Loads of us are doing it now. But are we doing it well? Here are some great tips for working better from home
It’s funny – I thought with the invention of the internet and teleconferencing, pretty much everyone would be working from home by now. But even those I know who work for other magazines (mainly big publishers) are still forced to go to the office, even though they could write from home just as easily.
That being said, secure, full time jobs seem to have disappeared – they’re a concept that our parents may have been familiar with, but most working people today in North America are classified as being self-employed or freelancers, and numbers of those in the so-called ‘gig economy’ increased from 200,000 to a whopping 2.6 million between 2008 and 2018.
With the ‘new normal’ meaning many of us are forced to work from home today, we need to prove to employers that we can optimise productivity whilst staying at home. It is totally possible (I’ve been doing it for years!) if you just follow a few rules.
Here are my best tips for working better from home.
1. Get Comfy
The word ‘ergonomics’ is widely used in the modern workplace, and it relates to designing spaces for efficiency, comfort and ultimately productivity. The bottom line, though, is that it simply means: get comfy.
Sitting on your butt all day isn’t particularly healthy, nor is it particularly comfortable unless you take a few simple measures, such as using a balanced swivel chair (as opposed to say, a wooden kitchen chair) and ensuring that your monitor or laptop screen in roughly an arm’s length away.
Standing desks, such as this one from Relax the Back, are increasingly popular, and if you have a breakfast bar or other high ledge in your house, this is entirely possible to do. Personally, I work half at my desk, and half standing up at my breakfast bar. Works for me, and keeps the cramps away.
2. Shut Out Distractions
Open planned apartments or houses are far from ideal if you’re working from home. Try to find an enclosed space where you can shut the door and therefore shut out distractions. If that means installing a desk in the bedroom, so be it.
I find it also helps to NOT work near the kitchen, for obvious reasons! But that being said, it is important to take frequent tea or coffee breaks (see below).
Finally, just because your employer isn’t looking over your shoulder doesn’t mean you have an excuse to go down an Internet hole, distracting yourself with the latest fashions, celeb gossip or cat videos.
3. Take Frequent Breaks
Without colleagues to invite you to a coffee, it’s sometimes easy to forget to take a break. But breaks are exactly what you need to keep you productive. Set an alarm on your phone every 45 or 90 minutes, depending on your preference, and use that time to do 5-10 minutes of stretching, deep breathing, or just to walk around your home and play with the cat or dog, for example.
Otherwise, the day becomes a blur and there’s no division between your ‘home’ life and your ‘work’ life. Taking breaks helps create those divisions – oh, and going down those ‘Internet holes’ mentioned above does NOT constitute a ‘break’. Get away from the laptop!
4. Get Some Fresh Air
If you can, get outside for a bit, whether it’s a walk to the local cafe, grocery store, a stroll around your garden, or even a few minutes spent on your balcony. For me, one of the worst things about working from home is that I go outside way less! It’s important to get some fresh air. Do it when you take a break, in any way you can.
5. Create A Routine – And Stick To It
This may sound like relatively generic advice, but creating a viable routine is far easier said than done.
While you need to create the ideal working routine and schedule to suit your own personal job, for example, this must also enable you to remain contactable by your employer and match the business’s core working hours.
To achieve this, you’ll need to understand precisely how you work best, while also liaising with your employer (or clients) to factor in their expectations with regards to working hours and their preferred methods of communication.
In more general terms, you’ll also need to adopt a similar mindset to the one that you have when attending the office. This means continuing to wake up at a reasonable hour, eating lunch, and calling it quits at the end of the working day.
That may sound easy, but believe me, from my own personal experience, switching OFF is harder than you think, and several studies support this. Ensure you have a set hour – say, six p.m., where you no longer take phone calls or answer messages. Your family will thank you, and you’ll feel way less stressed!
6. Don’t Slob Out
If you wake up in pyjamas, make a cup of tea and then just sit down and work, the days blur into nights into days. In short, there’s no point when you think: ‘Ok, now it’s time to work’ or ‘now it’s time to stop’ unless you set out a dressing routine.
Even if you won’t see another human being all day when you’re working from home, you should still get up, get dressed, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and then consider yourself ready to work.
Dressing for work (even if it’s only for yourself) is motivating and somehow….civilised! You don’t need to wear a power suit or anything, but just get out of the PJs or track suit and into something that makes you look – and feel – like a productive adult! We’ve got some outfit suggestions here.
7. Make It Pretty
As with not slobbing out (above), to stay focused and motivated, it’s also important to keep your workspace tidy and pleasant to be in. Studies show that people who work in a cluttered environment usually have unrecognised stress and often feel overwhelmed by having to constantly search for stuff that should be neatly filed away.
Be sure you regularly declutter your working area (click here for some tips) to make it more organised, and while you’re at it, why not buy yourself some gorgeous flowers so their scent wafts your way while you’re on your laptop?
A clean, pretty home office means you’ll be far more focused on the work than a mess!
Do you have any of your own tips for working better from home? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section, below!
All images: Pexels, unless otherwise stipulated
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