• A guide to Working from Home

    With millions of us working from home (WFH) due to Coronavirus restrictions, we at Paul’s Paper and Pens thought it was time to pull together some advice and tips for WFHomers to help make your experience positive and productive.

    Work From Home desk

    The benefits of WFH can be awesome (think – what I am going to with my commuting time for instance) and many doing it for the first time will be clamouring at their boss’s doors for more flexibility in the future.

    It’s possible to be happier, more motivated and productive when WFH, but it takes a little thought, decent kit and a good measure of discipline. 

    1. Create a dedicated workspace.

    Often the first step in our WFH journey is to designate an area of our homes to work from. Regardless of space or location, it’s important to establish where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day.

    The Right Kit.

    Depending of course on your job role, the kit you will need may differ but most “WFHomers” will need the following: 

    • Desk / table and some storage space for books, files, stationery.
    • A good quality ergonomic chair (particularly as you get older and suffer more from aches and pains). Corporatespec sell a fantastic range of refurbished branded office chairs with up to 80% discount.
    • A computer / laptop and monitor. (Preferably with a separate keyboard and mouse).
    • A broadband connection and wireless router.
    • Access to productivity software packages such as Microsoft Office or iWork.
    • Video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
    • Lighting to ensure you look your best on video calls, impress the boss by not sitting in the dark. Try one of our Illumni Video Light Bundles.
    • A bluetooth earpiece for phone and video calls. (Stops you shouting into your computers microphone or holding your phone to your ear for extended periods). Also allows you to walk while you talk – allowing for a change of scenery. The Jabra Talk 25 we have found to be incredibly good value for money.
    • Wireless (noise cancelling) headphones, great for drowning out the dog or for listening to music for focus. We absolutely love our Bowers & Wilkins PX5's. B&W also have an outlet store on their website if you fancy a bargain.
    • A productivity timer – to measure both your work and importantly break time. We particularly like these 2 Polygon Timer and Cube Timer but you could also use your phone or heaven forbid a clock.
    • And of course – but we have to say this, good quality stationery. Choose Life (as Andrew and George encouraged), Mnemosyne, Blackwing, and the excellent Zebra Sharbo X Multi Pen.

    This type of kit will not only make WFH easier and more enjoyable, but is also an investment in you and your future, after all you may wish to continue working from home more, or perhaps even set up your own business or side hustle maximising the use of this equipment.

    Don’t forget to talk to your employer to see if they can help with any of your kit costs, they often have budgets for this or may allow you to take office equipment such as chairs and computers home.

    2. Set a routine and stick to it.

    It is so important to maintain a healthy work-life balance when WFH and a routine really helps with this.

    • Try to set and maintain regular working hours that suit your life commitments (family, pets) and the needs of your role / employer.
    • If your role allows for flexibility, find when you work best and set work time accordingly. So, if you are not a morning person, do you fancy starting work at lunch time? You may find that this greatly increases your productivity and helps to breakdown the office (morning) bias. We all have different circadian rhythms and Matthew Walker considers this in his excellent book Why We Sleep.
    • Communicate these (work hours) to family, friends and work colleagues, so they know when you are likely to be available.
    • Set your alarm for at least one hour before you start work, and undertake your morning routine, go for a run, savour a cup of coffee, or catch up on the news. Always take time to freshen up and to make yourself presentable and ready work. Some people recommend that you should power dress to WFH, I don’t agree with this – it’s fine to wear leisurewear (obviously not for an interview) but do freshen up, straighten your hair and make sure you are wide awake and fit for the day ahead.
    • Have an end time and try to rigidly stick to it. Move away from your workspace and come back to your work the following day.
    • To do lists are an important part of WFH life and are best prepared either last thing or first thing of your working hours. Make a list of the things you need to achieve, rank them in terms of importance or time sensitivity and estimate how long they are going to take.

    3. Take a break.

    Breaks are incredibly important, schedule and always take them. They help you to relax, wind down and most importantly to refocus.

    • During work hours, set your timer and work in uninterrupted bursts (no peeking at your phone, or sending quick Whatsapp messages). I tend to work in 60 minute intervals, but the world renowned Pomodoro Technique recommends 25 minute bursts.
    • You can then treat yourself to a short break (don’t forget to set your timer again, so you don’t sneak extra minutes) stretch your legs, play with the dog, make yourself a cup of tea and then get back on it,
    • Schedule and take a lunch break. Move away from your workspace, relax and winddown, but don’t forget to set your lunch time alarm – sometimes it’s hard but you’ve got to get back to work.

