Basic working from home survival skills

Our Community’s Alex McMillan is the organisation’s content conductor, producing articles and videos for publications and websites, among many other major projects. For nearly a year, she has been doing the job from Europe, and is now based in London. She is well qualified to understand the challenges of working at home and being physically distant from colleagues.


In the pre-coronavirus world, working from home was the occasional treat that offered up the comfort of silence and fuzzy socks. Now, whether you’re a millennial whose living room has been converted into a co-working space full of housemates, a septuagenarian on Slack for the first time, or a parent with three bored kids, everyone will be facing a new set of variables that need balancing alongside work. It’s not exactly a treat, and it’s going to be this way for a while.

Before launching into all the new things you’ll need to do to adapt, let’s first look at what we can hang on to. While it’s an overwhelming time, not everything needs to be new, and there are a few habits you should bring from the work office into your home office.

Don’t eat at your computer

We all know eating at your desk is bad practice. Lunch provides an opportunity to clear your head, get out for a walk, and catch up on your personal life, and this is no different at home. If your new workstation happens to be on the lunch table, take your food outside.

Take regular breaks

At the office, even the most sedentary folk must walk to get water, to get to meetings, to get away from talkative colleagues. At home, there are fewer reasons to get up, but it’s no less important. There are plenty of free apps to help you out here if you’re prone to screen gazing for eight hours at a time.

Surround yourself with plants and pictures

The typical office workstation is adorned with things that inspire you to keep on keeping on (and perhaps the occasional work-related cat meme). The same goes at home. Pictures of your smiling children can be good for when you’ve just finished watching them meltdown in real life for the fifth time that day. Plants are good because they look nice, encourage productivity and do not have meltdowns.

Now, for some of the things we recommend you do to help support the new situation you’re in.

Go for a walk before and after work

We know you work hard, but it’s unlikely you’ve been literally living at the office before now. Schlepping from the couch straight to your workstation and back isn’t advisable, given it’s a fraction of your normal commute time, during which your brain is usually quietly working its way in and out of its ‘work’ state. Give yourself a task to allow your mind to turn to and from your workday. And what’s better than a nice walk around the block?

Communicate more

At the office, coffee runs, “pow wows” and water cooler conversations all provide opportunities to exchange a significant amount of information, both personal and professional. Once everyone is in different houses, this changes dramatically. At some point, we’ll all be returning to the office, so to make sure you don’t have a huge information gap, implement some good communication lines.

  • Ensure you have good instant messaging and video calling systems, and everyone knows how to use them (emojis included)
  • Get everyone to talk about their ‘highlights’ and ‘lowlights’ each week
  • Do a virtual ‘wind down’ on Friday afternoon

Work when it suits you

This won’t be applicable for all staff, but if you want or need to change your usual 9 – 5 hours, then working from home allows you a lot more flexibility, as you can shift from one task to the next without having to leave and return to work.

It may be that you’re juggling home schooling, or perhaps going for a run at lunch time provides you with the physical and mental space you need to get through the afternoon.

Finally, make sure you check in with your colleagues when you’re entering and leaving ‘the office’, but for all of our sake, use this time at home to make work, work for you.

#SaveOurSector
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This help sheet is just one of the ways the Our Community Group is working to support not-for-profits through the COVID-19 crisis, as part of a major campaign to #SaveOurSector.

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