How to work effectively from home

Homeoffice, Cat
Benefits of working from home: More time with pets. If they can stay away from your office equipment. (Image: Simone Stein/Conflict manager at FAU)

Tips for working from home

Most staff at FAU are currently working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is an important measure to slow the spread of the virus. However, working from home is a challenge for many. Especially when schools and kindergartens are closed. Some may have worked from home before. Others may have been caught out by surprise with the new rules for working from home. But there are things that we can do to ensure a healthy balance while working from home and still remain productive. Here are some tips and advice to help you work effectively from home.

Finding the right place

If you are fortunate enough to already have an office or spare room at home that you can work in then you are all set. However, for many, working from home will mean working in spaces which they also share with their families and finding somewhere that causes as little disruption for everyone as possible. Setting up a fixed space to work in over the coming weeks will certainly be helpful – even if you live alone in a one-room flat. You should choose a chair that is as comfortable as possible and make sure you have everything you need to work: a laptop or computer, telephone, charging cable and notebook. It’s best not to choose somewhere that you can see other chores that need doing such as washing up. Being too close to the fridge could also prove distracting. The best way to deal with mealtimes is the usual routine: Breakfast and lunch at the same time as usual. And it might be helpful to only turn the dishwasher on after you have finished working.

Pick up the phone

It’s important to maintain personal contact when working from home. ‘It feels different when you hear somebody’s voice rather than just reading an email,’ says Blandina Mangelkramer, Head of Marketing and Communication. Her advice: ‘Regular calls with colleagues are helpful, and can reduce the number of emails.’ Complex or uncertain matters can often be cleared up more quickly via telephone or video call before writing countless emails. But there also needs to be boundaries in place to ensure that people can get their work done without the telephone ringing constantly. Calls should be avoided early in the morning and in the evening – working hours need to be respected even if you are working from home.

Tips for making video calls

The Erlangen Regional Computing Centre offers a guide for video and telephone conferences including a demonstration video. Michael Gräve from the Multimedia Centre advises using a headset to minimise background noise. This also means that the meeting participants will not hear themselves speak. Headphones can also be helpful if a full headset is not available. Place your laptop on a stable surface to ensure that the camera is steady. Deactivate your microphone if you are not speaking to avoid interrupting others with background noise. If the connection is poor, it might be helpful to disable your camera. It’s best to use a wired network for a more stable connection.

Save the jogging bottoms for the couch!

Pyjamas, jogging bottoms and other comfortable clothes are certainly comfortable but not suitable for the office. If you are not currently holding a video conference, you may not need to dress smartly. But wearing clothes that you would normally wear at work helps to separate your personal and working life. A clean T-shirt and jeans can make a difference. Another good tip to help you get started in the day is taking a short walk around the block before you start work. This can help to simulate your usual journey to work.

Try to create a quiet space to work in

This is currently quite challenging. All of the schools and kindergarten in Bavaria are closed and children might be at home too. Or other people you live with might also be working from home. It’s important to set boundaries such as if the door is closed, you must not be disturbed. Noise-cancelling headphones or quiet music might help you to block out background noise and concentrate better. And if you feel distracted by other tasks, remember that there will be time to do the washing later, you have already saved time not travelling to work. Fixed working times and to-do lists will help you to get work done and not be distracted by household chores.

Coping with children at home

Many parents who work at FAU usually drop their children off at school or kindergarten before starting work. However, this is no longer the case. ‘Parents now need to share caring for their children where they can. And they will need to plan times for playing, cooking, eating and chatting together in a relaxed environment without being distracted by work. This is especially important where all social contact outside the family is no longer possible,’ advises Constanze Hofmann from the FAU Family Service. Her team have put together a list of activities for parents and their children on the Family Service website.

Exercise is even more important now

People are no longer going to work, visiting colleagues in other offices or walking to the printer or office kitchen. ‘People are missing out on exercise,’ warns Nora Rosenhäger, from the occupational health management project at FAU. ‘At least they can still get fresh air with their family members!’ She recommends taking a daily walk for 20 to 30 minutes or going for a bike ride. Online sport apps and fitness videos can be a good alternative. On the occupational health management website at FAU there are many helpful tips on how to stay healthy when working from home – for example tips on sitting ergonomically. There are also helpful tips in the current newsletter miteinander gesund with articles on correct hygiene, psychological health and avoiding conflict with other family members at home.

New: HomeSport for students and staff

Woman stretching in black sports clothes. Her hair is hanging upside down.
Photo: FAU/Kim Vetter

Several University Sports instructors have filmed themselves doing exercises and they have posted these on StudOn under the HomeSport category. Courses include calisthenics, stretching, Charleston dancing and even pilates with toilet rolls.

HomeSport on Studon

Do you have any tips on making the most of working from home? Share them with us via email: