Research has shown that, at the height of lockdown, 60% of the UK’s adult population were working from home. While some employees have now returned to the office, a quarter say that they intend to continue to work from home permanently or occasionally in the future.
Working from home has been nothing new to the Altura team. Rob was working from home a couple of days a week even before lockdown, and despite facing the challenge of having a family for company during the day, has found that it can be a productive way to work.
So, if you’re working from home now, or you intend to in the future, here are some useful tips based on our experiences.
1. Find a dedicated workspace
One of the key steps to successful remote working is to find a dedicated space that works for you. If you can, create a quiet space away from people and distractions like the TV or the kitchen. Even in a small or shared space, try and create a specific area for working.
When you have done this, make sure you are comfortable. It’s generally better to sit at a desk or table if you can and set up your workspace as carefully as you can. Nip into the office and ‘borrow’ your office chair if you need to, or use cushions to support you in your chair, or a box as a footrest.
Also, it’s worth remembering that remote working doesn’t necessarily mean working at home.
Rob says: “I’ve had a hot desk arrangement and a nearby WeWork style office since I started the business. It’s near my son’s school and so it’s very convenient after school drop-offs, meaning I can be at a desk within minutes rather than having to travel back home.
“It also gives me access to facilities like a proper printer and scanner, and an all-important change of scene which is sometimes very necessary! It’s very cost-effective too, as it works on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis by the hour.”
2. Stay in touch
While surveys show people say working at home can make them more productive, you may also feel isolated. So, it’s vital that you stay in touch with other people.
Rather than using Slack or WhatsApp messages, pick up the phone or schedule a video call with clients or colleagues where possible. It’s quite probable that these people also feel the same and getting in touch is as likely to support them as it is to give you a boost.
We’ve scheduled regular calls with the Altura team – even just for an online catch-up – to make sure we’re supporting everyone’s mental wellbeing.
3. Schedule some breaks
It’s easy to get involved in work at home and work intensely for long periods. However, the NHS stresses the importance of taking lunch and regular screen breaks. Even just five to ten minutes of short breaks each hour can really help your productivity.
Create a routine that suits you. Here’s an example from Rob: “During lockdown, I dug out a ‘contemporary’ teapot someone had given us as a gift many years ago,” he says.
“For the first time in decades, I started making loose leaf tea! Every day I’d stop at 3ish to make me and my wife a pot of ‘proper’ tea. It gave us both a break and meant I could go back to work refreshed and ready for the rest of the afternoon.”
4. Embrace how you work best
Everyone’s energy levels work differently. Some people are at their best first thing in the morning, while some get a boost in the late afternoon and early evening.
The important thing is to find a routine and schedule that works for you. It’s generally the output that matters, so embrace what works.
Here’s Rob again: “Exercise is important too and I find it great at getting me re-focused when I’m low on energy,” he adds.
“If I can rouse myself, getting out for a 5k run in the late afternoon seems to give me a really productive last hour or two of the day.”
5. Adopt a ‘digital sunset’
Even if you don’t work from home, it can be tempting to check your work emails, or ‘just finish off that last piece of work’ in the evening.
To create a boundary between your work and home life, adopt a so-called ‘digital sunset’.
- Turn off your work laptop or PC (don’t just close the lid)
- Put your laptop away in a drawer or cupboard as then you’re less likely to boot it up in the evening
- Turn off your work phone (if you have one) or ignore notifications from work applications
- Turn off all your digital devices at least an hour before you go to bed, as this will also support a good night’s sleep.
By doing this, you will signal that your working day is over, and create a clear distinction between your work and home life. Even consider walking around the block at the end of the working day as your ‘commute’.
Got a home office? Beware of the tax implications
If, like many others, you have set up a dedicated home office during lockdown, then accountants are warning that there could be a tax liability when you come to sell your home.
While Capital Gains Tax is not levied on the sale of your main home, it is applied to any part used “exclusively for the purposes of a trade, business, profession or vocation.”
George Bull, a partner at the accountancy firm RSM, says: “If you set aside a room and say: ‘This is my study, I have a phone in there, a computer in there and I’m keeping it locked from the children’, that is going to crystallise a tax exposure.”
Note that, under HMRC rules, a room or shed will only be taxed if it is used exclusively for work. If you use it as a spare bedroom, somewhere to relax, or your children play in there now and again then it’s unlikely the taxman will come calling.
HMRC say: “In the vast majority of circumstances, most people working from a room at home will use that room for both work and domestic purposes to some sort of degree.”