Those of us who are used to working from home or in a home office may well have spent the last few months wondering what all of the fuss was about. How difficult can it be to carve out the space you need to work productively and efficiently? Where exactly does the challenge lie in staying motivated when your boss is not breathing down your neck? How hard can it be to still meet those all-important deadlines?  The fact is, if you are usually in a structured office environment, with colleagues around you and reliant upon outside forces to give your days the shape they need, then making the transition to home-working is not as easy as it might seem.

Of course, there are many benefits which we can be quick to grasp and appreciate. Not being stuck for hours in traffic, perhaps having more flexibility about the times we choose to work, being able to stay dressed down, rather than dressing up – these are all the perks that we enjoy when we have a home office. However, without some rules and some self-discipline you can end up on a slippery slope to nowhere.

Here are our tips to help to stay at the top of your game wherever you have to work:

Work out a routine that gives you the best fit for what you need to do and stick to it.  You can of course cut yourself some slack and occasionally start late or take an afternoon off, but generally it is better to settle into a pattern and rhythm that suits you, allows good communication with your colleagues and keeps in touch with any clients or business partners who expect to hear from you.

Separate work life from home life. It’s very tempting to think you could just catch up on some household chores or watch that recorded episode of last night’s soap opera – after all, there’s no-one there to see you. This runs the risk though of interrupting your focus and messing with your (possibly self-imposed) deadlines. Much better to set separate times aside for those aspects of your life that are not work-related.

Take regular breaks and build in variety. With no-one to socialize with or no need to go to the cafeteria for lunch or coffee, you benefit from having fewer distractions but lack diversion and variety in your day. Take regular breaks from your computer, dive into a short meditation to clear your brain and  keep your schedule as varied and interesting as you can.

Look after your diet and well-being. Plan ahead with your shopping to ensure you get enough vitamins and fresh food when you have to provide your own snacks and meals, and don’t always rely on a fast pizza delivery to satisfy the hunger pangs. Drink plenty of water and when you can’t get out, think about simple exercise you can do at home even in smaller spaces.

Dress comfortably – but keep the pyjamas for bed. No-one can see you– so why not stay in your pyjamas? You can and should be comfortable in what you wear but being too sloppy or casual will keep you in the “chill zone”. The suit and tie and the high heels can probably stay in the closet but you will find it easier to generate  a “working headspace” if you keep the pyjamas for bed.