10 Tips For Maximising Efficiency When Working From Home

It’s something I never thought I could ever get used to.  Between the family, the dog, the number of little jobs around the house whispering in your ear that they need doing and let’s be honest, the fully stocked fridge, I have always found working from home to be at best difficult and at worst, ludicrously inefficient. 

As a result I have always resisted it – traditionally I leave home early and I get home late and it was just my way of doing things.  Of course needs must and despite being a creature of habit I have had to learn to adapt like everyone else.  And you know what – turns out this homeworking thing is not so bad after all (except perhaps for my expanding waistline).   

There are naturally some things which take longer and are less efficient trying to do them away from the office and then there are others where actually the lack of constant distractions has helped to get them done quicker, better or both.  As with most things though I have been learning as I go and over the past few weeks I have noticed that I have made changes to the way I work from home as I discover what works and what doesn’t 

Off the back of that here is my top 10 dos and don’ts for the homeworking rookies like me: 

1. Start on time – Treat the days the same as when you work from the office.  If you get to your office at 8am normally, be in your home office at 8am.  Routine really helps – if you find yourself spending some extra time laying in bed or dwelling over that extra cup of tea, before you know it you will find half the day has passed you by and you’ve done nothing at all. 

2. Declutter – Because my home office was never actually used as an office, it had become something of an unofficial storage room.  OK let’s be honest more of a junk room.  The first few days of lockdown there was therefore a little bit of clutter and as we all know, a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind (although Albert Einstein did famously once ask someone who said that to him if they therefore had an empty desk!).  Einstein notwithstanding it has certainly been easier to work in a tidy office. 

3. Dedicate a workspace  – If you don’t have a home office, make one.  I’m not suggesting you have construction work done but instead of locking yourself away in your bedroom or on the couch – spaces that are associated more with leisure time – dedicate a specific room or surface to work from. 

4. Use the technology – I have for many years been able to access my work PC from home and work exactly as I would in the office whilst there.  Same goes for the phone system, the filing system and pretty much every other system.  But I had barely heard of Zoom and Microsoft Teams to name just two.  I suspect they and others like them will become more a part of my daily routine once things returning to “normal”. 

5. Feel familiar – For the first few days I felt oddly uncomfortable and I had no idea why.  And then I set up my home office to be much more closely aligned with what I was I was used to at work.  Two screens – one in front and one to the right, desk facing the window, even my tea coaster just slightly behind and to the right.  Bizarrely it helped. 

6. But not too familiar – After that it did swiftly feel quite at home in (well yes) my home but in particularly my home office.  And I found myself stretching the day out at the end often delaying dinner for everyone and even breaking my golden rule that I don’t work at weekends unless I absolutely have to.  The family noticed and made their displeasure quite clear thankfully and that bad habit was quickly corrected. 

7. Pick up the phone – We get so used to sending emails that sometimes we do it when actually a phone call works just as well and often much better.  It’s certainly more efficient for having conversations.  My new rule for internal communications has been, if I would have gotten up from my desk to find someone in person before, I am going to do the next best thing now and call them.  There is quite enough email traffic without adding lots of unnecessary messages to peoples’ inboxes. 

8. Don’t eat at your desk – For the first few days I did what I often do at the office and had lunch without really stopping.  It’s not great but I have discovered that actually it’s even worse doing that at home.  Psychologically a short break to see the family, eat lunch with them and have a conversation that doesn’t feel like it’s that important – particularly right now when every conversation feels a little like life and death – really helps get through the day. 

9. Take something off the list – Yes we all have that list of things that never seem to get done.  Often they are the really important things that just aren’t that urgent.  That list never shrinks, it just grows and grows and yet because we are routinely bogged down with pressing matters, we just never get around to dealing with anything from it.  Personally I have been starting most days by spending an hour on one of those things.  It feels amazing to accomplish something that you never thought you would and it’s a great deal easier when you are more in control of how you spend your days. 

10. Be disciplined – Plan your day like you do when you’re in the office, make it harder to be on social media (say by logging out of your accounts or removing them from your browser favourites) and generally stick to the plan.  Oh and don’t wonder if Minesweeper is still installed by Microsoft on your PC and find yourself downloading it from the app store when you discover it isn’t.  Yes it is still as addictive as it was in 1992! 

Written by Barry Sorraff – Partner

If you want to find out more, email Barry at Barry.soraff@raffingers.co.uk with any questions.

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