Lockdown has made working from home a necessity. Now, if you can work from home you should. That's a major adjustment for anyone, even for those used to working Anytime Anywhere before coronavirus. That’s why we’ve created this page, to give you practical hints and tips on how to make the transition easier as well as help you achieve a sustainable work/life balance.
What you need
The right IT
An obvious start, but if you don’t have access to technology you aren’t going to be able to log on. If you are still in need of kit, speak to your manager as you may be able to use your own device (laptop or desktop PC).
Space to work
The reality is, we don’t all have a home office and that means many of us will have to create a workspace in the kitchen, living room or spare bedroom. Regardless of your set up, remember to follow our display screen equipment guidance.
Tips for successful homeworking
At the moment, working from home will be a joy for some and a juggle for others. Some of us will have jumped right in, beavering away on our laptops wherever they are opened; others will have been more methodical and routine driven. Regardless how you’ve approached working from home up till now, we’ve listed some hints and tips you should be mindful of.
Set up a designated workspace
Create a dedicated space to work in, somewhere you can focus on tasks without being distracted and set up with everything you need for a normal working day – computer, phone, large cup of coffee – and ensure you have a reliable and secure internet connection, the necessary hardware and software and remote access to our network plus how to get IT support.
Ever checked your emails on waking and only realise you’re still working in your pyjamas at noon? It’s always a good idea to follow the normal pre-work routine including getting dressed (which is often harder than it sounds). You don’t need a suit and tie, just smart, comfy clothes you’d be happy to wear in a virtual meeting.
Write a realistic daily to-do list
Just like in the office, if you don’t set out a list of achievable tasks to focused on, you’ll bounce around tasks and that’s not good for anyone’s wellbeing.
Set boundaries for yourself
Have a clear idea of when you’re going to start work and finish work each day. It won’t always be possible to stick to that routine but try to. Burnout can happen just as easily at home as in the office.
It’s too easy to get consumed by work at home because you don’t have all the distractions of the office. Make sure to join team chats, group emails and virtual meetings to stay connected, find out what everyone else is working on and to share what’s on your plate. Make time for non-work chats too just as you would in the workplace and use video calling (Teams or WebEx) to maintain face-to-face contact.
We’ve all read emails wrongly – and sent emails that people have read wrongly – so remember to be clear and concise. Picking up the phone or having a virtual chat is also a good way to hear (and see) communication cues to help you avoid misinterpretation.
Ask for support
Ask when you need assistance, further training or support. You may not be physically sitting next to your team but they’re still your teammates and they’ll want to help if they can.
Take a break
All too often when you work from home you sit down and don’t move for hours. If you find this happening regularly try scheduling breaks to stretch your legs in your diary. Go enjoy 10 minutes in the garden, complete a few quick chores, or squeeze in a workout.
The office is usually full of noise. If you have children, you’ve still got that to contend with, but you can drown out the shouts for help – or fill the void of silence – with your favourite music to work to. You could even create playlist to share with your team.
Working from home with children
Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford highlights exactly what many parents are facing while working from home with children who can’t go to school, their clubs or see their friends. Children who are constantly hungry and take no heed when you’re on the phone or in a virtual meeting.
So, what can be done to ease the pressure and make it easier for adults and children to come to some sort of understanding?
Establish a routine
It worked when they were babies so hopefully having a rough timetable for the day will help everyone feel a little safer – and calmer – and give you space to get on with work.
Share the juggle
Young children tend to need more attention than teenagers so if you have a partner in the house tag team childcare throughout the day to give you both space to concentrate.
Before coronavirus it wasn’t always easy to get everyone to eat together at the same time. One benefit of being stuck in the house together 24/7 is that mealtimes can become family time.
Give ample warning
If you’re going on a call or a virtual meeting pre-warn the kids that you need some quiet time (they may or may not listen). If you’re speaking with someone you don’t regularly talk to tell them in advance a visitor may appear on screen… at any given moment… wanting something immediately.
Adjust your work habits
Speak to your manager about starting or finishing work earlier or later than normal, or you may need to take time out during the day and make it up later in the night. You’ll get the work done, but maybe not in that traditional 9 to 5.
