Working from home has become a staple of the ‘new normal’. We offer some tips and guidance on how to plan your days, organise your workspace, and stay focussed
Charity offices seem unlikely to return to the old ways – remote working is here to stay. Working from home brings a degree of convenience, but it also poses various challenges.
The shift to remote and flexible ways of working means that charity staff are in full control of their days, with more autonomy and more freedom, which can have both positive and negative results, depending on how that time is spent.
As part of our working from home series, we’re taking a closer look at some of the ways that charity workers can plan their days, relieve stress, and stay on track.
Starting the day at home demands some organisation. Hubspot recommends planning your work week the night before you start. They suggest that you block out the hours that are not for work, ensuring that you maintain a sense of routine.
The job search agency, Flexjobs, suggests the same. Allocating time for work means that charity professionals can find a sense of rhythm. Flexjobs recommends sharing your calendars with managers and colleagues so that they know when you are contactable.
Charities using Microsoft Office already have access to digital calendars. Outlook calendars can also help people to plan their days. It can be easy when working from home to let work stretch into the evening, with people constantly checking their emails. Charity workers should use these calendars to set strict working hours and they should attempt to avoid working beyond those hours wherever possible.
When working from home, make sure you have a dedicated work space. It’s important to bear in mind that your bed should not be the place you work.
You should keep all your work-related papers, digital hardware, and anything else that you might need at your work space. It is beneficial to keep this dedicated space clean and organised. As the old adage suggests, clean space, clean mind.
The work space should allow you to distinguish between work and leisure. Create some rules around the space. Getting dressed and ready when you sit at your work space helps, as it allows charity staff to mentally prepare for work. If you spend your day at your work space, try to find time away from that space in the evening. Leaving the house before and after work builds routine and helps to distinguish between work and leisure.
Working from home over the long-term can take its toll on mental health. Team morale and personal motivation can drop when people feel isolated from team members.
Digital communication should be built into your day. For managers, this means having frequent touch points with team members. Building a digital rapport can be done by scheduling regular meetings. While online chats work, the best way to keep in touch is often by video call. For charities, Zoom is available on the Charity Digital Exchange.
Working remotely doesn’t mean losing sight of charity ambitions. Digital tools can keep projects organised and on track. When working from home, check into digital project management platforms, such as Asana, to see what your team mates and others are doing.
Simple digital project management tools like Trello can help charity staff keep up. Trello works like a blackboard with sticky notes. The digital platform organises work streams, responsibilities, and tasks. Tasks can be filed away into a ‘done’ pile, which shows each team their achievements. Charities can use the Trello for free.
Working from home can mean that there are more distractions. From doing laundry to meal prep to child care, there are plenty of opportunities to move away from work. Digital productivity tools can help you stay focused.
One of the most distracting things while working from home is your phone. There are apps which can prevent you from checking into leisure apps.
Forest prevents owners from logging into their phone, for example. When users stay logged out, a virtual forest starts to grow until the target time away from their phone has been reached. The best part is, the app partners with real tree planting sponsors Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future plants trees when people spend virtual coins.
Digital task lists can help maximise productivity when working from home. Todoist is a digital task manager. The app can manage a list of items, with sub-tasks and responsibilities. For larger teams, the app features a virtual black board. Users can post tasks which move from work in progress to work completed.
Todoist also integrates well with existing software. The app pulls Gmail and Zoho emails into the list, ensuring that the tasks are linked to emails. For charities on Microsoft Teams, Zoho Cliq, and Slack, to-do lists sync up with each communication platform.
It’s important to carve out time to take a break. Bearing in mind mental well-being and positivity, the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) recommends stepping away from your desk on occasion.
CIPD says: “It’s easy to let yourself be ‘always on’ when your home and office are the same place. When work is over, be sure you switch off to avoid burnout.”
Importantly, charity workers should speak out if they are struggling when working from home. It can be as simple as contacting colleagues, letting others know that you might need help with a particular task or that you need other forms of support. As the CIPD advises: “Speak out when you need assistance, further training or support. Your manager, colleagues and you are part of a team and should be supporting each other, especially remotely.”