How to make working from home work for you.

03 April 2020

Phillipa Smith

Phillipa Smith, Head of Learning & Development at Pinsent Masons, shares her insights on top tips on working from home.

We have partnered with our friends at Pinsent Masons to ask their top tips on working from home. In this blog post, Phillipa Smith, Head of Learning & Development, shares her insights on how to make working from home work for you. 

In these strange and unprecedented times, we find ourselves having to approach our working ethos in a completely different way.  Though I have been working in an agile way for a couple of years now, this current COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has thrown me an absolute curveball – and in all honesty, one that I had struggled to deal with initially.  Working remotely one day a week here and there, so I can be at home when a new appliance is being delivered or when I need to concentrate on a piece of work that our open plan hot desk environment isn’t conducive for, does not prepare you to being at home 24/7, sharing any working space with other family members and with no perceived way to decompress at the end of the day. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to ‘sort myself out’ and to find ways to make this new remote / agile working regime work for me and I’d love to share with you some of the techniques now; there’s no rocket science here and some will work for you and some may not – it’s about finding things that work for you and help you to generate your new normal.

  1. Maintain social contact at every opportunity.  Human beings are social creatures and even introverts need the stimulation of social interaction.  Utilise technology as much as possible to video call with your work colleagues. My team are having daily coffee huddles every morning to talk about whatever we want to; I wanted to recreate the coffee machine chats that we all have every day when in the office, where we talk about what we ate for supper last night, or the silly things our kids did this morning, or how we’re becoming a slave to our online shopping app to try and secure a click and collect slot for our food shop - basically, the everyday stuff that keeps us connected on a human level. Also, try and vary the medium of communication but avoid over use of email as it is so one dimensional.  I have found I am actually speaking to people more now than I ever have done because I have forced myself to ring or video call people instead of firing off a quick email.
  2. Find your routine. And try and stick to it as best as you can every day.  Try and stick to your normal working hours – if that’s 8.30am – 5pm, then mirror that now. Have set coffee and lunch breaks and try and take those breaks away from where you are working.  Changing your physically situation, from one room to another, helps your brain to shift its focus so that when you come back to your work area, you’ll find yourself better able to refocus on work.
  3. Control your workspace.  I know this is hard, particularly if you live in a house share or other family members are now sharing the same workspace.  Try if you can not to have your workspace in ‘social’ space such as from your sofa or in your bedroom – that makes switching off at the end of the day much harder. But wherever you set up your office, do as you would do in the office – at the end of day, switch off your computer, tidy stuff away and if need be, put it all in a box so it’s not on view.  Also, when you are working, try and engage the 5 senses:-

a.      See – sit where you can look out of a window or place a picture in your line of sight that makes you smile.
b.      Smell – light some candles to fill your work area with positive aromas.
c.      Taste – take regular breaks and drink plenty of water – think about adding natural flavours to your water (my flavour of the week this week is fresh lime).
d.      Listen – a lot of people find music, particularly classical music, therapeutic and that it really helps them to focus – use this time when you are not in the office to make the most of the opportunity to play music whilst working.
e.      Touch – have something soft nearby, such as a scarf or a comfy jumper or even a pet to stroke.  Feeling something soft is proven to calm anxiety.

Finally, be kind to yourself.  Some of us are now trying to juggle being an employee, a partner, a parent, a teacher and maybe even a carer, all at once and it’s going to feel overwhelming at times.  Take time to just be, to spend some time each day on your own, be it on a morning run, doing some yoga, having a bath with the bathroom door locked – don’t beat yourself up for taking that time but instead enjoy it and think of it as your daily reward for being, in your own way, brilliant.