Here at Woolley & Co, we are fortunate enough to be able to work from home all the time, personally I have doing so for some 13 years now. So, whilst I am not forced to do so because of the current pandemic, it is still challenging and so I thought I would share some of my personal and my colleagues experiences and top tips for a successful home working environment.
- Just because your office is down the hallway or down the stairs, does not mean you can rock up at any old time you want. Set working hours just as you would normally, as my colleague Luci Larkin in London puts it “Aim to start at the same time each day and finish at the same time – so you have a work routine but at home!”. And don’t be tempted to work all day in your pyjamas! Get dressed and pretend you are going into the office.
- Create a morning routine, personally I like to get my exercise regime out of the way first, then I am set for the day, I also don’t feel resentful if at the end of the day I have not managed to fit it in, because have been slogging away and lost track of time.
- If you can, create a dedicated workspace that is free from other distractions. Working on your laptop in front of the telly is not something I recommend, eventually the lure of Netflix will take over! Many of my colleagues pointed out the importance of having a door you can close at the end of the working day.
- Take a prescribed break at lunch time, walk away from the computer and go and eat your lunch in a different environment, whether that be the garden or another room in the house, this will ensure you feel like you have actually had a break.
- Get regular breaks. My colleague Kate Brooks in Market Harborough suggests getting a pet, preferably one that needs walking, it’s great company and forces you to take a break. Personally I set a timer on my computer so that I get a 10 min break every hour (Mac users try the app called ‘time out’) this is the equivalent of your colleague saying ‘fancy a coffee’ or going for a chat round the water cooler.
- Try and avoid working outside your prescribed hours, whilst it is easy to do when you work from home, I advise setting your ‘out of office’ at the end of the day. This is not just for everyone else’s benefit but also serves to tell you that the working day has ended. As my colleague in Somerset, Judith Buckland puts it “People tend to work longer hours when working at home. Don’t. Be disciplined about ensuring you do not end up working every hour and to ensure that you spend time with your family.”
- Try what I do, when I have set my out of office and put the answerphone on – say out loud – “SHUTDOWN COMPLETE” – it actually works as a means of telling yourself that you are now on your own time.
- You might find you are sitting down more than you would in your usual office environment, so don’t forget to get up and stretch or do some squats every now and then to keep your joints mobile. There’s nothing worse than feeling stiff from sitting down all day. Do what I have done and get a stand-up desk! My colleague Catherine Edmondson in Stoke on Trent suggests, putting the laundry in and hang it out but I think I prefer the advice from Kimberley Bailey in Bristol who suggests just taking 5 minutes to breath and reflect.
- Remind those you share your house with that just because you are working from home, they should not expect you to have undertaken all the household chores during the day! One of our home working administrators suggested you make sure family and friends know that this is your working time, if they call/pop in, politely explain that this is your working day and they couldn’t do it if you were in a regular office. As my colleague Karen Agnew-Griffith in Norfolk suggests, get a do not disturb notice on the door if you need to.
- Enjoy the freedom, for Karen Agnew-Griffiths that’s being able to listen the radio in the background or catch Wimbledon in the summer. For Kate Brooks it’s the ability to book personal appointments during the daytime, and work later to compensate. This is one of the real beauties of working from home. Couple this with the other tips and it really does work.
Kate Brooks says most important of all is to treat yourself to a good pair of slippers, you’re going to be wearing them a lot!
Of course, having the right technology helps. At Woolley & Co we use a secure server to access all client case details on our case management system, we have a web enabled telephone and messaging system which is like a traditional switchboard and enables the whole team to see who is available. To share information, keep up morale and allow all 23 of our lawyers to support each other daily we also use a robust, secure intranet – that’s how I collected my colleague’s ideas for this blog.
Good luck and stay safe!
Family lawyer Cornwall