Many of us have now been working from home for the last month. And if you are like me, it hasn’t quite gone to plan. Perhaps you had unrealistic ideas, fuelled by the adrenaline buzz, of how productive you would be working from home freed of the shackles of the daily commute and needing to travel extensively. Perhaps, despite what many articles told you was essential you haven’t quite managed to set up that new routine of working from home.

Learning how to adjust to working from home starts with making a routine; a routine that is structured, tried and tested, and tweaked until it works for you. At a time where life has changed quite unexpectedly and drastically (and keeps on changing), we all need to take control of what we can in our day to day life, we need to feel grounded, and to do this, we need to create a new structure to our day. Let’s be honest, this is always a work in progress. After 3 years of working from home I am still working on perfecting that structure.

To show you how to adjust to working from home, here is our complete guide covering why structure is so important, the 4 steps to creating a new daily routine, and some great habits that you should try to adopt

Why are structure and routine so important?

Structure and routine provide us with direction, a sense of order, and a strong feeling of ownership over our lives, not to mention that it gives our brains a break from having to regularly schedule and plan our days. With so much forced change happening to us right now, anything we can do to give our brains a break is much needed. When we have this structure and familiarity to our days, we are better able to:

  • Act rather than stand still,
  • Increase our efficiency,
  • Self-motivate,
  • Build positive habits,
  • Establish priorities,
  • Limit procrastination,
  • Keep track of our goals and growth.

With everything that’s going on now – social isolation, financial and health worries, losing loved ones, and/or having to work from home while juggling kids and family life – having a structure should be our priority. There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and panic, so the only way to get through this (with our mental health intact) is to take control of our days.

Willpower is finite and motivation is not constant, so by having a successful daily routine that becomes a habit, we can build a momentum that helps to carry us on the days where we feel like we don’t have the strength to carry ourselves. This is particularly important for times like now.

Discover how to be at your best every day (the 4 foundational habits).

How to create the best structure/routine when working from home?

To help you organise your life in a way that makes sense to you right now, here are 4 steps to creating a new daily routine.

Step 1 – Plan your ideal daily routine

There are a few things that you will always have to include in your day (e.g. work, family etc) and these will form the core structure of your new routine.

Think about what these are, make a list, and write down what you need to do to make sure that they get done. Something like this:

My day always has to include…

  1. Work – create my designated work area at home, decide on what hours I will work each day, check if I have the necessary apps and software to communicate with colleagues.
  2. Family – think about what each family member needs from me each day, decide how and when I will spend quality time with them, make a plan of what schoolwork and exercise the children need to be doing each day, decide how I will check in on other family members.
  3. Food – create a weekly meal plan, communicate set mealtimes with the family.
  4. Self-care – decide when I will have time for myself, decide how and when I will exercise/meditate/get some headspace etc, decide what hours I will go to bed and wake up.

As you can see, when thinking about how to adjust to working from home, the first step is planning and preparation. Once you have these core areas that you need to include in your day, then you can plan them in.

Step 2 – Discuss your new routine with your partner/family

When you have your essentials for your daily routine, discuss it with your family and decide on the final structure together. This is a particularly important step because the routine that might work best for you may not be the best for them, so you will need to find a middle ground.

Maybe your ideal day will be getting up early to do some work, having lunch with your family and then doing a few more hours until you can have the evening off with them? Perhaps it’s getting up early to exercise and have some me-time, then spending time with your family in the day and working in the evening?

The more you involve your partner or family in the planning of your daily routine, the easier it will be for you to balance the personal with the business whilst working from home. Collaboration also ensures that everyone is clear of the boundaries and exactly when you are working and when you’re not. More importantly, it also prevents them from feeling ‘unimportant’ as you have scheduled quality time with them into your day.

Think of this as an exercise where you need to create the routine that ticks the most boxes for everyone.

Step 3 – Try, test, and adjust your routine

Knowing how to adjust to working from home is the easy part, it’s trying to find what works best for you that takes time and effort. The important thing here is to be open to trying different things but also committed to trying them consistently to see if they are working for you or not.

While it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic, you should be able to tell after 1-2 weeks (if you’re doing it every day consistently) if something is actually working for you.

