Six top tips for working from home

Since getting my job at the Open University I have been working from home much more frequently. The reason for this is my office is 200+ miles away in Milton Keynes.  This has required me to adopt a whole new work ethic and way of getting motivated to do all the tasks required of me. While many of my friends who go into work everyday jest that I am just being lazy and getting a day off, in fact I am working very hard; working very hard at trying to stay motivated while also accepting that is OK to have breaks and to reward myself, just as I do when I am at the office. Several of these tips may seem obvious but it is amazing what a difference working in the home environment makes to work psychology and ethics. Here are my top tips:

1) Establish a routine

My husband has a regular 9-5 job which I find really helps me get into a routine. I get up when he gets up, start work just after 8.30 when he leaves, give myself a half an hour lunch and try to stop when he comes home. I often start making tea by way of having a break from academic related activities. By following this routine, I ensure I get the work done I needs to, but also follow similar patterns of work I would in the office.

2) Get ready in the morning as if you are going out to work

Another part of my routine for working at home is ensuring I get ready as if I were going out to work. A couple of times I haven’t washed my hair, put on my make-up or worn work clothes. I have sat on the sofa, unkempt and in my casuals knowing no one would see me and that it didn’t matter. To me however it does matter and feeling ‘ready’ for work, even if it is at home, means I feel more productive and more inclined to enter ‘work mode’ and avoid distractions.

3) Find a space where you can enter ‘work mode’

This may sound daft but I have a ‘work mode’; a space in my brain that I become aware of when I am fully immersed in what I am doing and thinking about. I used to find it easy to enter this mode when working in an office but it is so much harder at home. I have got a specific office space in my home now, shut off from the rest of the hose that I now sit in during my main work hours an di find that this really helps me get back in to that space. In this environment I have my books, a comfortable workspace and few distractions.

4) Reduce distractions: television, telephone and cats

For some reason, whenever I am at home, it feels only natural that the television should be on. I have spent some time experimenting with working in front of the TV and working in a separate room where there is no TV. I have definitely found that leaving it off and being away from it, while a challenge to my existing patterns and routines of home life, limits the distraction and makes me more productive. Similarly it acts as a reward when at 5 o’clock when I have worked my 7ish hours, I can go through to another room and get my fix. Another thing I have found useful is to unplug the home phone. My mum tends to think that because I am home she can speak to me during the day. She now only rings on occasional lunchtimes, as far as I know 😉 I have also had to start shutting the cats out of my work space. They love nothing more than warming up on my laptop or demanding I let them in and out of the house 4 or 5 times a day. I now just shut them out of my work room ad they are getting used to being ignored during the day again as if they were alone.

5) Have breaks

It is easy to think that when you get up for a cup of tea or have a quick walk, that you should really be working. Something I don’t think about twice in the office, is a source of guilt for the home worker. My tip is get over it. You deserve a break and as long as the work is getting done, there is no reason to punish yourself just because you are home.

6) Make the most of the train

While not strictly about working from home, I have found that some tasks are better done on the longer journey (three hours in my case) to and from my office in Milton Keynes. Before I leave I make sure I have all of the resources I think I will need, mainly from the Internet, because I refuse to buy it on the train. Having nowhere else to go, nothing to do and not being at home make the train an ideal space for thinking and being productive.

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3 thoughts on “Six top tips for working from home

  1. This is really great advice. I don’t bother about dressing up, and daytime TV has never been a temptation (I shudder over the memory of being off sick five years ago). My seventh rule is to be very robust with friends who make sarky comments – if you’re working for the OU, you’ll soon be judged by your own colleagues, let alone your HoD, if you fail to deliver, wherever you happen to be. My eighth rule is to play some music, not least because it forces me to stand up and move about when the CD ends. Which brings in my ninth rule – make sure you get out of the house at least once a day. I guess my tenth rule should be to avoid such distractions as reading and posting comments on Anna Tarrant’s blog.

    • Thanks for the comments! I’m glad I can provide a distraction 😉 I agree with you on delivering work. If colleagues start making these comments I’ll know I need to adhere to my own tips!!

  2. To add from the late Dr. Stephen Covey’s content; I spend a few minutes the night before, prioritizing the goals for the next day. Get the tough ones out of the way first thing. We’ve been working from home for four years now, and love it!

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