The Honest Guide to Working From Home
We know that life is different for everyone right now. The Coronavirus outbreak means that our world has shifted greatly, in many ways. Currently, many countries have put restrictions on when citizens can leave their homes. In the UK, this has meant that those that can are now working from home.
With remote working becoming the new normal overnight - and people quickly having to learn how to make it work - it is no surprise that there has been a major surge in related search interest. ‘Working from Home’ became an overnight internet hit, as we can see from the graph below. This peaked on the 17th March, when the government recommended that people should avoid leaving their homes.
Using Keyword Planner, we found that in February, ‘Working from Home’ was searched 27,100 times in the UK. In March, this rose by 144% to a staggering 165,000 searches. Now, we know that KW Planner figures should be taken with a pinch of salt, but this helps to illustrate such a huge increase in volume.
With this abrupt search interest and people desperately looking for ways to make it work, example routines and tips began circulating the internet. Some of these included strict timing and motivational tips, but these have tended to show a lack of consideration for the current climate.
At Evoluted, working from home has been a flexible and optional policy we have used for a number of years, with staff able to take up to 4 days a month. As a result, we have accumulated a fair amount of experience and been through many WFH learning curves.
That’s why we’ve rounded up 10 Evoluted employees, across all departments, to talk about their experiences working remotely, and how the current situation is changing how they work.
Spoiler: working from home is different for everyone. It depends on what your job entails, what motivates you and it’s especially different in this situation, where you may have more people (and kids!) in the house than usual.
How long have you been working from home for?
Katie Mishner: Since I started working at Evoluted over 6 months ago. Prior to that, it had never been an option for me in former roles. Usually, I work from home around once a week and wouldn’t look back.
James Stone: I’ve worked in jobs where WFH has been an option for about 6 years. However, I generally don’t take up the option unless I need to stay home for some practical reason. This is just a personal preference.
Jo Rammell: 3 to 4 times per month for about 2 years.
Joe Dickinson: I have never WFH before, but I have been in a position to do so in my prior forms of employment. I personally don’t like mixing social and work together, as I feel it encourages a poor work-life-balance.
Ash Young: I’ve been working at home for years, at least 1-2 days a week.
Sean Potter: I’ve been working from home in small doses for two years or so. We started off at Evoluted with two days per month and have since gone up to four days per month. Since coronavirus conditions worsened, I’ve worked at home for four, fully complete weeks so far.
Tom Fletcher: Full time just under 3 weeks. Before this period, I’d work from home once or twice a month thanks to Evoluted’s flexible working perks. Generally, I prefer working in the office with colleagues, fast internet and not-as-fast coffee.
Rebeca Radford: I’m just starting my 4th full week working from home. However, at Evoluted we are very fortunate that we have been able to work from home on regular occasions in the past. For the last 6 months, I’ve been working from home about once a week; so it's not been such a shock to the system to adapt to a new way of working.
Andy Carter: I’m starting week four of working from home due to the lockdown, but have taken the odd work from home day off here and there for the past few years.
Will Barron: This is my 4th week working from home, as I was one of the last few that remained working from the office until we officially closed due to Coronavirus.
What is your home working space/set up like?
Katie: I used to sit at my kitchen table with a laptop – the internet connection was speedy, and the snacks were close. Now we’re WFH full-time, I’ve got a desk in the spare room with a monitor and laptop stand. I’m also surrounded by a lot of my football trinkets - it’s hard to be unproductive when a bobble-head Marco Reus is staring you down.
James: Currently terrible as it’s been slapped together quite hastily in response to needing to WFH due to Coronavirus. We have quite a small flat at the moment so I’m using the dining table as a desk. Although very Importantly, I do have a comfortable office chair.
Ash: I’m very fortunate that I have the space for a home office that I can shut the door to. I have a full setup at home, double external monitors and dock, mirroring the setup I have at work.
Tom: I have a cosy but perfectly functional home office set up in a box room. Desk, iMac, comfy office chair (absolutely essential), Sonos speaker. Guitars ready to be plugged in as soon as I’ve clocked off.
Will: I’m currently based in our attic spare room, which for the most part provides enough distance from any distractions downstairs (usually my daughter or my dog). Luckily, I had upgraded my home machine about 6 months ago, replacing an almost decade old MacBook Pro with a new iMac. I kept my old second screen which despite its age still works well & matches in nicely. I also borrowed my chair from the office during this lockdown period as my own chair isn’t the most practical for day to day use over several weeks (this has made a big difference).
What is your general WFH routine?
Andy: I generally stick to very similar hours to when I was working from the office. The only major difference is that I can start that little bit earlier now that I don’t have to commute to work; this means that I can get out for a bit of exercise in the neighbouring park at lunchtime whilst the lockdown rules allow it.
Rebeca: I start so I can get my hours complete by 3.30, ready for my husband to start his work. I make sure I eat breakfast before I start and take a 30 minutes lunch so I can have some food and a break from my little office. I also try to get regular drinks to stay hydrated and get some movement as the kitchen is downstairs.
