The spread of Coronavirus around the world has swiftly changed our lives and with travel bans, social distancing and self-isolation coming into force, we feel there’s never been a more prudent time to share our tips for working from home.
As part of this effort to ‘flatten the curve’ of infection, many businesses are asking their employees to work from home, something very few people in mainstream workplaces ever get to do unless it’s a sick day.
Tips for working from home
As people working in the tech and freelance spaces, Carmen and I have been working from home for many years now, tackling our projects outside the norms of 9 to 5 and office spaces.
Whilst we really enjoy this style of work, we remember the difficulties when we first gave it a go. There are some big adjustments you have to make with your mindset and the way you go about your day.
So if you’ve suddenly found yourself sent home to put in your hours, this week we want to help you with the techniques and tips we’ve learned along the way to make working from home a success.
We start with 7 tried and tested tips for working from home that have served us very well over the years:
Create a private workspace
The writer Ernest Hemingway said ‘the telephone and visitors are the work destroyers’.
While you probably can’t do much about the phone when you’re working from home, it’s vital that you minimise any intrusions from other people in the house.
This can be extremely challenging if you have kids around, and we’re putting together a post soon on how we juggle work and parenting in our home working routine.
For now though, identify and create a workspace for yourself within your home that is conducive to getting stuff done. If your place already has an office, great – shut the door and get on with it.
It’s important to find somewhere that you can set up your desk that’s away from thoroughfares and offers at least a chance of concentrating.
If that means going into the garden shed with a fan, then so be it.
Keep to a morning routine
It can be very, very tempting to sleep through your alarm, roll out of bed at ten minutes to 9, flip on your laptop and start work still in your pyjamas.
But this is a trap you should definitely avoid falling into.
How we look affects how we feel. Keep your morning routine as normal as possible and make an effort to be presentable, even if it’s just the cat supervising.
You don’t have to put on a suit and tie – neat, comfortable clothes are fine.
But having a shower and maintaining your grooming and dressing standards will help you conquer the day ahead.
Better yet, exercise during the time you would be commuting to work. We try and get some yoga or a walk in for half an hour when we first wake up. This boosts our endorphins and kick-starts our day.
Offices are full of distractions: Linda from accounts telling you about her grandchildren, a pigeon in the lobby, another bloody fire drill.
That’s nothing compared to the devilish temptations of the home office, where your fridge, pantry, TV, couch and games console are all within easy reach, and the accountability of the office has shrunk.
You’ve got work to do, so treat these distractions like you would any others in the workplace – put your headphones in and ignore them.
Get stuff done then have a morning tea or a nice long lunch break where you can indulge in all the comforts of home for a bit, then get back to it.
If social media is distracting – or news consumption in this current Coronavirus climate – use one of these apps to block Facebook and other websites.
Stay organised with a self-imposed check list
Carmen and I finish each day by writing a to-do list for the next work day. We then number it in order of priority and put a time estimate next to it for how long we expect it to take us.
This allows us to remain focused and ensures we don’t forget any important tasks.
By giving ourselves a timeframe to complete each task it also allows us to stay on track and not get too distracted knowing we have a deadline.
We’ve also found that this method maximises our productivity.
Use the pomodoro technique
Because of the increase in distractions and the decrease in external accountability, working from home can be a strange experience at first.
In your space you are the boss, so crack the whip on yourself and get things done with the pomodoro technique, an extremely useful efficiency hack we use all the time.
Named after an Italian tomato-shaped timer, it calls for you set an alarm for 25 minutes and work with total focus till the buzzer sounds.
Take a five-minute break to clear your mind. Then reset the alarm and do another ‘pomodoro’ till the work is done.
The pomodoro technique really ties all these tips together. Because the best part about working from home is that you can smash the work, and then enjoy all the comforts.
But you have to earn them.
Let your family and friends know you’re working
Family and friends sometimes conclude that because you’re at home, you have a lot of spare time and are just hanging for things to do.
You need to set strong boundaries so you don’t get roped into driving an hour round trip to pick up onions for your mum’s swim club barbeque (true story). And you need strong will to commit to a work task in favour of a quick coffee with a friend. But remember that work time is for working.
Your grandma might ask you to do the food shopping for her while she stays at home during the outbreak, but hit the shops early before you get to your desk.
If you wouldn’t leave your workplace to do it, don’t leave your home office either.
It can also be tempting to tackle the mountain of washing or stack the dishwasher when you’re working from the room next door. In fact, these tasks might look strangely inviting when you’re procrastinating about completing a spreadsheet, but try and keep your home chores for your lunch break or when you’ve decided you’ve knocked off for the day.
Keep communication strong
Sometimes when clients (or your boss) can’t see you working, they might fret about how you’re spending your time.
Although we’re our own boss, we still believe open communication is one of of the best ways to build rapport with our clients.
When we’re working on projects, we always check in with our clients at least once a day to update them on the progress we’re making – even if the deadline isn’t for another week.
This helps them to feel reassured we’re on track and we’d recommend doing this with your boss too, so they know you’re not idly watching Netflix on the company’s dime.
There’s no doubt working from home can be challenging at times, but we find the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.
Coronavirus is set to further change the way business’s work with their employees and if there’s anything good to come from this dreadful virus it’s that it may lead to more workplace flexibility in the future.
What are your tips for working from home? Let us know in the comments below – especially if we’ve forgotten some!