Working from home is a bit of a lark when you only get to do it once in a blue moon – but in these weird and stressful times, enforced social distancing means working from home is less of a treat. Because let’s be real – spending a lot of time in one place is NOT easy. It can get boring, and finding a routine that works and allows you to be productive can be super challenging.
However, with a bit of planning and a few simple tricks, it can be manageable. Here are the Grow team’s top tips on working from home in a way that is both effective and sanity-preserving.
Get up at the time you normally would and get ready for work. Get dressed (no pyjama days, you’re better than that!), do your makeup, brush your teeth – whatever your normal routine is before you head out to get the bus or tube, stick to it as closely as you can. When you’re ready, LEAVE your house*. Get some fresh air in your lungs and give your body some love by getting it moving. Listen to the podcast or music that you normally would on your way into work.
When you get back, sit at your desk and get working. This “fake commute” is a really simple trick to help shift from your “I’m at home” mindset to your “I’m at work” mindset. If you stay in your pyjamas and don’t leave the house, the transition from being a comfortable duvet burrito to being a productive member of your team can be pretty difficult.
* It goes without saying, but… In these unusual times, please follow government advice and when you go outside, keep your distance from other people. Stick to quiet roads and big parks where you have the space to stay away from other people.
As tempting as it may be to answer emails from the comfort of your bed, try to create a clear boundary between the space you associate with leisure and the space you associate with work. Again, this is all about mindset. If possible, use one room for work and another for breaks. If not possible (hello tiny London flats), then at least set up a space that you use ONLY for work. Try not to sit in this space when you’re watching Netflix, messaging your mates or scrolling through Instagram. Save those activities for when you’re in your leisure space, or when your scheduled work day has come to an end.
Chances are, when you’re in the office you structure your days using an online calendar – blocking out chunks of time so that your team knows where to find you and so that you can make sure you’re on top of your to-do list. You should still do this when you’re at home. Set yourself reminders and alarms, so that you know when to shift gears and move your attention to a different task. If your team has access to your calendar, then it can also help to keep you accountable – ensuring that you actually complete the tasks that you set out to do for the day.
While we’re on the subject of planning your day – make sure you carve out time in your schedule for regular breaks. Studies have shown that most of us tend to lose focus if working on a specific task after 45 minutes, so you could think about setting a timer every three-quarters of an hour for a quick 5-10 minute breather. In the long-run, this can help you to boost productivity by ensuring that the time spent at your workspace is time you actually spend working.
When you take a break, take it AWAY from your workspace. Wander into a different room and have a 5-minute stretch to loosen up your neck and shoulders. Go to the kitchen and grab a cup of tea. Step outside into the garden to take a breath of fresh air. Choose a comfy spot in the lounge and check in with a friend (it’s important to schedule social breaks – work can be lonely without those regular coffee breaks with workmates).
Try where you can to make your breaks “high efficiency” – mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and eating a packet of crisps is probably not the best option! Instead, prioritise moving your body, getting in some social interaction, and fuelling your brain with some healthy snacks (tip: prepare these in advance so that they’re ready and waiting).
Some of us work jobs that require us to stick to a pretty rigid 9AM-5PM schedule, even if we’re working from home. However, if you can afford to be a little flexible, it can be worth establishing a WFH pattern that allows you to be your most productive.
Motivation naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day – so do a little bit of self-analysis and use it to make your work days as productive as they can be. For instance, if you recognise that you have bundles of energy in the morning, but tend to lose focus and momentum in the afternoon before having a second wind in the evening – capitalise on this knowledge. Schedule your most challenging tasks for the time when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them. And plan easier tasks for the hours when you know you’re not quite on your A-game. If you are able to, schedule a break for the time when you know that forcing yourself to sit at your desk will not yield your best work, and come back refreshed and ready to smash the rest of your tasks for that day.
You: *typing furiously, being super productive, #unstoppable #MondayMotivation*
You: Oooh hey thingy just posted on Instagram, lemme check that reeeeeal quick and I’ll get right back to this….
And suddenly you’re 30-minutes deep scrolling through puppy photos on Instagram – how did that happen?
Sound familiar? If you know that you’re easily distracted by social media, do yourself a favor and turn off the notifications from your favourite apps while you’re working. Allow yourself to focus, and only check-in on social media when you’re on one of your scheduled breaks.
At the end of each day, write a to-do list for the next day. Consider which tasks are urgent and require your full attention – schedule these for when you know you’re going to be able to tackle them most effectively. Identify which tasks you might need help with and reach out to your team so that you can schedule in some time to talk things through. Schedule what you’ll be working on, so that tomorrow – when you get back from your “commute” – you’ll have your day all planned out already and you can hit the ground running.
Working from home can be super productive – but you need to be disciplined in creating a separate workspace and cultivating habits that help you to transition easily from “you time” to “work time”. Regular breaks for movement, social interaction and a change of scenery are all incredibly important. Need more advice? Chat to the team!