It is important to make sure that when working from home, you are working in a way that is sustainable and productive. There are challenges in maintaining a work-life balance, particularly when surrounded by additional distractions and priorities such as childcare and housework.
Here are the recommendations and resources that are available to help you set up a sustainable homeworking practice.
Establish working hours
Make sure you establish working hours so that you have a defined start and finish time. Stick to your work hours and make sure you do switch off at the end of the day.
Where you are contracted to work no fixed hours, please ensure that you do not work over your hours, and please take proper breaks.
Don’t be tempted to have an extra hour of sleep, not bother getting dressed or working in bed – it will only make it harder for you to get started on work.
Stick to the routine that you and your body are accustomed to – this helps you maintain a clear delineation between home time and work time and helps prevent you from over or underworking.
Convert your commuting time into a positive physical or mental health activity (for example, gentle home workout with the University Sports Centre, your daily outdoor walk or exercise, read a book, play a game, do a puzzle, etc.)
You should take regular breaks from work. Short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional, longer breaks. Ideally, try to take a 5 to 10-minute break after every 50 to 60 minutes of work.
Take your lunch break away from your screen, and (where possible) away from your work desk or room altogether.
Keep a to-do list
Break your body of work down into individual tasks – this keeps timescales and activity into more manageable pieces. Things you could do to help this include:
- Make a to-do list for the day and focus only on what you need to achieve on that day.
- For group tasks, use the Microsoft Planner app to manage tasks and due dates to keep each other up to date without taking too much time out emailing or calling colleagues.
- Change tasks or rooms if you are not making progress, or connect with a colleague to brainstorm barriers.
- Have a list of easy tasks that you can do when you feel overwhelmed or stuck.
- Use the Pomodoro technique and set a timer and work for 25 minutes, then take a short break.
Use the GROW model to structure your time and set SMART objectives
The GROW model is a simple framework you can use to structure the time you spend working from home. GROW stands for:
- Goal - this can be starting or finishing a piece of work or solving a problem
- Reality - have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
- Options – explore various routes
- Will (or Way forward) – commit to making the journey
Once you have established a set of priorities, you can define some SMART objectives that help pave the way forward. SMART objectives are effective because they are:
- Specific: Vague objectives are difficult to progress. It’s hard to know what action to take to address them and to know whether they have been achieved.
- Measurable: Measurable objectives can be assessed and success evaluated.
- Achievable: Goals need to be realistic and manageable, while at the same time challenging.
- Relevant: Objectives should be targeted to make the most difference in delivering long-term goals and aspirations. Objectives, therefore, need to be directly relevant to these goals and must be prioritised to ensure that they deliver the greatest impact.
- Timed: An objective without a deadline will rarely be achieved. The deadline creates an imperative for action and helps to ensure that the time available is used productively to move towards achieving the individual objectives and the longer-term goals.
Invest in professional development
The Organisational and Staff Development Scheme (OSDS) have been working to adapt their professional development programmes for academic, research and professional staff to deliver them online. OSDS are also planning to offer a number of online workshops to support effective home working, including:
- Effective working from home
- Managing remote teams
- Productivity hacks for homeworking
Check the OSDS homepage for further information and updates.
You can find all the available courses and workshops on the Personal Development Management System (PDMS): select ‘show all’ and then filter by audience.
Attend a home-based writing retreat
The University’s writing retreats are extremely popular and allow participants to focus on a specific task for a set period, resulting in maximized productivity and self-satisfaction.
Why not run your own writing retreat at home using the outline below?
|Activity||Morning start||Afternoon start|
|Set SMART objectives for the session, writing warm up (three minutes free writing)||9.30am to 10am||1pm to 1.30pm|
|Writing||10am to 11am||1.30pm to 2.30pm|
|Break and review||11am to 11.15am||2.30pm to 2.45pm|
|Writing||11.15am to 12.45pm||2.45pm to 4.15pm|
|Review and wrap up||12.45pm to 1pm||4.25pm to 4.30pm|