Working from home working used to be relatively unusual, with commuting five days a week into the office being the norm for the vast majority of people working.

But that changed when the pandemic struck, which meant that many businesses were forced to adapt to their employees working from home. 

Even companies that want staff back in their offices are coming around to the idea that a full return to the traditional five-day week is extremely unlikely to happen.

Whether you’re fully remote or an occasional commuter, working outside an office can be a challenge. What are the best ways to set yourself up for success? How do you stay focused and productive? And how do you keep your work life separate from your home life?

These are all questions we try to answer in this week's blog.

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.

People working from home can often find it hard to clearly define when their day starts and ends. To address this, we would recommend making a schedule for each day and following it as closely as you can.

This means starting the day as you would if you worked in an office: Rolling out of bed at 8:45, splashing water on your face and opening your laptop should be avoided wherever possible. Instead, get up early, have a shower, go for a walk or do whatever you need to do to get in the right headspace to start your working day.

Then, try to set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish on a daily basis. I would recommend writing out a to-do list each morning and then breaking your time into blocks with separate work and leisure time to ensure you're being productive, but also giving yourself breaks throughout the day to unplug.

Most importantly, you should try and have a clearly defined finish time where you know you can turn off and relax. There will inevitably be occasions where you'll be working on something that is time-sensitive and this isn't possible, but you should try keep these instances few and far between.

2. Clearly define boundaries.

When you're working from home, it can be very easy for the lines between work and your personal life to become blurred and to feel as if you're constantly working.

That's why it's crucial (where possible) to try to have a specific space to work from at home, out of the way of your family or housemates with as few distractions as possible and relatively close to the wifi.

Additionally, it may be necessary to set expectations with whoever you live with that, despite the fact you're at home, you need to be given space to work. Not only does that help you stay focused, but makes it easier to get out of work mode at the end of the day.

Remember you can always deconstruct your workstation every Friday afternoon and reclaim your home for the weekend.

3. Stay connected.

It can be tempting when you’re WFH with fewer distractions to go hours or even full days without talking to someone. However, research has shown that prolonged periods of isolation can be counterproductive. 

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a job where you’re going to be meeting people on a regular basis, it’s important to make the effort to stay connected with your colleagues. 

Many companies these days offer virtual coffees’ on Teams, Meet, or Zoom, with the aim of keeping remote workers connected. 

Try to push yourself to join in these video calls, even if initially it feels a little uncomfortable. Forging and maintaining personal relationships at work is not only beneficial to your psychological well-being but potentially to your career prospects too.

4. Take regular breaks.

While it might be tempting to work flat out, especially if you’ve gotten into a very productive groove, it’s crucial to take regular breaks throughout the day as well as a full hour for lunch. The brain is a muscle and like any other — it needs to rest. 

I would recommend adopting the Pomodoro technique to ensure that you’re allowing yourself enough time for deep work but also scheduling regular breaks throughout the day to switch off. 

Whether it’s getting back to a few messages, making a quick cup of coffee, going for a walk around the house to stretch your legs or staring out the window, these breaks can take whatever form you like.