How to nail working from home, by Tide members

If you normally work from home…

For you, being confined at home during the coronavirus outbreak might not feel too unusual. This article is not for you. But since you already have experience working at home, please share your tips to help other small businesses: Facebook and Twitter

If you’re new to working from home…

If you’re a contractor, freelancer or business owner who can work from home but don’t usually, you might find you need an adjustment period. Rather than assuming you can work as normal, it helps to accept that ‘day one’ will be less than perfect (and maybe days two to five too…).  

Nearly 43% of you told us that ‘new working-from-home practices’ was the biggest change your business has had to make since the start of the coronavirus outbreak:

We asked our community of founders, business owners and freelancers to share their best tips for working at home – we’ve collected the best suggestions below, with a few from us at Tide HQ.

If you’re caring for children at home too, working from home becomes more complex. If you need some words of support, read Tide member Harvir Sangha’s post on working from home with children.

Monitor your productivity (not just your team’s) 
Be a creature of habit 
Communicate – but don’t over-communicate 
Change your scenery – even if you don’t have much space
Use technology to make work more comfortable
Mimic elements of ‘normal’ work life
Know your limits

Monitor your productivity (not just your team’s) 

For many people, filtering out distractions so you can focus on work is the biggest challenge of working at home. And if you work with others, it’s easy to feel out of touch, and control, when you’re missing out on face-to-face time with your team. 

If you need some inspiration for how to notch up your productivity or find you’re focusing too much on your co-workers’ output instead of your own, here are some suggestions from our members:

  • I love the ‘Pomodoro Technique’. Google it – it’s essentially a timer you use on your desktop where you work in 20 minute intervals with zero distractions (phone off, just deep work) then you have a five-minute break. Rinse and repeat
    laurafullerton via
  • I use to track my time and monitor at the end of the day how much time I spend working on different tasks. Every Sunday I review my week and see if it was a productive week or not.
    alexnovicov via
  • Block out time in your diary for work other than calls so people who can see your diary can see you’re ‘not available’. Then stick to it.
    Victoria, IT project manager, via WhatsApp
  • Slightly tricky to keep 100% productive when you work from home, but not impossible. Sometimes there are kids around you, and occasionally other factors will interfere with your work. But the most critical factors: create your own space, have work intervals and alternate them with a short break. Example: 2-3 hours work-15 minutes break.
    orwellhr via

Be a creature of habit 

We polled the Twitterverse and nearly 44% of you recommended a ‘structured routine’ as the best way to improve remote working:

  • Set your alarm to wake up at the same time as normal and get up! Don’t stay in bed, it will ruin your day. via instagram
  • Dog walk, yoga, work. Eat. Repeat 💪
    Sophie, Business Analyst, via WhatsApp
  • Move every hour, set a step target, use water breaks to get working. via instagram
  • Blocking time to do things – so I would block 2 hours for calls with clients or 2 hours to write a blog post, 2 hours to do a podcast. In those hours I don’t do anything else except the task.
    alexnovicov via

And this from Jodie, who added some bonus tips for quarantine working-from-home with kids…

  • Get up like a normal day, get dressed like it’s casual Friday, start work at 9, take the odd break. Family dog walk at midday, more work in the afternoon. Relax the kids’ screentime arrangements. Agree what schoolwork needs to be done while they’re having breakfast – include chores. Oh and give your kids each a roll of loo roll of their own. To own. When they run out, threaten them with using newspaper.
    Jodie, writer, receptionist and mother of 3, via WhatsApp 

Communicate – but don’t over-communicate 

Our members agreed that it can be helpful to establish some rules or a ‘code of conduct’ for working from home. For example, you can programme in regular team catch-ups and 1:1s with your key staff over video chat. There’s no ideal frequency for these meetings, it depends on your business.. 

  • Keep up all channels of discussions with [your team] open. Be in touch often with them and encourage them to speak up about their problems. Ask questions not only about job tasks, 5 mins Q&A as a coach session. Don’t be too bossy… be human and have compassion and empathy.
    owrwellhr via
  • Don’t make assumptions about what your team knows or what they understand. Ask questions. Give clarification. If there’s a chance for a misunderstanding in person, that chance is multiplied when working from home.
    Ester Sánchez del Río, Talent Administrator @Tide

Change your scenery – even if you don’t have much space 

Many of you suggested changing your workspace from morning to afternoon to re-energise your working day. For example, starting off in your spare room/living room and finishing up in the kitchen. If you don’t have a several rooms to choose from, you can still mix up your surroundings: 

  • I’m a minimalist so by removing stuff around me helps me keep focused as I hate seeing a lot of things, it’s distracting. I would change the location of my table in the room – remove everything from the table and have just my laptop.
    alexnovicov via
  • Not sure why [moving to work in a different place] works, but it’s like pressing a reset button. Don’t work from your bedroom… keep it purely for sleep.
    laurafullerton via

