Remember last March? When working from home was seen as a novelty and everywhere you turned there was another article advising how to turn your living home into a workspace. We admit it: we were a part of it (and a lot of that advice still holds true).
However, there’s a lot that we didn’t know then that we’ve all collectively learnt in the last nine months. (That’s enough time to grow a human! No wonder we’ve learnt a thing or two.)
And, although we know what we should be doing, the initial rushed transition to working from home - alongside, you know, the stress of a global pandemic - meant that it was easy to slip into ways of working that are bad for us, especially when we thought it was only going to be for a few weeks.
Despite hopeful news on the horizon, it doesn’t look like working from home is going away anytime soon.
So, in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here’s five things to do to make 2021 working from home easier.
Keep to your contracted hours
Overall, people are working longer hours than they did before the first lockdowns: on average, workers are putting in 48.5 more minutes a day - equivalent to two whole extra days work a month. So look at it this way: if you stick to the hours you’re supposed to, you actually gain back two days. Kind of.
Now you might have to work the occasional long day. But with the exception of a small number of careers (for which you should be getting paid a sinful amount of money in return), you should not be putting in unpaid overtime as a matter of course.
Some factors may be out of your control. But let’s be honest here: is the real reason you’re burning the midnight oil because you’ve been scrolling Instagram/sleeping/picking fluff out of your belly button when you were supposed to be working?
Find a productivity hack that actually works
If you’ve said yes to the above, you’re probably struggling to structure your day without the discipline of the office. It’s been a long time to keep your motivation up, particularly if you’re working on a lot of solo tasks.
If you want to boss your to-do list, try timeboxing. It’s basically putting all your to-dos into a timetable. You know what you should be doing when and you know when you’re setting unrealistic expectations because you’ll have worked out in advance that there’s literally not enough hours in the day.
It might seem simple but it’s the most useful technique for getting stuff done - Harvard Business Review placed it top of a list of 100 productivity hacks, beating taking short breaks and controlling social media.
Leave the house
Yes, you’ve heard a million times about the importance of leaving the house. And you’ve seen all those suggestions about “commuting” to your WFH workplace by going on a short walk to signal the start and end of your working day. But really who can be bothered when your working hours are bookended by darkness and, knowing the UK, rain?
Still, did you know that getting outside can improve your concentration, make you happier and maybe even heal you faster? Guess your mum was right when she kept on talking about the benefits of fresh air.
Attempt to leave the house at least once a day, even if your trip takes your scarcely further than the bins.
Stop working on the sofa
OK, you might not literally be working on the sofa (written as I lie on the sofa covered in three blankets and four cushions) but are you metaphorically working on the sofa? In other words, are you working in an environment which you know is a bad idea, whether that’s because it doesn’t help you switch into work mode or because it is slowly destroying your back.
Of course, you might not have the space or money to create your #dreamoffice but it’s still worth taking the time to think about how you can make your current setup work better for you, even if it’s just insisting that your partner takes their annoying work calls in another room (you know, the ones where they keep laughing while you’re trying to work over here THANK YOU).
Claim your tax relief
Not technically a habit (although, of course, good financial management is a habit we should all get into; see Sallie Krawcheck) but something that it’s definitely worth using the incentive of a new year to do. If your employer hasn’t reimbursed you for working from home then you will be entitled to tax relief as a result of the additional expenses you’ve incurred by literally keeping the lights on. This step-by-step guide walks you through exactly how to do this on the HMRC website.
Have you learnt anything while working from home? Share your tips with us on Twitter.