Working from home productively

Well, it looks like concern about spreading and catching the COVID-19 coronavirus has led to a few companies encouraging staff to work from home, and I’m sure there are many people making excuses to do so on an individual basis. As someone who’s spent most of the past 30 years commuting no further than a flight of stairs from the bedroom, I thought I’d add my own experience to the many articles now advising on the best way to Be Productive At Home. It’s one thing I do know about.

One of the advantages of working in an office is the ease of talking (productively) to colleagues without scheduling a meeting to do so. In a small business where many of the staff work in an open plan environment, this happens constantly, and much more often than people imagine. So if a homeworking situation ever becomes enforced, it’s important to replicate that opportunity as much as possible. Continually telephoning colleagues clearly won’t work, so setting up an online instant messaging system is the way ahead here. We use Slack, but Google Hangouts Chat and Microsoft Teams are big name alternatives. This allows you to pop a question or comment to one or more colleagues without the interruption of a phone call.

That said, do schedule frequent catch-up audio or video calls with colleagues too. If you’re used to working in an office, it’ll restore a degree of sociability to the situation. You can make these calls easily and for free using the messaging apps above.

Next, don’t take articles about ‘working from home productively’ to heart. Everyone likes to work in different ways, and we should all do what’s comfortable. I work best when I’m happy, and if it made me happy to spend all day in bed wearing pyjamas, with a laptop, I would do so without any shame. You’ll find articles strongly recommending wearing whatever’s most comfortable, and others suggesting that you’ll never act or sound serious, even working from home, if you’re not wearing formal office wear. Ignore them all. It’s up to you.

The same applies to taking breaks, going for a walk at lunchtime, or locking yourself in the spare room. Do what works for you. Just don’t waste any more time reading “100 working from home tips” articles written by bored freelance journalists.