Business Analyst Sophie agreed about not working in your bedroom and specifically not in bed. She is fortunate to have different places to work:

  • Definitely don’t work in bed. I’ve set a space in the spare room so I’ve got 3 locations depending on what I’m doing (multi screen work on the tv downstairs – I don’t have a monitor! Furious typing and Visio at the dining table. Creative thinking and planning in the spare room which overlooks the marshes). Bit of variety which is lucky.
    Sophie, Business Analyst, via WhatsApp

Besides avoiding your bed, writer Holly has another household furniture item she recommends we avoid:

  • Work in different places but don’t work in your bedroom (if you can avoid it), or near a fridge. Open a window if it’s a nice day. I can feel the breeze and hear life outside and it’s keeping me sane!
    Holly, freelance writer, via WhatsApp

Taking ‘change of scenery’ more literally, contractor Glenn shared this tip:

  • I always work from the same room (so my kids know I’m ‘at work’) but every day I’ve been changing the picture that hangs on the wall behind me. Co-workers and clients I talk to online see something other than just me and it’s a great conversation starter.
    Glenn, gaming projects contractor, via WhatsApp

Use technology to make work more comfortable

Despite many of us claiming we couldn’t live without our phones and the internet, we can still crave time away from digital devices. Obviously, technology is enabling us more of us than ever to work from home but it can also make your temporary working-from-home life easier and/or more comfortable: 

  • Bluetooth headphones! I walk around when I’m on Skype calls. My company usually just does voice calls rather than video, so this works fine and it means I’m not just sat stationary at my desk all day.
    Peter, IT change manager, via WhatsApp
  • Get an ergonomic mouse. Best 15 quid I ever spent on tech. I was using a tiny ‘travel’ mouse but developed wrist pain so I bought this Anker one which is upright instead of flat. Changed. My. Life. (Or at least my wrists and hands.) And hey, online stores are still delivering…
    Mary, copywriter, via WhatsApp
  • This situation shows that opening an account with Tide was seriously smart. Everything’s online and if we need help, we just ask in the app. My co-worker has her own Tide card too so she doesn’t have to waste time claiming back expenses.
    Veronika, costume-maker, via WhatsApp
  • If you’re self-employed, you can claim some expenses for working from home such as for some of your tech kit and a proportion of phone bill, broadband, heating and so on. Take advantage of whatever help and tax breaks you can get!
    Dave, NHS consultant, via WhatsApp

Mimic elements of ‘normal’ work life 

This includes catching with colleagues at the coffee machine or over lunch, after-work drinks, and over-the-counter conversations with customers. These small but important parts of work life are both a short break and build relationships. And there are ways to bring these into your ‘working from home’ world:

  • Schedule a ‘virtual coffee’ with a contact, ex-colleague or mentor. Just because we’re in lockdown doesn’t mean we can’t catch up with people and often they have insights we can use.
    Katy, Marketing consultant, via WhatsApp
  • This afternoon, we’re doing  ‘digital drinks’. After we’ve completed our work catch-up meeting, we’ll switch into ‘social mode’ and relax with a (non-compulsory) beer or vino. To help things go smoothly and prevent everyone talking at the same time, we’ve nominated a chairperson and topics (best book to read in quarantine, best w@h lunch etc).
    Sarah, promotions manager, via WhatsApp
  • Regular social interaction is an important part of working life that will be disrupted by extended periods of WFH. We should take measures to encourage both company-wide and small-scale discussions, such as:
    – Create #isolation Slack channel or Whatsapp group, and encourage people to post
    – Hold small quizzes and competitions: “Who has the best WFH setup” etc.
    – Share playlists
    – Ask your most social co-workers to think up ways to translate a social event so it works online- for example,  “pub quizzes”, pizza lunch etc 
    – Host a weekly quiz or raffle – with prizes!
    Ester Sánchez del Río, Talent Administrator @Tide

Know your limits

Some members are finding ways not to be lulled into working longer hours – which can be all to easy when you’re not physically going to and coming back from a place of work…

  • Stop working. If you get everything done, don’t work eight hours for the sake of it. Turn your emails off (or pause them using Boomerang for gmail) and enjoy the rest of your day.
    laurafullerton via
  • I’m logging on and off at normal time, and getting away from laptop for lunch – encouraging my team to do the same. Flexible working times suits some people but it can easily bleed into normal life if you don’t have boundaries around it, so I close work apps and switch notifications off after 5:30pm
    Jess, IT solutions leader, via WhatsApp

And finally, one Tide member’s reply was a reminder to keep things simple: 

Have your say

How is the coronavirus affecting you and your small business? We’re keen to hear from you – get in touch with us on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

Suzanne Worthington

Suzanne Worthington

Senior Writer

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