    4. Stay connected. 

    It’s easy to feel loneliness, isolation and disconnection when working from home, make sure you regularly stay in touch with work colleagues and your boss.

    • Take advantage of your organisations preferred messaging apps, email and video conferencing software. If you don’t currently have team meetings, organise or suggest them. Interact, it’s good to talk for you and your colleagues. Make sure you look after each other and help out if you see anyone struggling.
    • Don’t forget to let everyone know what your work schedule is and when you will be available, to avoid them contacting you “out of hours”.

    5. Look after yourself.

    It’s important to look after yourself when you WFH, there are a wide range of things you can do and the good thing is, it’s probably easier to do this from the comfort of your own home.

    • Exercise and stretch regularly. This boosts natural endorphins, which happiness, enjoyment, focus and interest levels. It is far easier to touch your toes in your back bedroom or dining room than it is in a busy office.
      Healthy snacks
    • Get out for a walk, use one of your breaks or part of lunch time to get out and about, and partake in a breath of fresh air. Even grab your Bluetooth earpiece and take a meeting while you stroll. If you need an agenda use the notes function on your smartphone.
    • Stock the fridge with health snacks. Working from home means access to the fridge and cupboards and it’s really easy to turn to chocolate, biscuits and crisps. Try to make sure you have some healthy options in store and plan lunch times so you don’t just graze all day. You could make lunch at the same time as breakfast as you would if you are taking lunch into the office.
    • Stay hydrated. The NHS recommends that we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of water per day to avoid the perils of dehydration such as tiredness and loss of focus. An easy way to drink enough water is to grab a glass during each work break.

    6. The perks - Take advantage.

    Travel Time

    There are a number of perks from working from home – the biggest of which has to be no commute. Many of us spend hours each day in cars or couped up in congested public transport. If you work from home you can choose what you do with “freed” up travel time. You could. 

    • Spend extra “quality” time with your family.
    • Take up a hobby or even learn a new skill. Maybe learn to play chess and take on a friend online, or startle your neighbours by trying the drums or electric guitar.
    • Go to the gym / or take some exercise, such as walking, running or cycling. We’ve found undertaking virtual distance challenges has really helped with motivation. The Conqueror have a good range of challenges and you can work in harmony or compete against others.
    • Do something to improve your mental health and wellbeing, such as join a online yoga class. We can fully endorse the health benefits of the Yin Yoga classes and meditations guided by Carliann at Peace Love Yoga.
    • Read that classic novel you’ve always wanted to.
    • Dedicate some time to helping others. (particularly during
      The dishes - all done
      Mental Health Foundation, simple little things that will make someone’s day.
    • Write a letter to show someone you care, go old school and use Writing Paper and a classic Pilot Capless fountain pen.
    • Finally, spend some of this newly found time to getting on top of your chores, such as laundry, tidying and cleaning. We all feel better when things are spick and span and you definitely can’t do this in the car or in the office. So take advantage.

    Workspace / Environment.

    You can personalise your workspace in ways it would be impossible to do in an office environment. It is possible to stimulate your senses by.

    • Adding plants or flowers to your desk or workspace. We love the range from The Little Botanical which come already potted, for those definitely without green fingers. These plants will also help to purify the air you breathe whilst you work.
    • Audio - Listen to music whilst you work, although we wouldn’t recommend rocking out to AC/DC at volume 11.
      plants home office
    • Visual – you can surround yourself with images which make you feel happy and stimulate you. Think about painting the wall you face your favourite colour and hanging your favourite photos or prints so you can see them from your desk. You could even decorate the walls with some of your favourite motivation quotes.
    • Smell - Alongside the flowers and plants, we think it is a great idea to brighten your day with pleasant fragrances using an essential oil burner or scented candles. We particularly like Pecksniff's range of candles, they smell great and look fantastic on your desk.
    • Unlike a busy / large office you can adjust the temperature to suit you and you alone. How many of us have sat boiling in shirt and tie, whilst the person next to you sits in a vest and says they are freezing. The Dyson Hot+Cool is excellent at keeping you both warm and cool, whilst being really quiet. Dyson have an outlet store on their website if you are interested in nabbing a bargain.

    7. Finally, Think Longer Term.

    Many people are currently forced to work from home due to Covid restrictions, and are adjusting their lifestyle and ways of working.

    Research shows that many organisations are seeing the benefits of allowing employees to WFH and are recognising that there is no significant impact upon productivity, this means that WFH roles will only increase in the future and therefore we should all take the opportunity to sample WFH, invest in the right kit, work upon the right skills and organise our time to take advantage of the obvious “perks” to enhance both our work and personal life.

    Happy Home Working.