There are those who work in a busy office, small cubicle or private room and thrive in this environment. There are others who feel stressed at the thought of being confined in such a ‘small’ space. I am a very lucky person who has the best of both worlds. Due to the nature of my work, I am up and about a lot during the week, travelling all around London to meet with various clients and attending different events. I am in the office so rarely that I actually look forward to being in a normal environment, the commutes (hopefully by now you’ve acquainted yourself with my 4 hour a day minimum commuting time, if not, please go read it, I’m lacking in pity at the moment, also if you can beat my commute, then I would probably like to be your friend, I’d probably send you a gift, something I use to help me get through my horrible battle with other ‘more important commuters than I’, a token of welcoming you into my commuters club… what’s the gift, you may ask…ahhh you have to actually be in it to win it), are of course long and I have so much to get done that sometimes coming into the office is not the easiest option, so I am also able to work from home at least 2 days a week!!! There are some people who LOVE to work from home, those people are not office suited people, either that or they may have never worked from home before and don’t realize the extra stresses that working in the comfort of your personal space can actually add.
For starters there are so many more distractions when you’re at home but also after working in your personal environment for a prolonged period of time it can get quite lonely. You do tend to miss the office environment even if it’s just for the life and noise that having colleagues can bring. Who can you complain to when the budgets aren’t matching up, who can you gossip with when the office drunk made a fool of themselves at the staff party (you, hammered during dinner…because you know…not having colleagues means you’re the worst and the best…and your parties normally having dinner with your partner at a reasonable hour).
Whilst I do feel privileged that instead of getting up at 5:00am every morning like I do when I have meetings, an event or have to go to the office, I get to work from home a few days a week and can get out of bed at 7/8:00am and still ‘make it to work’ in time. I also understand, having had this routine for almost 2 years now that it does take a little extra work being productive when you work from home.
I’ve put together a list of some advice and tips I’ve found helpful when working from home. Have a read; you may learn something new from me…you just never know.
- Get up and dressed.
When I first started working from home, I thought, GREAT! Conference calls in my PJ’s! During a period of my working life, we suffered from the dreaded Tube Strikes, which meant that my office told me not to bother coming in and just work from home. I saw so many meme’s joking about the tube strike, mainly commuter panic, mass hysteria, but one particularly caught my eye, this picture with lots of people in smart shirts, obviously in a video conference (skype, facetime etc.) the headline saying ‘these people are all in their pajamas’. I found it so hysterical because that was literally my life story. Business on the top, party on the bottom, and I didn’t even need a tube strike as an excuse! The thing is, I got into an unhealthy pattern of feeling so lazy that you end up feeling lethargic all day. I learnt through trial and error that spending the day in your pajamas, whilst being super comfortable, is not the best way to start the day. A shower helps wake you up but also tells your body that it’s time to start the day. Putting on fresh clothes even if it’s not quite office standard gets you set for a hard day in the ‘office’.
- Create a designated workspace.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have an office in their home, but if your work involves spending a lot of time in your personal space then you really need to think about creating a proper work area for you. There are countless articles online that talk about the importance of separating your work and personal life. This is an important point to remember because mixing both together can leave you feeling like you can’t take a step away from working and this can lead to you feeling tired and stressed. Creating a designated workspace means that at the end of the day you can switch off your computer and officially close your working day. Whether this means sitting at the dinner table with your laptop, or sitting in the living room to work. The main thing is to ensure that you’re not working in your sleeping area. This can encourage working in bed, which can disrupt your time to relax. The last thing you want is to associate your bedroom, your sacred and personal space with your work stresses. Now if you live in a studio apartment then space is limited, but that’s okay, as long as you create a small space in the corner of the room away from where you relax.
- Give yourself regular breaks.
Everyone who has experienced computer classes or have spent the day working on a computer knows that staring at a screen too long can take away your concentration and drain you of your energy. When working from home it is important to manage your time so that you fit in short and regular breaks to give your brain a chance to relax, refresh and recalibrate so you can get back to your work and concentrate again. During these breaks, whether it’s 5 or 20 minutes you must ensure that you take a step away from your work, take a short walk or even do a small house chore so that you’re thinking of something else, give your brain a little break to add some variation to your day.
