Suddenly working from home? Survival tips

Thanks to COVID-19, a lot of people are finding themselves, unexpectedly, having to work from home. And it’s a shock to the system.

I work for Automattic Inc., a fully remote company – that means we don’t have any offices, so each and every employee (over 1000 and counting) works from home, the coffee shop or wherever they want. In my case, I work from a small box-bedroom-cum-office at home. And I’ve been doing this for over 3 years.

In this article, I want to give advice to help those out who are now in this position – either now or may be in the near future.

Even if you’ve already start working from home, you can improve your current situation with these tips. However, if you’re not yet – but may soon be – then think about these now and, where you can, plan ahead.

What do I wear when I’m working from home?

You can sit in pyjamas all day, but I find changing into something a little less informal gets you into a better frame of mind. Sitting in a suit and tie is probably not necessary but something other than a scrappy t-shirt and joggers is probably wise.

This will also be dictated by any video calls you’ll be expected to make – although, most of the time you’ll only be seen from the waist up, so pulling on a smart top just for meeting isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Get yourself set-up

If all your work provide you with is a laptop, crouching over that on a coffee table for weeks is really not going to be wise. So, get yourself set up with something more comfortable – a comfy, supportive chair at a desk. A large monitor with seperate keyboard and mouse too.

Chances are that your work place won’t provide any of this so “make and do” where you can – do you have a desktop at home with a monitor? What do you need to do to connect it to your work laptop?

Find yourself a warm (but not too warm) room – it doesn’t have to big, but just somewhere you can separate yourself from everything else in the house.

Also, don’t forget the software – what hoops do you need to go through to remotely connect to work? Does it still work? How are you going to communicate – I would suggest have instant messaging and video call facilities available as a minimum (Slack and Zoom are recommendations – both of which you can use for free).

Get yourself out

Assuming you’re not self-isolating, make sure you get out. Social contact is still needed (although you don’t have to be within virus-catching distance to still get it), as well as just some exercise.

Every day, get outside and walk for, at least, 30 minutes. Put some headphones on and explore those nearby roads that you’ve never really been down before. Walk straight and with purpose. Say “hello” to passing dog walkers. You’ll feel better by the end of it, I promise.

Make your working day flexible

The reason why a lot of people think that home working doesn’t work is because people get tempted away… the knock at the door, the pile of ironing that needs doing… anything. Yet, it’s no different in an office. Most office workers, working 8 hour days, actual work less than 4 hours, thanks to breaks and general distractions.

Build distractions into your day, rather than deny them. Now you’re at home, can your business give you more flexibility on your times? Do you REALLY now need to work 9-5? In my case, I work 7-5, but spend up to 2 hours a day, well, being distracted. My house has never been tidier or so organised.

And getting up and doing something at regular intervals is good for you too. The difference here is that rather than discussing Love Island at the water cooler, you’re emptying the dishwasher instead (I never said working from home was more glamorous, okay!)

Set work/home boundaries

When you’re working from home it’s easy to allow them to merge together. Hence, why working in a seperate room, which you can shut the door to at the end of the day, is such a good idea.

Having a routine can also help here – maybe do something at the start and end of the day that help define when you start and stop work (maybe have that walk first thing – it signifies the start of the day and is like the commute that you’re, otherwise, not missing).

Oh, and those boundaries extend to family – they need to know that when you’re working, you need to be treated as if you’re not there. Unless they’re bringing you a hot drink, of course.

Are you a manager?

Whether you’re at home or not, if you’re managing people who are, you need to do so differently.

I happen to do a 30 minute talk on this very subject but, sadly, no video is yet available. However, below are links to my slideshow and script…


Need more help?

If COVID-19 has put you in this position and you’d like further advice about working from home, then please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter – I’m happy to ask any further questions that you may have.

Additional help

On Working Remotely: An Automattic Reader

Coronavirus and the Remote Work Experiment No One Asked For

🎙Masters of Scale Podcast: Remote Teams

Quick, work remote! A guide on how to set up your remote working strategy

Forced to work at home because of coronavirus? Here are our survival tips

Five Tips from Five Years of Remote Work

Good/bad things about remote working?

Surviving – and Thriving – as a Remote Worker

What are your top tips for working remotely?

Working remotely for extroverts

Talk to me!

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