If you want to avoid complete chaos on Friday 22 December, ask your boss if you can work from home.
The RAC estimates that roughly 1.25million people will be driving home for Christmas on ‘Frantic Friday’, which will understandably lead to traffic jam hell - especially between the hours of 4pm and 8pm.
To avoid the horrors of gridlocked motorways and horrendously packed trains, it’s worth heading home on Wednesday or Thursday evening instead and spending the rest of the week working from the comfort of your home.
If you do, here are some tips for ensuring your productivity levels stay sky-high.
“Take what you need with you the night before,” productivity coach Clare Evans tells HuffPost UK. “Make sure you can connect to your data and information, have the right cables, chargers, logins etc. Cloud-based technology and remote access to an office intranet make working from anywhere much easier.”
She adds that if you have face-to-face meetings planned, reschedule them or use virtual meeting applications like Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Do a ‘mock commute’
Grace Marshall, a self-titled productivity ninja and author, tells HuffPost UK it’s well worth creating a “mock commute” to help you get ready for work and the day ahead.
“This could involve taking a walk around the block, getting into your work clothes, or taking a few minutes to set up your ‘office’ for the day rather than working from the sofa in your pyjamas,” she says.
Clare adds that it’s really important to set up, or find, some kind of office space: “Even if it’s the kitchen table or a corner of the living room - create an area that serves as your workspace for the day. If you don’t have space at home or it’s not practical, find a coffee shop, hotel, meeting room or co-working space nearby.”
Plan your day’s activity
Preparation and forward-planning is key if you want to work from home successfully.
“Know what you need to achieve by planning and prioritising your tasks and when you’re going to do them,” Clare explains. ”You’ll be able to stay focused and be more productive.
“Without the usual office distractions you may get more done in less time.”
Work with your energy levels
Grace adds that it’s important to work in coordination with your energy levels: “Are you a morning person? Are you most alert and fired up in the morning? Then make the most of that time. Start with the work that requires your best attention. Save the mundane for that post-lunchtime lull.
“On the other hand, if mornings aren’t your best time, why not get some quick and easy wins under your belt while you’re still warming up? Save the heavy work for the afternoon when you can give it your all. Either way, you create momentum.”
Set clear boundaries
Clare recommends creating physical and mental boundaries around your work environment to avoid becoming distracted by others.
“Yes, enjoy the flexibility of being at home,” she says. “But avoid the added distractions of having other (non-work) people around such as young children, your partner, friends or neighbours.
“Let people know when you’re working and don’t want to be interrupted. If you do have young children around, work in short bursts, so you can spend time with them but still be productive.”
Make the most of quiet time
Grace adds that working from home should give you time to focus on the meatier pieces of work that you’re usually unable to sink your teeth into in the office.
“What chunky piece of writing, research or strategy have you been meaning to get around to?” she asks. “Make the most of having a day of being less available and less interrupted - the emails and meetings can wait until you’re back in the office.”
Stick to office hours
Clare says it’s super important to stick to office hours and avoid blurring the lines between work and home life.
“Set a start and end time,” she advises. “Make it fit around opportunities when working from home such as: doing the school run, taking the dog for a walk, spending time with family and exercising during the day.”
It can be all too easy to forget to have a break when you’re WFH, but you should always try to make time for them.
Clare explains: “Sometimes you get so focused and motivated you carry on working far longer than you would if you were in the office. But you should take a break for lunch or to deal with personal or home issues which are more likely to occur.
“Set time limits on breaks so you don’t get distracted or side-tracked and use a simple timer alarm for 10, 15 or 30 minutes before getting back to work.”
Manage your availability
When you work from home, it can be tempting to tell your colleagues every little thing that you’re doing so they don’t think you’re slacking. But this, in itself, is unproductive.
Grace explains: “It can lead to more ‘checking in’ emails and create more work and more interruptions.
“Agree your availability with your co-workers so everyone has a common understanding of how and when you are contactable - or agree check-in times when everyone can dial in remotely to give updates and ask questions.”
Stay off social media
Finally, don’t get distracted by Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the gazillion other social media sites so readily available on your phone and laptop.
Clare adds: “When you’re meant to be working, it’s not going to help if you’re sharing cute cat photos or messages when you said you were ‘working from home’.
“Away from the noise and bustle of your usual office environment you’ll find you achieve more when you work from home without the distractions and interruptions, so turn the stress of commuting into a more positive, productive day.”