So I had this blog scheduled in my calendar long before the world turned upside down. But now, with so many people needing to work at home, it seems like it’s the perfect time to talk about it and give some work from home tips.
Since going freelance and starting the blog, I’ve been learning a lot about working at home. What I thought would be a simple transition and a great luxury, has been just that, but it’s also been a lesson in self-discipline and independence. Waking up every morning and motivating yourself to work without any external encouragement or supervision is tricky, especially surrounded by the comforts of your home.
And it can extend far beyond your productivity and work life. Working at home removes the social elements of office life, makes you less likely to take a walk and can give you cabin fever (or worse, refusal-to-leave-the-cabin fever).
So, let’s take a look at the ways you work at home whilst staying healthy and productive.
“May you find the balance of life – time for work but also time for play. Too much of one thing ends up creating stress that no one needs in their life.” – Catherine Pulsifer
My work from home tips
Create a dedicated working space
I like variety. Even when I worked an office job, throughout the day, I’d be found in corners, sofas, meeting rooms and cubbies – essentially anywhere that wasn’t my desk. But, for certain tasks, I’ve always found it helpful to have a dedicated work-space. And now, working at home, it’s great to have a place to call ‘work’, that I can somewhat separate from ‘home’.
It’s also really handy to have everything you might need for your tasks in one place. That way you won’t need to get up every five minutes and lose your momentum.
So I have my desk area for the serious sitdown work: admin, planning, answering emails, etc. But for creative work, you’ll find me anywhere. It sounds a little silly, but I know other creatives who’re the same – there’s something just not right about trying to channel creativity and ideas whilst sitting square on at a desk.
Stick to a normal working structure
Sticking to a normal work schedule encourages you to keep productive and healthy. If you find yourself slipping into regular 12-13 hour days (guilty as charged), I can guarantee you’ll be getting less work done than if you stuck to a 9-5 schedule.
That said, you’re working at home and there are benefits! So bend your schedule to fit around your ideal routine. If you find that you’re never particularly productive in the early morning, start work later. If you find a lunchtime workout makes you more relaxed and productive in the afternoon, get those trainers on and make time. One of the biggest benefits of working from home is that you can plan your schedule to work for you the best.
And this leads quite nicely onto my next point. Take breaks! Especially with no colleagues around to distract you, it can be easy to sit down in the morning, then look up realising that it’s dark outside and you and your chair have become one.
Try to get outside, too. Staying inside can get real comfortable, real quick and the introvert in me loves it. But make sure to keep giving yourself reasons to venture outside. Schedule dates with friends, walk your dog, visit family, pop to the shops. You need fresh air and sometimes, just the humble reminder that everything outside of you and your work still exists.
Being at home puts a wealth of temptations within arm’s reach. As the place usually dedicated to fun and relaxation, it can be difficult to discipline yourself into working. So, knowing this, set yourself up for success. Place your phone out of reach, set app limits if you need to, make a big playlist that you need to fiddle with every five minutes, limit yourself to only making teas in your breaks. Whatever it takes to improve your concentration.
You needn’t create laws, but be conscious of how you’re spending your time. Creating this separation also allows for a better work/life balance, a line that can become easily blurred when you work from home a lot.
Set expectations with the people around you
Similarly, have these same agreements with the people you live with. I know I get far less done on the days other people are at home or when I work alongside others. And sometimes you won’t even notice it happening.
One passing comment can easily spiral into an hour’s conversation. Helping out with one job can suddenly become a day’s work. So talk about it. Let them know when you need to concentrate and what they can do to help you stick to it.
You need people! I need people! We all need people! (Yes, your dog does count, but it’s nice to have a human reply every so often too)
Human interaction does wonders at boosting our moods. Whether this means staying connected with colleagues via messaging or video calls, or speaking to someone at home, make sure you stay in contact with people. As an introvert that works alone and from home, I know that if left unattended for too long, I’m liable to crawl under a pile of work and books and never emerge.
Pack your lunch!
Ah, the work from home lunch ‘hour’. This one swings two ways and I continually pendulum between both.
1) Your lunch hour becomes a three hour extravaganza, with an elaborate multi-course meal, workout, cleaning and relaxation routine, or 2) it consists of two and a half crackers, a handful of grapes and the last dregs of a cold coffee, amassing a grand total of ten minutes before you return to your desk.
Both of these aren’t healthy. As I said above, breaks are really important and giving yourself that time to recharge will do your productivity and your mental health wonders. But taking a long lunch for the sake of procrastinating and being distracted is just as unhelpful.
Making your lunch the night before or in the morning before you start work, as you would if you were heading out for work, can be a great way to save time. And setting yourself a lunch time can be helpful to make sure you are taking a long enough break too.
Find a routine that works for you
It’s always said that we’re most productive in the morning. But reading into the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that it just seems to depend on the person (this article is quite interesting).
I definitely work better in the morning. But I find myself better suited to admin, strategy and organisational tasks. The afternoon is where, if I can channel it, my creativity blossoms. I create better in the afternoons.
And these are things I’ve learnt just through trial and error. So try out different routines and see what works for you, and when.
Pretend you’re going to the office (basically, put some trousers on)
Yes, you’re at home. No, the bottom half of you doesn’t show on a video call. But that’s no reason to forever shun trouser wearing. Don’t get me wrong – I love being comfy and I don’t tend to have much of a problem with working in trackies and hoodies. But lots of people do! And it does feel nicer to sit down after having spent some time freshening up before your day.
Getting up and ready is a great way to let yourself know, on a subconscious level, that you’re getting ready to sit down and work. Equally, this can be a great way to separate your relaxation time from your work time. Getting changed into some cosy clothes after I’m done working is the best way, I’ve found, to switch my brain into home and relax mode.
Plan your work
This is easily my best work from home tip! Plan. Your. Work.
Make sure you know what you’re working towards. For so long I’d spend my days doing busy work and making really slow progress. I felt busy and I was doing things, but nothing was particularly effective or efficient. And, with nobody around to check on you, it can be difficult to even notice you’re doing it.
So, planning your work and having a to-do list will be your saviour, I promise. The day I started putting energy and commitment into my to-do lists was the day my productivity went through the roof.
Give yourself some background sound
This is a personal preference. But as someone who was used to working in a busy, active office, I found the house eerily quiet when I started working from home. So, I took to music. My dad likes to have the radio on. My mum doesn’t care for either. People are different, so find what works for you.
And that’s it. Those are my work from home tips. It can be really great experience, but it can also blur the ever more transparent line between work and home. As a wise man once said: “with great power comes great responsibility” (because we all need more melodramatic Spider-Man quotes in our lives). So remember to take care of yourself, now more than ever.
Speak soon. Love, Ella-Rose x