Working from home

Increasingly, and particularly as a result of the Covid pandemic, people are needing to work remotely/from home. This is likely to be the ‘new norm’ so we have drawn together some points to consider to support you with this new way of working.

There are obvious pros and cons which immediately spring to mind. Do explore this with your manager/colleagues and come up with your own list. Your health condition may generate issues that don't apply to anyone else and haven't been considered. Ideally these should be addressed from the outset and allowances and adjustments made accordingly. The Equality Act (2010) still applies when you work remotely.

Possible Pros
  • no commute
  • control over your working environment
  • fewer distractions
  • flexibility with working hours and breaks.
Possible Cons
  • lack of appropriate equipment
  • reduced social interaction and informal support
  • less defined structure/routine
  • impact on motivation
  • blurring of work/home boundaries

A good office is designed to help us work efficiently – to allow both collaboration and solitary focus. It should provide the ideal environment in terms of lighting, temperature, comfort. Most of us can give examples where this is not the case – but an office is designed for working, whereas your home usually isn't.

Video calls are now a common technology to replace face to face meetings – both group and individual. Video calls are usually scheduled and don’t tend to be utilised for more informal communication. A physical office or other base allows us to build relationships and create genuine networks of support. These interactions, however brief, do have an impact on how we feel and how we function.

Points to consider on set-up of your work area

  • Ideally separate from the rest of the house to limit distractions
  • Have a dedicated desk at the correct height. To minimise excessive sitting can you stand at a kitchen worktop using a laptop as an improvised ‘standing desk’? This has some good postural advice - but you should liaise with your manager and new risk assessments should be done as appropriate. Access to Work can help with equipment purchase at home as well as in the office.
  • A sturdy, comfortable chair; ideally office-type with adequate back rest/support if needed. But the advice above also applies.
  • If possible in a space with natural light
  • Try to keep work area dedicated/tidy; mess = stress!!

Points to consider on organisation

  • Use a master list of all tasks to complete; this will form a basis of planning and give a feeling of control.
  • Compile a list of daily jobs to do then prioritise these maybe using a colour code
  • Use/check diary every day whether paper or computer based; always keep some space in diary for last minute/urgent requests
  • Consider using whiteboard, text reminders, Google calendar to organise yourself; think about what works for you

Points to consider to maintain focus

  • Tackle stress over deadlines by breaking tasks into steps or ’chunks’, reward yourself after each achievement with a short break or something you enjoy.
  • Make sure you dress appropriately as it may foster a ‘work mindset’, particularly if you are going to make video calls
  • It can be hard to get started on tasks; the bigger they are the more we may resist them. You can manage this by blocking out time in diary, break tasks into chunks, or just plunging in (and then rewarding yourself). Maybe tell your manager or a colleague you are going to achieve it by a certain time and have them check on you?

Points to consider on keeping well while working at home

  • If you have flexibility in your working day consider when are you most productive? You may work best in the early morning or later in the day for example, or for chunks of time.
  • Take regular breaks according to your health needs; Occupational Therapists have recommended standing up every 30 minutes minimum. Use a timer/alarm on your phone to remind you. Go outside if possible and get some fresh air, perhaps do some exercise mid-way through the day?
  • Ensure you are keeping fluids up and eating enough nutritious food. Meal breaks may not be so defined at home so develop a system to ensure you don’t overlook this.
  • Exercise is a great stress/anxiety reliever and mood/perspective booster. If you are struggling to concentrate or fatigued a short walk or some stretches may make all the difference
  • Working from home can impinge on home/personal/free time which can lead to stress. A way to overcome this may be to have a "decompression" period of 30 mins or so to create a boundary. Here you do some exercise, go for a walk, play the piano, do some gardening or whatever which then signals it is time to switch off from work and "move home".
  • The lack of, or reduced, human contact can exacerbate stress. Ensure you check in with your team/colleagues/boss regularly to share experiences and alleviate any concerns.
  • Anxiety can heighten when we start doing something new/a different way. Talk to others; share concerns and make use of self-help resources. Just writing worries down gets them out of our head and starts to lessen their impact. Make use of health apps.

Other points to consider

  • It may be prudent to inform your home insurance company – this could be construed as a change of use under the terms of your policy.
  • You may be able to claim tax relief on your job expenses if you are now working from home. A good starting point is the Governments guide on this.
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