Working from home best practice during COVID-19

With the number of people working from home sharply increasing during the Coronavirus outbreak, we have some best practice tips on home working including advice on eligibility for tax relief.

man wearing pyjamas working from home

Dress the part

Although it’s tempting to opt for the pyjamas all day while working from home, there are numerous studies to suggest that dressing just a bit more formally can make you feel more authoritative, competent and even cognitive. Striking the balance of wearing something comfortable yet smart each day could make a noticeable difference.

Stay secure and stay connected

Those new to working from home may present a juicy target for hackers, who will no doubt sense an opportunity to steal sensitive information or commit online fraud.

As a home-worker, you may have security software installed on a device level, however, it is imperative that this is just one element of your security suite, along with device encryption, firewalls and web filtering on each and installed on every device too. Business owners offering employees to work from home should provide devices that meet this criterion or check other devices used are meeting the requirements.

With the unprecedented number of people now working from home, there was potential to put a terminal strain on the country’s broadband network. The UK’s major telecommunications providers have committed to a series of supportive measures that will help you stay connected when working from home. These include:

  • Removing all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.
  • Offering new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected.
  • Ensuring that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.

With these measures in place, everyone should be able to stay connected whilst working from home and if you do experience connection issues with your broadband, your mobile provider should be able to step in to cover you with extra data. Full details of who has committed to the support can be found here.

Staying focused at home

The distractions of home, along with the isolation that often comes with remote working, can cause you to lose focus and damage your productivity. Here are five key ways to help you to stop that happening:

1 Know your goals

Along with short-term, task-related goals, make sure that you're also clear about the wider career goals and purpose you’re striving to achieve. Keeping these in mind will motivate you to do your best work, whatever your location.

2 Minimise distractions

Which distractions tend to affect you most? Maybe you get caught up doing household chores or suffer interruptions from family or friends. Beating these distractions could be as simple as shutting the door.

3 Reward yourself

Find ways to make each task more enjoyable and rewarding, as well as giving yourself ‘treats’ when they're done. For example, allow yourself your favourite speciality coffee for completing a task successfully. 

4 Control social media

Think carefully about which notifications to keep on, and which to mute until later. Allocate time slots for checking your phone. And, if you're still struggling, see if time management tools help you to control your time online.  

5 Motivate yourself

Self-motivation techniques can help you to boost your confidence, think positively, and set clear goals. 

Health and wellbeing

Your health and wellbeing remain just as important at home as is in the office and there are several things you can do. Working at home you more are likely to be using more uncomfortable equipment and there are several things you can do to improve your wellbeing, as well as the recommended things like taking regular breaks, eating regularly and not skipping meals, having plenty of fluids and going out for a walk and getting some fresh air. Exercising can help too, which can be done at your home workstation.

Leg extensions

While sitting down, lift your legs alternatively until they’re straight out in front of you. Hold for as long as you are comfortable, then lower and lift the other leg. Repeat 10 times. Try counting how long you can keep your legs raised and see if you can increase the time a little each day. Then lift one foot a few inches off the floor, keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees. Again, hold until it becomes uncomfortable then switch to the other leg.

Arm extensions

Holding your arms straight, move them behind you and lift them as far as you can, which will do wonders for tight shoulder muscles, then bring them forward, keeping the arm straight, until your hands meet. Make sure your shoulders don’t creep up around your ears whilst doing this exercise and try to maintain an upright posture throughout. Repeat 10 times.

Neck rotations

Relax your shoulders and lower your chin until it touches your chest and take a deep breath in while rotating your head very slowly clockwise. When your head is as far back as you can get it, slowly begin to exhale while circling your head back to rest your chin on your chest again. Do this five times clockwise, then five times anti-clockwise to relax and stretch tense neck muscles.

Back twists

Sit up straight and put your left hand on the small of your back, with your elbow bent. Twist to the left as far as you can comfortably. Change to the right side and repeat. Keep switching from side to side, and always move slowly and smoothly – don’t jerk or force yourself to twist further than is comfortable.

Punch the air

Punching the air above your head with both arms for intense 30-second bursts is a great way of releasing stress and getting your heart beating faster. Then repeat in front of you and to the sides and finish with 30 seconds overhead again.

Other things you can do are:

  • Instead of sitting for phone calls, stand up and walk around as you take them.
  • Hold meetings standing up for short periods (20 minutes) then change to sitting (20 minutes) – you’ll be amazed at how much faster people get through business without a comfy chair!
  • Don’t keep water on your desk, walk to the kitchen to get a drink whenever you feel thirsty.
  • Use online video tools to talk to people that you would normally interact with in the office. That way you can stay in face to face contact.
  • Take breaks and get out and about on your lunch break, (if you’re not self-isolating) remembering to observe the rules on social distancing.  

Several at-home fitness apps and services have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic by making their services free, encouraging the growing number of home workers to take time to exercise while they are at home.

Tax relief

You may be able to claim tax relief for some of the bills you have to pay because you must work at home. You can only claim for things to do with your work, for example, business telephone calls or the extra cost of gas and electricity.

You cannot claim for things that you use for both private and business use, for example, rent or broadband access.

Your employer can pay you up to £4 a week (£18 a month) to cover your additional costs too, making sure you keep any records.

The Government website has more information regarding tax relief, and you can check if you are eligible too.