Five top tips to working from home

The past couple of months have seen drastic changes for businesses all over the world. As Coronavirus starts to appear in new countries more and more businesses are being forced to keep people at home to help mitigate the spread.

People who have never worked from home before are having to find a comfortable spot in their kitchens or living rooms on stools and upturned laundry baskets. You may find yourself uncomfortably hunched over a laptop and notepad, trying to crack on with your projects, plans and proposals until you can return to your office.

For some of us, working from home is nothing new. Many developers, including the team at Hiring Hub, have the luxury of working from home as and when they need. We’ve been through the rigmarole of setting up a comfortable working space, swapping hard stools and disheveled laundry baskets for sturdy chairs and a simple desk.

As frustrating as the change may be, you can make it work. You just need the right tools. Here are a few things that I find essential to enable me to work from home successfully:

Get ready for work like you would on a normal day

Get up early enough to have a shower, to relax while eating breakfast, and get changed out of those pyjamas! I’m fortunate to have a country park on the other side of my garden so I use the extra time in the mornings to go for a longer walk with my dogs before I start work.

Sleeping in until the last minute before you need to start will only serve to stress you out. It’ll leave you feeling groggy and unprepared for the day ahead.

Take regular breaks

I try and remind myself to stand up and stretch or just walk to the kitchen to refill my drink. It’s important to keep the blood flowing and to let your mind relax.

A trigger for me is when I’ve been stuck on a problem for a while; I’ll get up and walk away to clear my mind, saunter about the house for a bit. More often than not I’ll have solved the problem when I sit back down.

Eat a proper lunch

You never really realise how much you rely on easy access to lunches when you’re stuck at home looking in the fridge at a mix of celery, mustard, and day-old beans.

Get out to the grocers (while you can) and stock up on some lunch essentials. No one works productively on an empty stomach.

Have a separate workspace

This is extremely important. Many of us will have other people in the house during the day, whether it’s your partner, roommates, or children. It is essential that you are able to find a quiet place where you can work undisturbed and undistracted.

When you’ve found your space make sure it’s clear of clutter; get rid of the stacks of mail, piles of dog leads, coats, plates and sundry from that kitchen table and keep the bare essentials for working effectively. No one likes working in a mess at the office so you shouldn’t force yourself to do it at home.

Keep in touch with your colleagues

Hopefully you’re all using some tool to communicate with your teammates. It’s important that we are extra communicative while we work from home. A great tool that the Hiring Hub team use is Slack, with a very similar set-up to Whatsapp, it lets you instantly message colleagues, create different group chats and video chat. Having regular updates with your team helps to keep you on track.

As a developer

There isn’t much else to add for developers apart from one really useful tool; screen sharing. It can be difficult to convey our problems over messages and calls as they can be hard to visualise. Every developer should make use of Slack, Zoom, Google Hangout (or whatever else you might be using to chat with colleagues) to screen share when you’re stuck on a problem. When you’re working from home it’s too easy to keep your head down and forget that help is a click away.

It’s also worth pointing out that pair-programming doesn’t have to stop just because you’re working remotely. If you’re not pair-programming, maybe now is the time to consider it? What better way to continue to feel connected with your colleagues and beat the loneliness of isolation by working together to solve problems.

In summary

Working from home can feel lonely at times without the hustle and bustle of the office in the background. Even if you’re not a developer, I still recommend chatting over video/voice rather than sending messages so that you continue to feel connected and energised while working.

Many of us are uncertain as to when we’ll be back in the office. It’s important that we’re prepared to work from home for an extended period of time so ensure your setup is sustainable.

Cramming yourself into the cupboard under the stairs might be fun for the first few days but soon enough you’ll be pining for a letter from Hogwarts to set you free.

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Originally published 27th March 2020