark, not to mention all the household chores you’ve been putting off; it is difficult not to be distracted.

Block out chunks of time that you dedicate to working to manage your time more effectively. Two-hour blocks with a decent-sized break in between is a good way of finding the right balance between home and work life. If you are having to take care of your children during this time, moving your key working hours to before and after bed might be a solution (though I admit, it’s not ideal).

I highly recommend the Pomodoro technique for bursts of productive working that can help you blitz through key tasks and keep things moving. Even 25 minutes of work a few times a day can be enough to get you started and help you feel more productive.

Plan things together as a family if you’re not at home alone.

Each Sunday I’m sitting down with my family to work out a timetable for the week ahead. Any client meetings and deadlines go on there along with any activities for the children. This gives my family an at a glance look of when I’m busy and need to be working. Each morning we have a quick family meeting to discuss how we share the broadband capacity (4 of us connecting at once doesn’t make working from home easy!) but also a daily walk, to talk things through and spend some valuable time together.

4. Don’t work outside of your designated working time

This can be difficult to achieve if you’re continually being interrupted during the day, but you need time to unwind and destress after your day wherever possible. It can also be tempting to pick up a “quick task” that keeps you awake far past your bedtime and leaves you feeling exhausted and even more tired the following day.

Set a reasonable time of day (based on your circumstances) of when your workday ends, switch off your devices and enjoy your home time. Try sticking to your usual home-based routine as much as you can to help your mind differentiate between being at work and being at home. Make sure you fit in some fun activities, even if it’s catching up on Netflix or reading a few chapters of a book each day.

5. Be gentle with yourself

This is an incredibly difficult and stressful time and chances are, you will not be as productive as you’d like to be. That’s ok! Prioritise your key tasks and focus on those until you feel able to pick up the less important items on your to-do list.

Everyone is in the same boat here, so do get in touch with your clients and explain that you’ll be working differently to suit your home circumstances. You don’t need to be too specific but it’s a good idea to highlight that you might not be able to answer calls straight away, that emails are your preferred means of communication at present and that you’ll be in touch with a reply as soon as you can. Do stick to any boundaries you set!

Remember that it is possible to get into a work routine at home, despite many of the distractions that are going on right now. Structure, planning and mutual understanding are my takeaway tips for making it easier to work from home for you.