TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME
As someone who has worked from home for over twenty years now, here are my tips for creating work environment that you really want to go to each day to both create and be productive…
A little note though is that if you are someone (like myself) who is both working from home now and has kids at home too, remember to be kind to yourself at this time.
If I am able to run at seventy percent of my normal rate with the current disruptions, I will be happy with that! Being realistic at this time is really important to our mental health and general wellbeing.
1) Firstly, setting up your work space
Find a spot in your home to set up as your work space that is as light filled and calm as possible. If you can somehow separate it from your living space with a divider, a book shelf, or just a rug where you can feel like you are stepping into and out of your office, even better. If you can’t make this happen due to the space in your home available, don’t stress. It’s just even more important in that case to keep your space clean, tidy and organised at all times.
When I lived in Paris I decided to set up my office in my bedroom as although it was a tiny space, I was at least able to close the door when I was able to go into deep work mode. (ie When I had precious hours to work, where my noisy son of two at the time was being looked after in the lounge.) If you don’t have little kids, setting up your work space in your living area might be a lot more feasable! It’s indeed very hard to both look after a little child and work at the same time.
2) Channel Marie Kondo
The key is to make your work space clean, and inspiring. Start by tidying the space up. Paperwork, bills, and stationary should be stored. Your favourite lamp, vase and or books should be displayed. Having the things that spark joy for you in eye sight can help you feel happy to be in the space and in turn more productive. If it looks like you will be working from home for quite some time, put up a piece of art work where you can see it.
3) Routine is key
The next thing that I think is the key to working at home is having a Monday to Friday routine. Get up at the same time every day, and start with a stretch. Ten minutes of stretching will usually lead to a productive day. Take these precious minutes to remind yourself to slow down, and be focused today. I always find I get more done when I am not rushing.
4) Dress up
So whilst every now and again I work in active wear, 98% of the time I find it really is best to still dress for work even if you know you may not see anyone that day! Although with video conferencing, it’s likely you still will. For me a simple amount of hair style and make-up also put me into work mode vs lazy weekend mode. (If you don’t normally wear make-up to work then you can definitely skip it!)
5) Have a moment outdoors before starting if you can
This could be a moment on your balcony to make a list for the day with a moral boosting coffee. Or a walk around the block to get your blood flowing before you sit down at a desk. (That is if you are permitted to do this wherever you are in the world, at this moment in time. Still keeping a safe social distance of two metres from another person.)
When making lists for the day, my general rule is to not overload it. The feeling of never getting through your daily list and transferring items from yesterday to the next day every day is soul destroying. Put down only the most important things per day at this time and feel the dopamine of actually getting them done each day.
6) Do your most important task first
This is key. Post stretch, coffee and list, you will be your most ‘fresh’ and motivated if like me you are a morning person. This is the crucial time to do your most important task. (For me this is usually between 9 and 11.30am.) Do that thing that if it’s the ONLY thing you achieve today, you will be ok with that; where everything else achieved is a bonus. That way if ‘life happens’ as it invariably does, like a child needs help with school work, your parents need help with food delivery, or a work crisis pops up that you didn’t anticipate during the day, you at least know you got that one thing done that was important to you to achieve today.
7) Stop for a proper lunch (and eat slowly)
There is so much evidence to support that those who slow down during lunch and appreciate the moment of eating are more productive for the rest of the day. Set aside an hour if you can or at a minimum thirty minutes to stop and enjoy lunch. Eat slowly and appreciate the moment.
8) Leave emails and admin to the afternoon
This does depend on your personality but for me, if there are creative projects that I need to complete I am always my ‘best self’ in the morning. I never look at my emails as my to do list because it’s really not. Make sure to do things in order of importance to you, rather than for who is being the most impatient via email. It’s for this very reason that I prefer to leave my emails until the afternoon when I can action any needed items quite quickly and not lose the momentum of what I really needed to achieve on any given day.
9) Work in 45 minute ‘sprints’ And move for 10 to 15 minutes every hour
This is a big one. You will be less productive if you sit for 3 hours straight with no breaks for movement than if you work for a 45-minute sprint, then take a fifteen-minute break across three hours. Take every 15-minute break to move around, shake your body out, roll out your shoulders and neck. These magical little fifteen minutes will re-set your body and mind for the next sprint.
10) Remove your phone from yourself if you need to go into deep work mode
During these 45-minute sprints I often take my phone away from my work desk where I can’t hear it. It does mean that I sometimes miss calls, but if I am working on my most important project of the day, I accept that I will simply do call backs in the afternoon. Distraction is one of the biggest key’s that will affect your productivity. So unless you need to be on call, remove your phone while you get that number one task done at the very minimum.
11) Schedule all phone calls (if you can) to one day of the week
Whilst this isn’t always possible, I tend to schedule most phone calls to Friday (as well as appointments when that was something we did in the world!) Appointments and phone calls are important but highly distracting. It’s almost impossible to be working deeply, take a phone call about another project and then get back into the mode you were in pre-phone call. For me Friday is the day I don’t schedule any deep work for this very reason.
12) A scented candle or a mood boosting oil scent can be an afternoon perk-me-up
The essential oil scents that I find lift my spirits and feel a little more positive while working are orange, lemon and peppermint. I burn them mixed with water from a little oil burner on my desk; especially helpful for an afternoon slump.
13) Drown out distraction
If like myself you have your husband in the room next to yours giving lectures now online to 40 university students, and your son playing ‘how to learn Italian’ in the kitchen upstairs, it can be even harder now to work in a focused manner from home. I have found that a comfortable pair of headphones playing soft classical music streamed from my phone just about drowns them out! Try it if you need not hear others in your home who are also working and making noise they really can’t help!
14) Tidy your space at the end of a work day, so it’s fresh and inviting the next morning
This is so important. This five-minute commitment at the end of your day when you leave the ‘office’ will make it inviting for the next day. This is even more important if your work space is within your bedroom or living room to allow you to switch off at the end of the day and have time to relax into the evening.
15) Accept that you did your best at the end of each day and give yourself permission to rest and rejuvenate for a fresh day ahead. If you and your kids didn’t get everything done today it’s ok. This is a moment in time where we should probably lower the bar and be kind to ourselves a little (or a lot) just to get through it with our sanity in tact.
And while you are there, thinking of three small things that you are grateful for each day once in bed might also help you through this time. We are all in this together.