Ash: The same as if I’m not working from home, but I just wake up a little later and make use of the time I would spend commuting to snooze! I wake up around 6.30am and am typically at my desk by 7am.
Sean: I do tend to be a bit more flexible when working from home in terms of start times. Sometimes an extra hour of sleep, which I would otherwise have had to put towards getting up earlier and commuting, does the world of good. Beyond that, it’s pretty similar to a work day in the office.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work from home?
Joe: I don’t particularly like listening to music when working, as I feel it lowers productivity. If the task is repetitive, then I would yes.
Ash: No, I spend a lot of my day on the phone so even if I start listening to music it gets paused very quickly and I normally forget to restart it!
Tom: I usually have background music playing (currently going through a major Rammstein and Funeral for a Friend phase).
Andy: I mostly listen to music in the background, with the added bonus that I now get to choose what is being played in the ‘office’. I will occasionally play a podcast when I start to miss the background chatter of an office and need to hear other voices, but this is very dependent on how much focus my current task requires as they can be distracting.
Will: Due to the nature of design work, I don’t find listening to music or podcasts too distracting. I have a few podcasts I listen to each week and the rest of the time at my desk is typically filled with a Spotify playlist going in the background. I do sometimes pause my music if I really need to focus on a task or problem.
How do you stay motivated when working from home?
James: Given our work is all digital and all you really need is a laptop I generally don’t feel different, so don’t need to take any special steps in that regard to stay motivated. I am mindful in light of the current situation of the possibility of de-motivation coming as a by-product of not feeling positive in general. I’m trying to stop that from happening by continuing to do as much of my normal routine as possible, still getting exercise etc.
Katie: It is quite easy to replicate my working day in the office from home, so I don’t feel motivation is an issue. The trick for me is having a space that I feel comfortable in; I feel more productive than ever since setting up my permanent desk space.
Jo: We have a marketing team stand up at the start of the day, where we say our 3 top tasks for the day, this helps me to focus on my priorities. In addition to this, having Regular slack conversations or Google hangout calls with colleagues.
I also ensure I have either a fun/light-hearted task or something to research/learn each day. For example, today I attended a webinar on PR tips for pitching during coronavirus.
Joe: The same way I would within an office environment. I set goals, try and stick to them. I’m quite self-motivated and in a way, I’m quite pleased to have something to do while forced to stay inside. If anything, working from home makes me want to do more work, as the flexibility of being so conveniently close to my “workplace” makes it easy to work on tasks outside hours.
Andy: I make sure I get up and ready as I would for a day in the office. Sticking to the same routine helps keep the mind in the right gear for work. It’s important to make sure you know what goals you’ve got for the day first so that you know what you need to achieve, otherwise it’s pretty much a standard workday.
Rebeca: Having a constant stream of work coming through helps as there’s always something to do, being kept busy is my motivation.
Should you dress like you’re going to work?
James: This is a must for me to be honest. If I stay in my comfy pj gear I think it does affect productivity. But this is going to be different for different people.
Sean: We have a fairly relaxed dress code at Evoluted anyway, except for obvious things like client meetings. I do of course get up and dressed as with any day. That said, I definitely wear more comfortable clothes (hoodies/trackies) at home. Why would I opt for less comfort when no one can see it? If there were meetings via video I would of course smarten up.
Tom: Dress like you’re going to be on a webcam all day.
The whole “I’m in pyjamas at work” novelty will (and probably should) wear off quickly.
Suiting up might be pushing things a little far, but find that happy medium between presentable and comfortable, if only to make yourself feel good.
Jo: I don’t think you have to. You should dress however you feel comfortable to do your most effective day’s work from home.
Will: At Evoluted, our work dress code is pretty relaxed anyway. So I’ve been getting dressed as normal most days (jeans, t-shirt, jumper etc), with a couple of days spent working in jogging bottoms.
Should my business employ a working from home policy?
Ash: Yes, the flexibility it offers can’t be beaten, it means people can fit their lives around work more easily rather than having to waste holiday for things like deliveries.
Sean: Evoluted offers four days per month already, which I think is fantastic and more than many firms.
Slightly separately to this, my personal views are quite strong here. In a world battling climate change - with so many industries particularly conducive to online work. I think it’s amazing how small the scale is on which this is being implemented across the UK and beyond.
We need a seismic change in mindset as a species, this is one way we can make a massive difference. The removal of emissions/pollution as a result of taking commutes off the roads alone; for climate change and health respectively, would make an incredible difference. Clearly you need employees to respect the WFH policy, but I think coronavirus is showing a lot of people it’s probably not as difficult as they expected to implement; industry-dependent, of course.
Andy: If your business can effectively work remotely then it’s definitely something worth offering as an option. It can be extremely helpful to be able to work from home from time to time. Ideally remote working (in normal times) should be optional though as not everyone functions well working from home.
How do you manage working with other people in the house?
Katie: both work in different rooms and let each other know when we’re in video calls or can’t be disturbed. My dog ignores this rule, though, and spends the entire day sleeping next to me.
Ash: I’m fortunate that I can shut the door but I rarely need to, everyone understands that they need to check if I’m on a call before interrupting me.
