Working from home — lessons learnt so far

For the last few weeks I have been working from home for the first time which has been both strange and liberating. After 18 years in various public sector roles where time was spent mainly in open plan, grey walled offices or in a community setting speaking with citizens I now find myself flying solo (albeit in a national team) and surrounded by the comforts of my home life. My new role with Harvest Digital Planning as their Community Engagement Advocate allows me to work remotely using a number of apps, pieces of software and of course the good old telephone to stay connected and reach out to the team across three other States in Australia and of course our clients and prospective customers.

Working from home — what have your learnt?

Because all this is very new to me, I mean we have all had the odd day ‘working from home’ in the past haven’t we, I have had to adapt not only the way I work but the way I take breaks, socialise and even view my home. This has led me to coming up with five lessons that I have learnt so far that have helped me make the transition easier. I thought they would be worth sharing for those who are maybe moving in to a similar situation but also with those working from home who might be struggling to adapt or who are work at home professionals and have other lessons learnt or tips to share that others might find useful.

  1. Have a dedicated work space — pretty obvious one but I’ve made sure that I have a dedicated space to do my work. A desk, a chair, drawers full of stationary and various docks and power points for my laptop and mobile phone. Its close to the window for natural light and when needed fresh air and allows me to spread out note books, documents etc when needed. While I might not stay at my desk all day, as I do move to the armchair for some longer calls or dining table for a change of scenery, it’s a great place to start and set the day in motion because otherwise it would be easy to just sit in the easy chair, slouch, lounge and not move all day. It also offers some separation from your home and your work place.
  2. Stand and walk — one thing I have noticed since working from home is the dramatic decrease in the number of steps I have been doing, I know because my new friend the Apple watch tells me. I think this comes down to a number of things. The toilet and the kitchen are both a lot closer to my desk and I’m probably not going to these places as much. No longer am I going out with a colleague for a daily cafe run and social catch up and no longer do I need to move between office floors to attend meetings or speak with someone. So, again thanks to my watch, every hour I am now ensuring I stand and either visit the toilet or make myself a cuppa to ensure I move. When on the phone and even conference calls I will now tend to pace around with the mic muted. Then at lunch time when ever possible I make sure I take the whole hour break and go for a walk, meet with my wife, grab a hot chocolate and have some social time talking with a real person.
  3. Drink — not sure why but like my steps, in the first few weeks I noticed my fluid in take actually decreased. Again probably because I wasn’t socially going to a cafe at 10am for a mid-morning catch-up or visiting the water cooler to fill my litre drinking bottle I always kept on the desk. Again to combat this and linked to number two above I have added in a trip to make tea or grab a glass of water every hour or so. Having a selection of different teas in the cupboard has helped too as variety is after all the spice of life. Also when I know I have a phone meeting coming up I generally make myself a drink five minutes before it starts as then I know I have stood, walked and got fluid ready should I be in front of the laptop or deep in conversation for a long period of time. There is no social aspect to it this time but staying hydrated while working especially through the hot summer days that we have in Adelaide is important.
  4. Get dressed — ok so you’re at home and you could just sit in your PJs or underwear all day but for me this actually doesn’t motivate or help me associate work with being at home. So I still have my alarm on, I still have breakfast with my family before they leave and I still get dressed — though not so much a business shirt and trousers everyday anymore. Shorts and a Polo, Jeans and a T-shirt, I will still be dressed in something that I would be happy for people to see me in. Occasionally we do use webcams during calls via the various apps we use and so it’s only appropriate to be ready and dressed to welcome people, while digitally, in to your home office.
  5. Snacking — finally we come on to the big one. Snacking. I’m a snacker, a grazer, someone who — like Brad Pitt in everyone of his films — likes to be munching on something to get me through certain periods of the day. 10am mid morning snack, 12pm pre lunch pick me up, 1pm lunch, between 2–3pm casual grazing on fruit or crackers, 5pm knock off cake. But in the first two weeks of working from home I noticed my snacking went off the scale because I had easy access to the ‘chocolate cupboard’, the fridge and even the cereal boxes. I was literally eating anything and everything because I could. With the less exercise and increased food intake I’m sure I probably put on weigth. So again to ensure I respected the fact that while I was at home I was still at work, I made sure I restricted my snack times in line to what I would usually do in an office setting. I even stuck to the same snacks I would previoulsy take with me to the office. A nut bar thingy mid-morning and maybe fruit if still hungry, a standard lunch the same as my wife had taken, mid afternoon slice of homemade cake or rice crackers and then stop. Extra fruit has been bought to try and hold off additional urges to raid the fridge later in the work day.

So these are five things I have learnt and adapted too in my first few weeks of working at home. Of course there are others I could have mentioned like avoiding the TV/Netflix and managing background noise, is the radio ok and what about podcasts, but in this case I think the five highlighted above are the best starters. So if you work from home do you agree and do you have any other personal lessons learnt for those adjusting to working from home or tips about how to make the transition from a busy office life to being surrounded by all your home comforts? Let me know in the comments and share your thoughts.

Also, just out of curiosity and asking for a friend… do you think baking while working from home is acceptable??

Ok so now it’s time to stand up, grab a cuppa and walk a few paces…. thanks watch.

Innovative Community Engagement. @engage2act Director and Board member, #engage2act advocate, #gatehashing instigator.