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Mark Shilcock Mark Shilcock, OurGateshead Officer

As we learn more about coronavirus and the possible steps we may need to take to control the spread, it appears that more of us may need to work from home in the near future.

The majority of my work (developing Gateshead’s community website www.OurGateshead.org) is online so I have been able to work from home 2 days a week for the past 3 years. Whilst working from home has major advantages, including zero time spent commuting, it also comes with a few challenges. These include the need to be organised and self-motivated. Loneliness or at least a feeling of being ‘out of the team’ was also a challenge that I needed to take positive action to overcome.

It took some experimentation for me to find the most productive way to work from home. I hope these tips will help you quickly get into a new working pattern so that you get most out of working from home.

1. Set a work space

This helps get into the work mind set. I use the dining table, but spend 5 mins before I start to clear it of ‘house stuff’, set up my laptop / monitor and scribble pad. Clearing the work space, putting the laptop / monitor away, helps to emphasise that this is home time.

2. Remove distractions

What every you are prone to – social media / daytime tv / radio - remove them from temptation. Switch of your personal phone notifications (as you would for working in the office or at meetings).

3. Keep in contact with your colleagues

Take time to chat. It is very easy to feel disconnected from your team, when there is no personal interaction. I miss my work mates when working from home, especially when it is a couple of days in a row or interspersed with days at meetings or training.

  • As well as work emails and phone calls, take time to talk, just as we do in the office e.g. “How was your weekend?” “What are you up to today?”
  • Use instant messaging / texting to keep in contact your colleagues. (Thanks Jack, a smiley icon from Jack has seen me through several long afternoons, trying to sort out an issue.)
  • Ask for input / advice from your team as much as you would if they were sitting near you.
  • Pick up the phone every now and then, instead of writing that email, have a real conversation.

4. To do lists are a must

This really help me to get the most out of working from home. Set your tasks for the day (even better plan ahead as you finish the day before).

5. Do the difficult things when you are most productive

This is definitely one of the benefits of home working. For me first thing is good for creative thinking/writing and problem solving (it’s 8.30am now). The afternoon is best for routine tasks and ‘mulling over’ an issue. Working from home allows you to really exploit your most productive times.

6. Music / radio may be a distraction or a way to change the atmosphere of your work space

Be truthful, does it help you work? For me – it depends, it helps me through the routine tasks, but distracts in the morning.

7. Take breaks – move around

Sitting at the dining table (or wherever you work) all day is not good. Make a nice cuppa, walk around, have a stretch. This is good for your physical health but also engages your mind. It can be a great way to help solve that difficult problem.

8. Set your work time

Know your start and end time. Start on time, and switch off when you have finished. It’s too easy to merge home and work when you don’t ‘go out’ to work.

9. Don’t snack all day

The Kitchen is out of bounds during work hours! Don’t have chocolate in the house!

10. Lists

Do not waste time finding the 10th item to add to a list. It may be aesthetically pleasing, but it does not add to the point that is being made: Working from home can be productive, enjoyable and allow you to work without distractions, but it requires a bit of planning and self-management.