A Lesson on the Science of Working Effectively From Home

  • Date 11th June 2020
  • Author Caspar Yuill
A Lesson on the Science of Working Effectively From Home

Every fortnight, we host The Lab for the team at AFFINITY, which is a presentation on a topic of expertise from either a guest or another team member. Past presentations have ranged from Above the Line media and data to workplace mental health. This week our guest presenter extraordinaire was David Law, Managing Director at Fulcrum Recruitment who spoke about lessons he’s learned on best practise while working from home. In this post, we’ll expand on them with the scientific reasoning behind why they work.

Dress to Impress

Law mentioned that putting on a collared shirt and pants before work sharpens him up, and makes sure he’s ready for that short-notice Zoom call. As it turns out, the clothes we wear change how we act. One paper found that formal clothing, as compared to casual clothing, increased abstract thinking in study participants.The paper suggests this is due to an improved sense of confidence and power from clothing. Smart clothes might also help with negotiations. Subjects in a study who dressed formally for a negotiation game got more favourable deals than those who wore their usual duds. 

Designate a Workspace

Like your desk at work, it’s important to establish a defined workspace at home (as novel as it might be to work on your couch). As well as having everything you need close to hand, it also cues you in when it’s time to start and finish work. 

Our tip: Because we’re not getting outside as much try to pick a spot with plenty of natural light. It’ll help you produce  Vitamin D, a known influence on mood.

Schedule Your Workday, Including a Finish Time

At home, you’re your own boss. It’s up to you to manage yourself and define your own work hours. Law believes that scheduling time in your calendar for all tasks including your regular lunch and coffee breaks is key for getting things finished on time and not being disturbed by odd jobs around the house. 

At the same time, there’s no one beside you to tap you on the shoulder and tell you to go home, so you need to enforce your own working hours, resist the temptation to do ‘just one more thing’, and clock off when it’s time to finish work.  

Build Transitions In and Out of the Workplace

When you’re finished, it’s important to build a transition from work to home life. Law told the story of realising how much he appreciated his commute during lockdown. Previously, he’d spent the 20-minute drive in and out of the city listening to podcasts in the morning and reflecting on the day in the evening. When lockdown started, the lack of transition from office to home life threw him off. The solution? After he finishes work for the day, he goes for a 20-minute drive around his suburb to mimic the work commute. Funny? Yes. Effective? Yes. 

There’s something to this: Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino studied commuting, and found that using your commute to transition into your work role by planning and visualising the day reduced many of the negative effects of a long commute. 

Exercise, Nutrition, and Sleep

Law mentioned these three things, which we all know are the foundation of being productive and effective both at work and in your personal life. Anyone who says they’ve 100% nailed all three during lockdown is probably lying. Doing your best to get in some movement, even a short walk each day, eating well, and getting enough sleep will pay dividends for your health, mood, and work. 

Communicate and Socialise

Offices are more than just a place to work. They also allow people to collaborate on ideas more effectively, simply by being around each other. In one study, Harvard Medical School found that the closer scientists were who collaborated on a paper, the more likely the paper was to be cited (a measure of success). So, Law makes sure to schedule in team catch-ups every morning, and call people in the team 2-3 times a day to check in. Shooting the breeze at the start or end of the meeting is encouraged. 

Be Kind to Yourself

We’ve just undergone the biggest shift to our working environment since the open office became popular 60 years ago. If you weren’t that productive today or got distracted by something, that’s fine. We’re all learning. And as we slowly come back to the office, hopefully we’ll take some of the lessons learnt with us. 

Image Credit: Grovemade, Unsplash

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