Are you one of the civil servants being told to work from home during the Olympics? If so, you’ll need to follow these rules for getting the most out of your new working environment
The news that up to 40% of Whitehall staff will be permitted to work from home for seven weeks this summer – as part of a bid to ease transport congestion during the Olympics – has been greeted with derision by the private sector. But those of us who work from home full time know it’s not as easy as it appears to the people who try to ring us when there’s tennis on. It requires organisation, self discipline and, above all, experience. However, by following a few simple guidelines, even a harried civil servant can enjoy a relaxed and productive seven-week home stint.
1 Create a dedicated work space
Set aside an area of your home that can serve as a self-contained office. It needn’t be very big – space enough for a chair and a small table will suffice – nor does it have to be tidy, well-lit, comfortable or airy. You won’t be spending much time there. Make some tea, grab your laptop and go back to bed. Working from home? You’ve already started!
2 Efficiency is the by-word
Do not waste a single moment doing things you normally do only because you know you’re going to come into contact with other humans. This might include shaving, applying makeup, brushing your hair, finding matching socks or checking to see if your jumper is on the right way round.
Once you are ready to begin your working day, power up your computer and open the following windows: email, official; email, personal; BBC iPlayer; eBay, Things I’m Watching; your novel so far; YouTube; spreadsheet application; Facebook; web pages related to your weird hobby. This comprises your work-life balance. Start juggling.
4 Don’t just work from home – let home-working work for you
Take this unique seven-week opportunity to order all those goods that won’t fit through your letter box. Learn the harmonica while typing with one hand. Paint your skirting boards during conference calls.
5 Eat lunch at your desk every day
This will make you feel slightly hard done by, which will in turn make you feel like you have done some work. Also, you really shouldn’t eat lunch in bed.
6 Tweet with care
A note on social networking: monitor the traffic all you like, but be careful about contributing. Sending a tweet that says: “Best Cash in the Attic EVER!!” will only alert office-based colleagues to the fact that you are at a loose end at 11.47am.
7 Snack sensibly
Let’s face it – you’re probably going to eat a lot of biscuits, out of either boredom or a sense of entitlement. In the low-shame environment of your own home, you may end up tipping them into your mouth straight out of the packet. I can only suggest that you confine yourself to purchasing biscuits you don’t really like. You’ll still eat them, but over the course of seven weeks it will make a big difference to your overall intake.
8 Ignore the landline
Under no circumstances should you answer it during the day. Calls placed to home numbers during office hours are invariably from one of the following: robots offering to consolidate your debt; robots reminding you that you haven’t paid your telephone bill; robots blathering on about payment protection insurance refunds and trying to trick you into pressing 5; wrong numbers; defeated-sounding men pushing dodgy investments; or someone from your bank bearing bad news. Take my word for it: I just answered my landline six times in a row in order to compile this list. After a few weeks you may ask yourself: why do I need a landline at all? The answer is simple: it’s there to receive and harmlessly discharge all those pointless calls. If they couldn’t ring your landline, they’d find another way.
9 Go outside
By virtue of having to commute and conduct personal business at lunchtime, most office workers tend to spend at least a little bit of their day outdoors. The home-worker, by contrast, can go for weeks without putting on shoes. Make a point of going out to stand in the sun once or twice a day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. There are plenty of unpleasant side effects to home-working – deteriorating hygiene, loss of affect, audible self-narration. You really don’t want to add rickets to the list.
10 You’re a human resource – take care of yourself
In an office, there are teams of people dedicated to making sure the working environment is safe, hospitable, hygienic and conducive to best practice. At home, the only person responsible for your wellbeing during working hours is you. What I’m really saying is, it’s OK to turn on the central heating in July if you want. No one need know.