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Real Life: Home Working

Velvet editor Alice Ryan has been working from home for three years. As coronavirus compels workers across the country to go remote, she shares her top tips for being productive and staying sane

When I started working from home, it gave me The Fear. I’d spent more than a decade in a big, busy, noisy newsroom. Admittedly there were drawbacks - the colleague with a penchant for honky microwaved curry; the colleague with the constant phlegmy cough; the fact the toilets rarely flushed; the fact the aircon *always* packed up in summer, so we’d sweat our wotsits off - yet I loved it. I’d worked with some of my colleagues since day one: they were my work family. Phlegmy coughs and all.

So, faced with the prospect of lone working, I was daunted, sure I’d pine for people. Which I did. For a few weeks. Gradually, I realised - if you get it right - working from home can be brilliant: peaceful, productive, plus you can do it in your pyjamas.

If you’re home-working for the first time, in line with Government advice to curb coronavirus, here are my top tips for mastering the art:

Create an office space

Setting aside a designated space, even if you’ve not got a desk area at home, will really help you click into work mode - and out of it again. Commandeer one end of the dining table, a dressing table in the spare room; wherever, as long as you can set up your work stuff and leave it there. Give the space a good tidy and pretty it up a bit: a plant, a scented candle. . . You want it to feel professional but inviting, too - you’re going to be spending a *lot* of time here.

Working from home (32512242)
Working from home (32512242)

Set your hours

One of the best things about home working is that it’s flexible. Be honest about your lark/owl status and shift your work pattern to play to your strengths. Your productivity levels will soar. I’m very much a lark, hence I’ll be at the desk for 5am if I’ve got a big deadline; if not, I’ll start at 8am latest. (Don’t ask me to string a sentence after 9pm, though, when all I’m fit for is a box set, book or bed.)

Make a schedule

I’m a big fan of a list. I end each day by writing a list of tomorrow’s jobs; it helps me get organised and stay focused. I try not to make it too long though - say the 10 most pressing jobs - else it can feel defeating.

Don’t forget to take breaks

Without the nudge of colleagues asking if you want a cuppa/lunch/walk to the shop, it’s all too easy to work away uninterrupted, glance at your phone and realise it’s now 3pm and you’ve not eaten, drunk or moved. This, we know, is bad news for both body and mind. My solution is to work in two-hour blocks, stopping for a 15-minute coffee-and-snack break morning and afternoon and a 45-minute lunch (so I can take the dogs round the block and still have time to eat).

Make proper coffee

I have an old-school coffee filter and thermos pot without which I’d be bereft. Drip-coffee with frothy milk kick-starts my day and punctuates it, too, giving me a boost whenever I start to flag. Coffee’s my thing; yours might be tea, or herbal tea, or chocolate. The point is: you’ll need fuel to keep you going.

Get some fresh air

Even if it’s only sticking your head out of the window at lunchtime, get a bit of fresh air. It reboots the brain, I find (hence my midday dog walk).

Pick up the phone

Email, messaging and social media are all well and good, but, to stay feeling connected and not lonesome, pick up the phone. Or FaceTime. Or Zoom. Or Google Hangout. Or whatever. Now more than ever, in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, hearing voices and seeing faces is good for the soul.

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