Think of this as the fine-tuning phase. It’s going to take a lot of trial and error to create the best daily routine for you when working from home, so be patient.

Step 4 – Be consistent with it but make room for flexibility

Consistency is key to making your new routine a habit, but don’t be too hard on yourself. At such a stressful time, you’re not always going to be 100% productive so on those days, call it quits and take some time to recharge.

The Coronavirus has really thrown a spanner into the works so we need to be more flexible with our lives at the moment. What I mean by this is that we need to aim for consistency and sticking to our daily routine as much as possible, but on the days where we are struggling or maybe a family members needs us, we need to adapt this structure around those other pressing tasks. Put simply, do the best you can to get your work done but if you’re not working at your best, take a step back and resume with it at a better time.

At such a seemingly impossible time, some days you will be super productive and will feel on top of the world, while other days, you may as well have just stayed in bed. And that’s okay! It’s okay if you tell yourself that it is.

For more support in this ever-changing situation, read our blog on 16 strategies for coping with a big life change.

Great habits for working at home

As Tynan, the author of Superhuman by Habit, says, habits are “action[s] that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought.” And this is exactly what we want during such a difficult time: we want to be carrying out positive habits that have a big impact on our day and our mental health, positive actions that we can do automatically to give our overactive brains one less thing to think about.

If you’re still unsure about how to adjust to working from home, here are some great positive habits that you can try and develop to ease the transition:

  • Establish essential rituals – have you noticed that every successful professional seems to have a morning routine? This is because one of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behaviour on top. Here is an example of habit stacking: after I get out of bed in the morning, I meditate for 10 minutes and then make myself a cup of coffee.
  • Get washed and dressed before starting work – this will not only improve your state of mind, but it will also psychologically prepare you to start work.
  • Stick to your set working hours – Be strict with yourself and adhere to the start and end times that you’ve set yourself. It’s not just about making sure you work a certain number of hours – it’s about maximising the time you do have.
  • Always complete your hardest work tasks first thing – research confirms that you should tackle harder tasks first if you actually want to be productive. Plus, that way, if you run out of steam in the evening, you would have already done your most important task and won’t feel guilty about taking some time off.
  • Review your performance at the end of each day and plan for the next day – this allows you to organise your tasks by priority so that you know which tasks need to be done by the end of each day. Planning, prioritising, and reviewing also helps you to stay focused and it gives you a measurable indication of how well you’re performing in a work-from-home environment.
  • Make the effort to ring or video call – working home every day, especially in a time of social isolation, can be extremely lonely. Take every opportunity to ring/video call team members and clients to ensure that you’re getting your social needs met.
  • Take regular breaks and move around – it’s important for your health to take regular screen breaks – not to mention it clears your mind and gives you a refreshed perspective – so take a break and move around regularly just as you would in the office.
  • Find ways to become more efficient – there are plenty of resources to help you when it comes to working from home, so do some research to help with the adjustment. Check out our guide for leading your team remotely during the Coronavirus or our blogs on how to run effective online meetings and how to take back control of your time and workload if it has gone sky-high.
  • Reward yourself – when you’ve done something worthy of a reward such as finishing a burdensome task, don’t hesitate to reward yourself with a longer break or a fresh pot of coffee. Rewarding yourself appropriately throughout the day gives you positive feedback for your accomplishments and keeps things from getting stale. This is what is known as a ‘positive feedback loop,’ where you do something good, it produces a good result, and this encourages you to do more good.
  • On the days where you are struggling, call it a day straight away – if something is taking you far longer than it should, you’re just not in the zone. Rather than struggling through it and potentially not doing a great job anyway, take a proper break and return to it later in the day or the next day when you can get it done properly.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself – life is hard enough at the moment without beating yourself up too, so give yourself a break. Plan, prioritise and do your best. It’s all you can do.

Adjust successfully to working from home

Whether you’ve worked from home before or this is your first time, the situation that we find ourselves in now is not something that any of us have ever experienced. That’s why it’s so essential that we take control and organise our daily life in a way that makes sense to us right now.

If you want to move from wanting to know how to adjust to working from home to actually doing it effectively, start with making a new structure and routine. When you pair this with developing some of the positive habits that we mentioned above, you can start working effectively and successfully from home.

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