Coronavirus: working from home – 10 useful tips

Gilfach Goch at dusk from my home office window

Gilfach Goch at dusk from my home office window

Working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic? Many are getting used to home-based offices for the first time during Coronavirus. I’ve been working from home for 25 years, writing as a journalist for maritime media and co-running Nordic International, a business providing journalism and Nordic translations. Below are some essential tips to help you survive the home-working experience.

My office is the best I’ve ever worked in. The views are great, productivity is high and I can watch birds of prey and lambs dancing on the rolling hills of Wales from my desk. It is calm and peaceful. It takes getting used to though and some effort to make it work. Working from home doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but that’s a bit academic if that’s what you have to do right now during the Covid-19 pandemic to stay in work.

I’ve come up with 10 tips to help you survive:

  1. Develop a routine and try to stick to it. If you start work at 8.30am, make sure you’re at your desk by 8.25am to take calls etc. Like you would normally.
  2. Make sure you adopt a disciplined attitude of ‘going to work’. Get up, have breakfast, clean your teeth, get dressed, be professional. Yes, you can lounge in pyjamas till early afternoon and not wash till teatime if you want, but would you do that if going out to work?
  3. Don’t blur home life and work time. You might be tempted by daytime TV or household chores. Don’t – stay focused.
  4. Create a dedicated workspace. Great if you have a spare room so you can shut the door behind you when you ‘go home’ at the end of the day. It’s not ideal if you perch a computer on the kitchen table and have to clear your stuff when it’s time to eat.
  5. Keep confidential things confidential. Don’t leave things lying around that visitors or others in your household should not see. You could also be in breach of GDPR if you neglect this.
  6. If friends realise you’re working from home and drop by for coffee (which they shouldn’t anyway with the risk of spreading Covid-19), tell them politely you’re ‘not in’ but at work. Same if people phone during the day for a chat. You’re not in, you’re at work, remember?
  7. Take health and safety seriously. If you work at a computer screen, don’t just plonk it on a table and pull up a chair. Ergonomics is important – look it up. That way, you can avoid things like neck or backache and repetitive strain. Take care to avoid trailing cables, especially if your home working goes on for a while.
  8. If Skyping or videoconferencing, do other people in your home know this? Would rowdy children or a nude partner in the background realise they’re on full view to your meeting or your boss?
  9. If you rely on the internet to run your business, have a back-up internet connection if you get a power cut or your connection fails. Mobile phones have decent speeds so know how to tether your computer to your phone. Do it BEFORE you have an emergency at deadline.
  10. Know your rights and obligations. What working hours apply, especially if working at home becomes combined with caring responsibilities? Who’s responsible for ensuring your work station is safe and fit for purpose? Is your employer expecting you to do it all or will help be available? Have a dialogue and establish a clear understanding of your responsibilities and rights. It’s a good time to join a union if you haven’t already, so you can have someone on your side. My union, the National Union of Journalists, has always supported small business owners and freelance journalists.

 

And a final bonus tip if you’re working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic: Keep your desk tidy. I clear mine regularly (every year!) and always feel better afterwards. I know I should do it more often. Here’s a picture of how it’s supposed to look.

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