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31 MAR 2020

How to adapt to working at home

With many people currently working from home not through choice but necessity, it can be difficult to acclimatise to a new work routine. But with a few small changes, it's entirely possible to still perform to the same standards and levels of productivity as before.

“Self-discipline is very important – it’s easy to be distracted by other things when you are working from home,” says Richard Luffman, senior divisional manager at specialist construction recruiter One Way. “If you are the sort of person who enjoys the water cooler chat in a corporate structure, then it may be more difficult to adjust.”

Spatial scientist Dr Pragya Agarwal says that although it’s difficult to generalise, it’s likely that people who work from home with success have certain characteristics. “Such people are usually extremely self-motivated, able to make decisions independently, don’t need supervision, and can be responsible for their own goals and targets,” she explains.

Introverts are possibly more suited to working from home because they don’t crave social interaction as much as extroverts. Robert Stuart MRICS, director of Comprehensive Building Consultancy, runs his business from home in the north-west of England, and describes himself as someone who is more introverted. “I’m comfortable with my own company and happy to work independently, so I am suited to working from home,” he says. “I’m also calm and stable, which allows me to be methodical, and good at time management, which is important because you have to be focused and avoid distractions.”

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Work from home written in scrabble
The current enforced working climate requires increased levels of self-discipline, in order to maintain productivity

When Robert Desbruslais MRICS, director at Desbruslais Chartered Surveyors, set up his business, he saw an office as an unnecessary expense, so he – and all his employees – worked from home across south-east England. He believes his personality type suits independent working: “Like many surveyors in our sector, I am used to working alone. You can spend hours wandering around empty buildings. A home office is simply an extension of this environment.”

However, long periods of working alone can lead to feelings of isolation, which can be a challenge for people who thrive in social situations. Research from employment advisory service Acas revealed that 20% of home-workers feel socially isolated. If that's the case, you may benefit from using apps and web services such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype for regular face-to-face contact.  

Another common problem can be switching off at the end of the day. If that’s the case, you’ll need to ensure the lines don’t blur between work and home life. Identify an area or room in your house that is just for work. This also helps if you are easily distracted because you can go in there and focus only on work.

Working home alone

You’re in charge

Self-motivation is essential. This is especially true if you need to avoid being distracted by, say, family or food.

Don’t prevaricate

You must be able to make decisions independently, with confidence and without consultation.

You are your own critic

There’s little or no feedback being creative under your own steam, so the ability to evaluate your own work is crucial.

"To separate work from my personal life, I set up an office within my home," says east Midlands-based James Baker MRICS, associate building surveyor at project manager Artelia UK. "At the end of each day I switch off the light and close the door."

And Stuart suggests that many surveyors already possess some of the characteristics required to successfully work from home during this period of enforced remote working. "It’s in the make-up of a chartered surveyor to pay attention to detail, and be analytical and systematic in our approach. My advice is: be open to new experiences and go for it."