Six ways to work well from home

Working remotely presents all sorts of challenges, and can feel isolating, but there are lots of ways to work well from home. Find out how.
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Many of us across the network might find ourselves working from home for the first time, while for others it's just the same as any other week. 

We’ve compiled six tips for working well from home, including advice from Healthwatch England staff who are already used to working remotely.

1. Keep in touch with colleagues

  • Use apps – you can use apps to communicate informally, for example by using Teams or the chat function on Workplace. This can be good for those quick questions that you might have previously asked in the office.
  • Share calendars – adding more detail or blocking out time for specific pieces of work can give people an idea of what you’re doing. It also lets people know when you are working so you’re not disturbed out of hours.
  • Schedule time together – use video programs such as Skype or Teams to have everybody in the same place at the same time, just virtually.
  • Pick up the phone – having a conversation can be more stimulating and productive, and it will also help you feel more connected. 

Kate Johnson, Engagement Lead at Healthwatch England, has been a homeworker for four years. She says: 

It’s good to keep your routine - think about the time you’d usually be commuting, and use it for something positive, like reading. If you’re struggling to get motivated throughout the day, use something to help keep you focused. I find that putting a wash on and trying to complete a task within that time can help. Having a ritual at the end of the day is also important. Shut down your laptop and walk to a different room.

2. Keep moving

  • Take screen breaks - you are not expected to be online all the time between 9am – 5pm. Make sure you build in breaks away from your screen – especially lunch and tea or coffee breaks. Putting these in your calendar can help remind you to take time out.
  • Move more – try to stretch and move about each hour. Do small tasks like putting the washing out or walking the dog, or simply get out into some green space nearby. This can help us feel better both physically and mentally.

3. Dress for the occasion

  • Get dressed - Dressing in office attire can help you get into ‘work mode’. This not only improves your state of mind, it also helps to protect you from those unexpected video calls (in your pyjamas!).
  • Keep your normal morning routine - Getting up and dressed can help you maintain your normal routine, supporting your ability to focus.
  • Switch off - Getting changed at the end of the working day can also help you wind down once you log off.

4. Try to keep home and work life separate

  • Use separate equipment – where possible, use separate phones for work and personal calls. Diverting a work number to a personal phone can bring serious risks, e.g. a confidential voicemail being left on your personal phone.
  • Work flexibly – with schools closing for most children, and other caring responsibilities, you may have added complications. Try to think about how your working hours can fit better with your family.

Vinnie Jarman, Central Engagement Lead, has been a home worker for four years at Healthwatch England. She shares her tips for homeworking with young children: 

I have two-year-old twin girls who don’t understand when I’m working – mummy is on the phone and can’t talk right now. There are likely to be interruptions, but you can try to plan around them. I use the twins’ nap time for any important phone calls and meetings and prioritise my workload around their schedule.
  • Find a suitable working space - Try to keep a separate area for work if you can, where you’re not likely to be disturbed. This can be tricky if there are other people at home, so you may need to work out a timetable.
  • Tell people when you’re working - Communicate with your household so they know when is best to talk to you. A visual display near to where you’re working can help indicate when is a better time for interruptions.

5. Stay social

  • It’s not all about work - in the workplace you would also catch up about other things. Have a chat, have a giggle, and help to lift each other up.
  • Check in and ask how people are - Does someone sound a little off in a meeting? Send them a message afterwards to see if they need a chat, space, or help with a project. Have you noticed that your colleague is always online? Encourage them to have a break away from their screen.
  • But not too social - Social media can be both your friend and your enemy. While useful for communication, it may also be a constant source of interruption. You might want to turn off notifications for apps you don’t need during working hours, especially news alerts which could be distressing at the moment.

6. Be tolerant of colleagues

We’re in unprecedented times, and we all need to be mindful of others, especially those who may have caring responsibilities.

Be tolerant of those working flexibly and don’t always expect an immediate response.  We all need to continue to support each other and check in with colleagues during this time.

New to home working? Consider working flexibly.

Think about whether you would like to work more flexibly and discuss this with your manager. For example:

  • Work compressed hours - so you work the equivalent of five days during a four-day period, taking the fifth day off.
  • Without travel time, you may like to start earlier and finish earlier.
  • Think about when you’re most productive and adjust your work accordingly – is it mornings or afternoons?
  • How best could the working day be tailored around any caring duties? This could include shopping and delivering things for those in isolation, picking up prescriptions, looking after children or caring for elderly relatives.

What to find out more?

We've put together an e-learning module on working well from home. It covers how to keep information secure, effective communication when working remotely and how to create a good work-life balance. 

Start the course

Do you have any tips of your own?

Join the conversation on Workplace – whether it’s hiding the key to the biscuit cupboard or blurring the background on your Skype calls to hide that pile of ironing – we want to hear from you!

What are people telling you about their experiences of COVID-19?

If you hear that people in your area have concerns about coronavirus, health and care services, or new legislation please let us know so that we can raise this with stakeholders. 

You can do this and find out the latest information on our Workplace group.

Workplace is our online community for Healthwatch staff to network and work with one another. Remember, if you haven't got a Workplace account please don't try to set one up, contact hub@healthwatch.co.uk.

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