- Treat your desk like it’s your office.
When creating your own workspace, I would advise you to ensure that you have a table, even just a small one where you are able to write, take notes, do work easily. You should keep your work area clear and tidy so as not to disrupt your work by having to constantly shuffle items around your table and loosing your notes in amongst the mess. You wouldn’t leave your desk at work in a mess so why would you leave your desk at home unmanageable? By having a clear area to work you’re creating a happy and less stressful environment.
- Keep fed and hydrated.
Your brain can’t function to its optimum level without the correct amount of water and food in your body. It’s good to keep a bottle of water beside you whilst you work so that whenever you feel thirsty, a drink is just within reach. Having snacks, particularly a fruit bowl means that whenever you’re hungry the first thing you can grab is healthy and will provide you with energy that will last longer than a bag of crisps, it’s always a good way to encourage you to eat more fruit and drink more water with very minimal effort. Something to keep mind is also making sure you’re having good and filling meals so that you’re not feeling constant hunger pangs whilst working which can be another distraction that will stop you from being productive.
- Use a to do list to maintain some order to your day.
It’s easy to loose focus and order throughout the day particularly when you’re working from home and you combine that with a very busy day. I’m the type of person who just loves lists, I love to create a list of everything and anything, but this is an occasion when lists can come in handy. By listing the activities you need to complete during the day. It’s even more helpful if you can list your activities in order of priority, that way you can plan your day accordingly.
- Put calming (not distracting) music for background noise.
Not everyone finds listening to music helpful, but for those of you who do, you need to be careful on what music you decide to use as background noise. When working from home, you don’t get the hustle and bustle of a busy office to lull you into concentration, so having some white noise that can serve for the purpose of stopping your environment from being ‘deafeningly quiet’ can be helpful. You need to ensure that your music choice isn’t too distracting that can lead you into the spiral of overthinking your playlist. For some the sound of classical music can be comforting (for me the wrong kind of classical music can stress me out, I’m not sure why, I think the only classical music I can listen to see a soft piano piece that is very slow, anything upbeat can aggravate me when I try to concentrate), for others something a little more up tempo or even modern music can help them concentrate. There’s no wrong answer as long as it works for you, just remember, you’re not trying to DJ a party, this is a working day for you.
- Turn your personal phone off and your work phone on.
If you’re working from home I assume that you have two phones. This can be a tricky balance to have, but remember that when you’re on your work time, you shouldn’t be making/taking personal calls or text messages so try to separate yourself from your personal phone until your break times. It’s easy to get distracted from your personal life, particularly when working from home so make sure that when you begin your work day you either turn the personal phone off, on silent or put it on flight mode or do not disturb. On the flip side of things also remember to turn your work phone on a little before your work day starts, you’d think I wouldn’t have to remind you of that but since I have to remind myself of it, I thought you might find it handy too.
- Keep the door closed!
If you’re working from home on a day that the other occupants of your household aren’t then it’s handy to close the door to shut yourself away from the distractions they could impose on you. Whilst it’s all very well allowing them to go on with their day, you may find yourself longing to go out and play in the sun like they are. It’s best for you to just shut that door, physically and metaphorically, consider yourself a prisoner until your workday is done.
- Have a set start and end workday and stick to it!
Finally, make sure you set your work time and you stick to it! Working from home for me means that I work my regular 9am – 5pm like I would in the office so I find it easy to stick to that (unless it’s particularly busy and in that case I may make the occasional exception). Make sure that you’re being fair to yourself and to your work, set a manageable schedule and ensure that you give yourself plenty of time to do your list of priorities. Give yourself enough time to get your tasks done whilst not giving yourself too much time that you find yourself slowing down and dawdling too much. Keep yourself focused and motivated and your day will breeze by.
Hopefully this list of advice and tips can help you have a productive day working from home!
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday, and you proud everyday!
Peace and Love,