Most of us have been working and studying from home for a few weeks now, the team at VTCT are no exception. Some of our colleagues are permanent homeworkers, but many are doing this for the first time, and we’ve been exchanging ideas on how to tackle doing our everyday tasks remotely.
After some discussion, we decided that we wanted to share our tips with everyone, in the hope that we can help and inspire others to make working life at home a little easier.
You might have seen our “continue to inspire” feature on our social media channels, where we’ve shared a few basic tips. This article goes into a little more detail, with some helpful actions you can take now.
So read on for advice on working and studying from home.
Tip 1 – Online Resources
Getting started with online learning can be tricky – transposing what you thought you would be delivering in a formal education environment into distance sessions has many logistical challenges and you might find some of the practical exercises you set just don’t translate.
There are already resources out there that can fill some of the gaps, and we have been asking our subject matter experts to recommend some of their favourites. You’ll find our online resources here
We’re trying to expand this section all the time, so let us know if you have a favourite resource you love to use.
Tip 2 – Communication
It can be easy to forget that it’s not just about delivering a lesson and allowing you to see learners’ work when you’re teaching remotely. Not only would it benefit your students to know that you miss them and care about them, but it will also be a boost to your wellbeing and productivity too, to check in on colleagues regularly.
There are so many tools to allow you to stay in touch. Use Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp groups to keep sharing work, to check-in and even to chat. How about a virtual staffroom quiz once a week?
Tip 3 – Self-care
Self-care is the number one tip that no-one ever really mentions when talking about working from home, but you’re no good to your students if you don’t make sure you’re OK first.
When you have a break, it’s a good time to reflect on what you need to be at your best for when you return to work, be it a freshly organised workspace, some new healthy habits or a change in routine.
Tip 4 – Environment
It’s important to try and set aside a quiet space to enable you to concentrate on work. Ideally, you should be able to close the door on potential distractions, such as pets. If there are other people in your household, make an agreement with them that when the door is shut (or headphones are on), this means do not disturb.
Make sure you have a comfortable seat and a proper desk (or table). Don’t sit on the couch, or on your bed. Figure out all the equipment you need to do your job – you need to consider things like your internet connection, computer, phone (and mobile signal!), monitor, keyboard and mouse. You might also need or benefit from headphones, a webcam and a microphone. Do you need some document storage? Special equipment?
Make sure at the end of the day you can leave the space behind. It’s all too easy to stay at your desk and keep working, but you must respect your breaks and personal time.
Tip 5 – Routine
Forming a routine is so important when working or studying at home.
Keep to a sleep schedule, with the same bedtime and wake up time. Have something that replaces your commute to help you transition from “home” mode to “work” mode, even if it’s just something quick like catching the news headlines or making a fresh coffee. Write a to-do list every morning and prioritise your tasks accordingly. Use your calendar to timetable and map out your day.
Plan a new morning, lunchtime or post-work routine to include exercise and fresh air.
Log off at the same time each day. If you don’t stick to this, you could find yourself working into the evening
Tip 6 – Take a break
Feeling the need to switch off? You’re not the only one, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Giving your mind a rest is essential for maintaining a happy, energetic, productive life, but getting regular breaks isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Schedule your breaks into your day, otherwise, you won’t take them! Make sure you have a morning and afternoon break, as well as a lunch break. If you’re really bad at sticking to these times, set yourself an alarm 5 minutes before they’re due, and block out the time in any shared calendars as “busy”.
Tip 7 – Managing Tasks
It’s tempting to get on with that bit of DIY during your lunch break, but don’t get carried away as you can easily forget about work! Set yourself a timer.
Household chores should be kept for your break times, or the time you would have spent driving to and from work. You’ll probably find you have a little more time than usual for relaxing at the end of the day if you spend your usual commute time on the laundry!
Leave the unboxing of deliveries until the end of the working day as a good incentive to make sure you finish on time – unless, of course, it’s your frozen groceries!
Tip 8 – Get yourself a music playlist
Are you used to having the radio on in the background in the office? Or do you plug your headphones in when you need to concentrate?
Research has shown that different types of music can have different effects on the brain and our energy levels too, so you can use a diverse playlist to help you with the different types of task you face every day.
Classical chill out tunes are great for when a planning project needs your concentration – your favourite singalongs are better for those times in the day when you have an energy dip and need a bit of motivation. Or maybe try some fast-paced dance music when a deadline is looming to see if it helps you up the tempo?
Tip 9 – Slay your dragons
Not just a tip for working and studying from home, but a general piece of life advice we love. Everyone has those horrible tasks they really hate doing and tend to put them off until they become a huge obstacle in our minds, even if they were only a small task in the first place.
Write your to-do list and then identify your “dragon” tasks – get in there and get them done first thing. That way, everything that comes afterwards seems much easier, and you won’t be stressing about that awful task ahead!
Tip 10 – Experiment
There are many different ways to boost your productivity, get more done and feel as though you’re on top of your workload. Above all, it’s important to find out what works best for you. So try different methods of working, like the Pomodoro technique, or if you like gamification, try Forest app (both easily found in a Google search) – some you’ll get along better with than others and no two people work in exactly the same way.