Tom: We have separate workspaces. If that means needing to buy another desk, it’s certainly worth it. Establish some kind of home-working ground rules/etiquette too. Set expectations of each other's availability for a chat or brew. I’m sure my wife doesn’t want me waltzing in mid-video conference offering a bag of Quavers.
Rebeca: It can be tricky at times with a 5 and a 3-year-old which is why we’ve had to split our working day so one of us is always there to watch/entertain/educate the children - working at the same time for us would be impossible. Luckily so far the weather has been pretty good so there’s been lots of garden play and a rough daytime timetable for the kids has helped them and us, but it's definitely a much more tiring and stressful time for us right now with the pressure to manage everything well that needs to be done.
Will: It’s been fine so far. My wife has done a great job of keeping a 3-year-old entertained with crafts, games and helping in the garden whilst I’m working. And with me being in the attic room, I’m usually far enough away not to hear any noise.
Has Coronavirus changed how you work from home?
Ash: Yes, the kids are at home and I’m WFH more than I would normally. There’s more distractions with the kids around but everyone is very understanding of the current situation.
Will: Previously I had only taken WFH days occasionally to fit in with a home delivery or appointment. This was partly down to my old slow laptop and not taking the time to properly setup access to the work VPN & file server.
Now that I’m a little more used to working from home, with a better machine & everything in place I need to work effectively, I will probably take advantage of working from home a little more frequently when the lockdown period is over. I still prefer working at the office, seeing my colleagues in person each day.
Andy: The biggest change is more related to the fact that everyone I work and deal with are in the same boat. There’s been a lot more conference calls and use of webcams. Working from home can be a lonely experience and when you have to do it week after week it becomes very important to make contact with others and talk.
If anyone is now facing working from home for the first time due to the current climate, what would your top tips be to them?
Katie: Make yourself comfortable – I keep saying it, but comfort is key. Find an area in your home that you can feasibly work in for the long-term, put up pictures, or quotes if that helps you.
Lean on your colleagues for support and be there for them in return.
Probably most importantly, be kind to yourself. This is not only a huge adjustment in your working life, but your normal life has been changed too. You need to allow yourself to acclimatise properly and not beat yourself up if you struggle to adapt right away.
James: If possible, having a designated space to work is huge. Somewhere separate from where your entertainment is, like a living room. I feel this way from situations in the past when I had a home office for days when I did work at home, it was so valuable. Obviously, this isn’t possible for everyone though, unfortunately.
Jo: Make sure you have a comfy seat!
Find what works for you as a daily schedule. Trial things such as where you work, what time you start and what you do on your lunch break.
Find what motivates you and do that every day… whatever it is.
Make sure you set yourself specific working hours that day, so it doesn’t merge into your personal life.
Joe: I would say create a space where you only go when you're working, somewhere which is not part of your general home, i.e in my case the garage. I also do not like to engage with my current household while WFH, otherwise they become too much in your face, 24/7.
Ash: My tip would be to 100% treat it like working in an office, with the same routine, getting dressed as you would for work. Don’t let work bleed into the evenings or weekends. Have a clear separation between home & work.
Sean: Don’t stress it. If you’re able to still work that’s the most important thing, a lot of people aren’t. In our industry, technology allows you to do 99% of the things you’d need to in an office anyway. Try and enjoy not having to commute as much and focus on the positives of the situation. Too much worry about routines can stress you out, just head to your office as if it’s a normal working day and get on with things. One standout tip would be to try and get regular video calls in with your colleagues. Screen-share and a tech-face-to-face conversation can be priceless for solving problems that would otherwise take 10 x longer on Slack.
Tom: Remember to take breaks the same way you would in an office. Have a wander every hour or so.
Stick to some sort of timetable. It’s very useful to be able to work flexibly, but having reasonably standard working hours will help you switch off at the right time. It’s very easy to compromise your work/life balance when work is *right there* all evening.
Reach out to colleagues, whether by instant message, email, phone, and maintain a healthy and friendly dialogue. This can help prevent both yourself and others from feeling isolated or left-out; it’s also where most of the daily laughs can be had. That bit is especially important.
Netflix = Bad
Rebeca: Try and start at the same time each day and do your working hours in one chunk of time, take regular breaks for food and drink and try to stay connected with the people you work with each day either by a daily catch up call/video chat or regular messages using something like Slack.
Andy: Try and work from a dedicated space that you can walk away from at the end of the day; get ready for work as though you were leaving your front door and heading into the office, it will get you in the right frame of mind; and finally make sure you regularly talk to others via all means of communication you have, it will help beat the feeling of isolation. I really recommend using video calls as seeing other people’s faces really helps improve your mood and communication.
Will: I think the main thing is having a consistent working day routine and a clear workspace, ideally away from any distractions. A proper desk set up & comfortable office chair have also made a huge difference for me personally. --
That’s it from our team, we hope you took something useful away from their advice - please remember, you are not working from home, you are working from home during a crisis. Be kind to yourself and others, check in when you can. If you need some advice, we’re all ears.