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Insights Alex's tips for working from home

23 March 2020 

I'm Alex, Principal Human Factors Consultant at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis group. As a number of people over the coming weeks are likely to either need to self-isolate or will by choice reduce their time in the office, I thought it might be worth sharing a few tips which I’ve come to since switching to a largely home-working role last autumn.

This is an image of Alex on the beach with his family

These may not work for everyone, but I’ve found they help me to structure my day and ensure I’m as productive as possible while maintaining my mental health:

Choose a start and end time to your day – it’s easy to end up just switching on the laptop and starting work when you get up, then your day drifting on and you not having a defined end, so setting a start and end helps define your work day and own time.

Have a morning routine – you wouldn’t walk into the office in your pyjamas, having not showered etc. so it makes little sense to do so when working from home. Again, maintaining this routine helps define the point at which your work day has started.

Set up a working space as well as you can – If you have a desk you can work from, this is obviously ideal, but if not make sure you’re setting up your work space to fit as closely to recommendations for a DSE environment as possible. An external keyboard and mouse, plus simple laptop stand can help turn your laptop into a much more suitable workstation.

Separate your working space from your kitchen – Whilst there are the obvious advantages of keeping yourself away from the snacks drawer, it also helps if you can separate your working space from where you go to make a cup of tea, your lunch etc. as it provides more definition to your working and break times.

Start your day with a huddle – If you were in the office, you would doubtless spend some time at the start of your day catching up with colleagues, team-mates or just those sat next to you in the office. This small human contact is important so make some time to drop a message, call or video-call to someone to see how they are, have a chat about non-work items etc.

Take breaks – When working from home, it’s even easier to get absorbed by a task as you don’t have as many people disturbing you, distracting by walking past etc. As such, it can also be easy to forget to take a break, so maybe set a timer on your phone or similar.

Move – Just as important in the office as it is at home; it’s essential to move around during your day as much as you can. Change your working position, go for a walk (if this is possible), stretch etc. at your working space. Whatever it is, just keep yourself active as much as possible.

Get outside – if it’s at all possible, getting out in the daylight is important, either before, during or after your working day. The fresh air, Vitamin D etc. are all shown to significantly affect not only your physical but mental health. My early morning or evening walks are a big highlight of my day and can be done with minimal human contact, if you're trying to keep distance to avoid transmission.

Stay in touch – At Atkins, we have Skype, Teams, Yammer, WhatsApp and loads of other means of being in touch with one another. I imagine most companies now have the same, so make sure you’re using them to be in touch with your team-mates, whether on work-related or just general discussion – human contact makes a huge difference to maintaining positive mental health.

Do as I say, not necessarily as I do – Whilst I try to follow all of the above, my approach is definitely still a work in progress!

I hope that this helps a little over the coming weeks, but do share if you have any of your own thoughts and tips using the #insideAtkins tag