Find a safe place to work
Locking yourself in the toilet or hiding in a cupboard aren’t options (sadly). Instead designate an area of the house as your workspace; an area where you’ll get as much peace and quiet as is possible yet still be able to hear any arguments – or silence – that needs dealt with.
It’s hard on them too
If you think adjusting to life in lockdown is hard for adults just imagine what’s going on in a child’s head. If they seem more emotional than usual be mindful of the fact this is surreal for them too.
Make time for them during the day
If you have older children it’s easier to explain to them that you need to work. Younger children simply don’t care so try to break away to read them a story or build something Lego®, it can buy you much needed uninterrupted time later in the day.
They’re a good option when you really need to concentrate.
For more age specific hints and tips on how to work from home with children running around visit ParentClub.
Be kind to yourself
Whether you’re working from home on your own, with a partner or you have children to contend with, our current situation is very, very hard. There will be days when you’re totally on it and other days when you just want to sit down and cry.
When it all becomes too much:
- Reach out to friends, family and colleagues. The vast majority are in the same boat and feeling it too.
- Be realistic with your manager. If you are finding it hard to cope speak to them. They may be able to offer your support or find a solution that works for you both.
- Take care of yourself. Sleep and eat well and try to exercise to help you cope.
- Visit our mental wellbeing page for more information you might find useful.
Display screen guidance
When using a laptop or desktop PC at home it is important to take regular breaks away from it, particularly if you are doing prolonged work. Here are some useful tips for getting comfortable:
- Where possible sit at a desk or table when using a laptop.
- Sit with good posture - feet firm on the floor, elbows slightly above the desk or table surface.
- The desk height should allow you to rest your arms comfortably with your elbows bent at about 90°.
- If you have an office chair adjust it so that your back is supported and your feet touch and rest flat on the ground.
- use a separate keyboard and mouse if you can, so the laptop can be put on a stand and have the screen opened at eye level.
- Small screens on the laptop can make text harder to read and can increase the strain on your eyes. If you are able to, plug your laptop into a computer monitor.
- Ensure the monitor can be raised to a comfortable height – the top of the monitor should be level with your eyes when sitting down. If you wear multifocal lenses, adjust the monitor to a comfortable position so that you're not tilting your head up or down too much.
I can't get my elbows in the right position and get my feet flat on the floor at the same time
Try using something solid to rest your feet on to allow you to raise your chair height. This should let you get high enough to position your arms appropriately.
I can't get the monitor high enough or I don't have a laptop stand
Try raising the monitor up using either a strong box or hardcover books.
I don't have an office chair
Find a comfortable straight back chair and work using that. You can also use a cushion to support your back. If you're doing this make sure you take a regular break to stand up and move around at least every hour.
Our Desk yoga information (available on the intranet) has some helpful stretches.
I don't have an external mouse of keyboard to use with a laptop
Ask your line manager if there are any spare keyboards or mice that can be borrowed from your work area.
I don't have a monitor to plug my laptop into and I'm having difficulty with the size of text on the screen
Use the zoom slider in the bottom right hand corner to increase the text size of Office documents you're working on. You can also Google how to change the zoom to make text and icons larger and easier to see for your PC or laptop and specific programs
I'm having trouble getting an external monitor to work with my laptop
The following steps should allow you to connect a monitor to your laptop although the steps might vary slightly:
- The additional screen needs to be plugged in to a power source and connected to the laptop with the relevant cable (HDMI or VGA)
- Turn on the laptop and log in (do not log into Citrix yet)
- Click on the windows/start button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen
- In the search bar type "extend"
- An option will appear which says duplicate or extend a connected display (on some older laptops this may be display settings) – click on this
- Under multiple displays it will say Duplicate these displays – using the dropdown change this to Extend these displays
- In some cases, you may need to click detect to find the additional screen
- The laptop screen will normally be assigned as screen 1 with the additional screen as 2
- You will be prompted if you want to keep the changes – select yes and you will not need to go through this setup each time
- You can now log into Citrix as normal.
- When you are at your normal desktop click on the arrow at the top of your screen
- Select window
- Move the screen across so it is showing on both the laptop screen and the additional screen and double click
- You should now have two screens