10 tips for working from home during your research degree

With the UK seeing an increase in remote working since Covid-19, you may find yourself working in your living room as well as the library. Never fear, though – we’ve amassed 10 handy hacks for ensuring you stay focused, energised and – above all – healthy while working from home.

PhD home working

1). Try and maintain a routine

Your research journey can go on many twists and turns, so sticking to a routine isn’t usually par for the course. However, when working from home, it can be easy to let things slide or you may find yourself getting distracted. Set yourself targets throughout the day in terms of number of words you wish to write, data you want to analyse and chapters you need to read.

2). Create a contingency plan

If progress on a project is paused due to you being unable to collect data, try to think of the other things you can do. Write an introduction to a paper or work on your literature review.

3). Make a community

If you're working from home, you may feel lonely and isolated from the PhD community. Therefore, it's important to remain socially active and maintain close relationships you may have forged with your fellow research students on campus. Don’t let those relationships falter – create a WhatsApp group or chat on Facebook. Stay connected and keep supporting each other virtually, in the times you aren't on campus together.

4). Stay in contact with your supervisors and other important people

It's important to keep in touch with your supervisors, whether that's in person or virtually. If you aren't able to meet them in person, continue to schedule meetings via Skype or Microsoft Teams. 

5). Dress for work

If you’re struggling to keep to a routine, dressing in 'professional' attire may help with your mindset and boost your productivity as a result.. Working remotely means the temptation to write chapters in your pyjamas is far too great. Ask yourself what your goal is for the day and dress accordingly. You may be looking to analyse data or work on your literature review, so wear clothes to match.

6). Utilise social media…

Not only is it a good source of information, it’s a useful way to stay connected. Go through the research degree journey with likeminded individuals by joining a Facebook group and network with researchers online.

7). ...But don’t be afraid to turn it off

Social media can be a great boon and a real distraction. Make sure it doesn’t fall into the latter category. If you find the likes of Twitter and Instagram are becoming a hindrance, consider installing a web extension that blocks you from accessing certain sites for a set amount of time. StayFocusd and Cold Turkey are two prime, free examples.

8). Take regular breaks

Whether you’re working from home or in the library, it’s easy to forget that as a research degree student you’re entitled to a break. Stay focused and energised by stepping away from your work. Go for a walk to clear your head, enjoy a home workout or even start a blog!

9). Learn a new skill

One upside to working from home is that it provides you with the opportunity to take on a new talent. Keep your mind active away from your studies and begin learning an instrument, start cooking or build up your professional skills.

10). Stay healthy

Perhaps the most important point of all: as Covid-19 is still rife, remain diligent and keep washing/sanitising your hands. Working at home can also cause feelings of loneliness and mental fatigue. Remember to reach out to friends, family and colleagues if you are feeling depressed.

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