Working from Home? Strange isn’t it

COVID-19 has seen a lot of people having to work from home for an extended period, and it’s very different to the odd day here and there. Chris Ingram, the founder of Continal has worked from home, hotels, laybys and airports for most of his 35 year business life. In this blog he shares his top tips – and hopefully they’ll help you.

The past two weeks have certainly been interesting. I can’t remember when I last spent two whole weeks at home, sleeping in the same bed and seeing my family every day. For 35 years I have mainly worked remotely as I visit suppliers, customers, and Continal’s offices across Europe.

And then on Friday at about lunchtime, I realised I hadn’t shaved for four days and was still in my PJs. My breakfast toast was half eaten beside me while I fielded call after call, and email after email, as we set up new remote working systems for the entire team. I had to have a word with myself!

I looked back over the years, and wrote down my list of ”Home Working Rules” because I was in danger of falling into the home-working trap. Here’s what’s on my list, based on years of remote working:

  1. Write up your schedule. Grab a coffee, sit back, and on a blank sheet of paper, write up your ideal schedule. It’s as basic as when to get up, when to have breakfast, when to answer emails, when to make calls, then down to essential details such as fag breaks, tea breaks and lunch. Most importantly, write down when your working day will finish. Stick a copy up by your work area (and I also stick a copy inside the tea and coffee cupboard door, so it’s one of the first things I see in the morning).
  2. Dress for work. Yep, even if you are at home, dress for work. You don’t need to go the whole “suited and booted” route, or don the PPE (that would be just weird); however, a simple set of “work” clothes helps get you in the mood and also serves as a reminder to any family around you that you are at work.
  3. Dedicated work space. You can get away with the kitchen table for the odd day of home-working, but for an extended length of time you need to find a space at home. One of my team has roughly converted their utility room, another is using his garage, but any space you can make your own is good. Also make sure the kids know to not nick your pen and paper – making it a “no go” zone helps.
  4. Radio on. I like background noise, so I put the radio on. It helps me focus and blocks out some of the household sounds.
  5. Other people in the house. This can be a tough one, but patiently explaining to kids and partners that they need to not disturb you can really help. Of course, someone bringing you tea and biscuits is always welcome 😊.
  6. Earplugs. If you have kids off school, it can get a bit noisy, so these help me. I first tried this on a long airport wait and it really worked.
  7. Tea & coffee. It’s tempting to go to the kitchen, but I’ve found that my family pounce, wanting me to play or do chores. I now have a pod coffee machine set up beside my desk.
  8. Breaks. Take them as you would in the workplace – the structure helps you to concentrate on your work.
  9. Make a list the night before. This is my BIG TIP – it helps me get focused first thing. I write it before I pack up for the night, stick it on my laptop, and crack on first thing the next day.
  10. Drive time. You may not be driving to work anymore, but for many people that transition time is golden. What I do these days is go into my home office and read for 20 minutes before starting work.
  11. Use your phone / Skype / Facetime. Resist the urge to email if you have a question but make the effort to actually speak with your colleagues. We all miss those quick, everyday chats.

So, there are my Working From Home rules. Some may work for you, and others not, but as more of us try out home working, it’s good to share tips among ourselves. I’d love to try some other suggestions: please send yours in!