Working from home - tips to stay safe, sane and productive

01 May 2020   |   by Una McGuinness

Yes, there have been lots of posts around this subject and others saying, well, of course, it's just the norm. The current global pandemic is so far from the norm, everything and everyone is disrupted. You are not 'working from home' - you are 'working through a crisis at home'.  Here are my tips from experience in working remotely (from home), and running a busy household with three children.

Looking back at my career - when I first started working from home, rather than having a healthy mental approach to it I think I overcompensated; working longer hours, not taking time out of the day to have regular breaks or exercise.

I felt I really 'should' be in the office, so I need to demonstrate "I going above and beyond anyone else". No one will be able to say I am not working hard. As such, I didn't do all the things I am going to detail here and often felt 'exhausted' and not energised by my 'favourable' situation.

Time has moved on, and now obviously working remotely / from home is very much part of many people's working week. However, the current COVID-19 crisis has meant there are lots of people that maybe not so accustomed with a more frequent / or indeed full time working from home policy that are adjusting to the new norm.

Top tips to make it work for you
  1. Ensure you have a clear workspace, with good light and ideally a desk. For years I didn't have the luxury of my own home office; however, you need to find that quiet corner somewhere to set yourself up, especially as your day may include lots of calls and video conferencing. I wouldn't advise a different working area every day if, at home, it's stressful if others are also around. Think what do I need, for example, don't let your laptop run out of power mid-conference call, ensure you have space to organise yourself.
  2. Video conferencing - test it out and ensure attention to detail. Talk to those you live with about your working arrangements. What can people see when I'm on a video call? You don't want them distracted by the colour of your duvet or your unmade bed! I once saw someone's partner walk across the room in his boxer shorts while I was conducting a second interview!! I used a sign "NOT ALLOWED IN" so my kids won't interfere when I was on a conference call. (Obviously obeyed at all times!) At other times you can be less strict, it's their home too! Now with the technology, you can choose your background, but don't go too crazy to distract.
  3. Ensure you have a comfy, supportive chair. I'd invest in one if you don't own one, or perhaps if you have any health issues your work will provide/support you with one.
  4. I know some people say they can work in their lounging or pyjamas - I don't think anyone feels comfortable video conferencing someone who is! I'm convinced you can be more productive - when you are showered, dressed as you would for work (within reason!).
  5. As in the office, plan your day using your outlook for crucial tasks and all meetings. If you want to go for a run at lunchtime or do some other activity / online learning, listen to a podcast etc. - block it out in the diary or if you are like me, it won't happen. Blocking out tasks will help you avoid distractions, of which there are many!
  6. Don't feel you have to sit at your desk working during all your 'commuting time'. Yes, it might be great to be able to start at 7 am; however, you won't last if you are working till 7 pm every day.
  7. Give yourself breaks so you are not sat in the same position for 4 hours at a time! There are loads of tips online for office exercises, get outside, go for a run etc.
  8. Set your daily goals; don't look at an 'unending to-do list' that immobilises you throughout the day and week. Start each day, with a simple "what re the three key actions I must complete?". You can easily add to it. Don't start at the screen/waste time on un-necessary online tasks. One must be productive to move forward. You are in control, who wants to get to the end of the day thinking - what have I achieved? Conversely, don't put too much pressure on yourself, review at the end of your working period, what did I set out to do, and what positive actions can I take from today?
  9. Agree on communications with your Manager and or team - how frequently, ideally face to face. It's frustrating when you can't get through to people as they are on the phone; you are not sitting next to them, so you can't see they are on the phone! If anything crank up the communication - you will feel better being more connected, and able to share problems and roadblocks!  Don't allow yourself to be constantly interrupted either.  Schedule in times for people to know they can reach out to you then.
  10. Don't put yourself under pressure at home to complete every household chore, or become the pickup/drop off person every day. (When normality resumes).  Sure you can exercise a bit of flexibility, that is, of course, one of the benefits, however, be clear on parameters, when you are not going to do it; otherwise you will be adding more stress onto your working day.


The final point is to ensure you a have a few go-to people you can pick up the phone to and have a conversation, don't resort to everything by email, or you will soon feel isolated. You may find yourself working from home on a more permanent basis and not feel that energised about it. I can't stress finding the time to do something you don't normally do, such as exercise during the day, meditation, yoga etc. or cooking a healthy meal from scratch can be very rewarding!

When you get in your groove, you will realise that with focus and concentration, often lacking in the office environment; great things can be achieved!

Una McGuinness

Una has a huge passion for the industry, substantiated by over 20 years’ experience as a leader. Currently working with an array of clients across various sectors and projects, Una can offer you objectivity, smart thinking, with a constant eye on what and how companies are adapting to the world of recruitment plus inspiration to make the changes you require to take your business to the next level.

More About Una
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