Features

The Stuff guide to working from home

Create a workspace! Get connected! Don’t spend all day in your pants!

Working from home? Sitting in your pants, binging on Netflix, blissfully unaware of the deadlines about to whizz past your ears? Don’t do that. Do these things instead.

1. Keep a schedule

Don’t use your newfound freedom to have a massive lie-in or loll about all day. But also don’t feel the need to work from the second you wake up, because you feel guilty you no longer have a commute.

Instead, echo your standard routine as much as possible. In fact, use an Echo — or your smart tech of choice — to set reminders about when to clock on, and when it’s time to ‘go home’.

2. Create a workspace

Don’t lie back on the sofa or sit at the dining table, tapping away on a laptop. This will within days have your back and bum want to make a break for it — and you need those.

So define somewhere that’s your ‘office’, where you can fashion a set-up close to an actual office environment: a decent chair; a place to stash things; and somewhere you can leave at the end of the work day.

3. Prioritise ergonomics

If you use a laptop, buy an external keyboard and a mouse or trackpad. If possible, get an external display, too, and have your eyeline peer at the top third of the display. At the very least, raise the laptop to that height, if you can’t afford a screen — a stack of books will do.

Also keep RSI and other conditions at bay by investing in a decent office chair, and use it correctly. (Not got this kind of set-up at actual work? Have a word with HR…) In it for the long haul? Consider a standing desk like IKEA’s BEKANT (from £425).

4. Manage social interactions

Being alone can be tough, and it’s easy to overdo social networking. Therefore, manage such interactions so they don’t overwhelm and become a distraction.

Use screen-time systems/apps, and think hard about what you use to communicate – and when. Slack is good for team-based chat, rather than deluging people with email or concocting confusing WhatsApp threads; try Zoom for video calls. Banish Facebook and Twitter to your phone, to avoid spending all day on them because you crave human contact.

5. Backup everything

Perhaps you work for a company with stringent policies on server-only documents. More likely, you don’t – in which case, you need a backup routine. Your boss won’t thank you if your laptop keels over, taking with it a vital presentation you’d made that was set to save your company.

Windows and macOS each have a built-in system for making local daily backups, and so set it up with an external portable hard drive – a £40 1TB Maxtor portable or equivalent will do. Also install Backblaze ($6 per month) to get a copy of everything you create into the cloud.

6. Get connected

You’ve got Wi-Fi at home. Until it fails — at which point you very rapidly need to figure out what to do next. It might not be viable to find somewhere local with free Wi-Fi you can get to. In which case, ensure you’ve a decent mobile package, enabling you to tether your computer to your phone.

Get more data

7. Take regular breaks

At home, you usually have fewer distractions than at the office. Colleagues don’t drop by for a chat — or invite you to a long lunch. And that’s great until you realise with a jolt you’ve worked for ten hours solid and your back’s seized up.

So get a timer that reminds you to take regular breaks. Bear Focus Timer is cheap, and has the added advantage of putting your phone out of reach (by only running when it’s face down) while you’re supposed to be working.

8. Get some exercise

Ideally, leave the house now and again, when you’ve the opportunity. While doing so, avoid any temptation to work. You need some downtime. When that’s not possible, at least exercise indoors.

You don’t need machines – just a floor and some willpower will do. On iPhone, Streaks Workout will help you quickly figure out a routine. Just avoid starting with its 30-minute (and suitably named) ‘extreme’ mode, or you’ll need several further weeks away from the office to recover. On Android? 321FIT is a good bet.