Working from home, or WFH, is something that is considered rather a luxury in our society, unless you’re one of millennial digital nomads who have successfully created an online course or figured out how to earn money from blogging, or maybe you are employed in IT sector and your job description includes working remotely. In other words, for the majority of us, WFH is not really an option. Some people even say that they would hate to work from home – why, with so many distractions (namely, TV and a couch) they won’t get anything done on time.
But as of lately, many companies have sent their employees to work from home to minimise the risk of spreading the virus, and WFH has become rather a compulsary reality than choice. While it takes time to adapt to the new routine, some people still struggle even after some time has passed. The reasons for struggle could be many: your home may not be adapted for WFH, you may have too much going on to be able to focus (kids are out of school, too!), or maybe it is simply the fact that in work you have a structured routine but when you WFH you don’t know how to plan your work and stick to the routine.
There are few things to consider before you embark on your WFH journey:
- Work space
- Work hours
- People in your household
- Other activities you do at home
Think about what kind of setting helps you to be productive. Do you need a desk to sit at or will a couch do?
Having a designated place where you can set up your laptop and work will help you stick to your schedule and minimise distractions, not to mention it is better for your back. Make sure that the space is clean and only holds the items that you need for your work – laptop, a second monitor, mouse, a diary or a notepad, a couple pens, headphones with a built-in microphone and your phone. If you use your personal phone as a work phone, turn off all notifications and only accept calls. If your work does not require the use of a phone, then put it on silent altogether and keep it away from you if possible.
My workstation is currently in the kitchen, using the dining table, because I can plug in the laptop and have enough space for the second screen. But if I’m tired of sitting on a chair or feel too cold (my kitchen is on the North-West side), then I move onto the couch in my sitting room. I, personally, have no trouble working lounging on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. But the TV has to be off at all times – unless I’m done with my day job and start working on my personal projects. In this case, I turn on the live Green Tea/Coffee Jazz channel on YouTube to help me set the mood for writing.
These will depend on your job role, how flexible your hours usually are and whether you need to communicate with your colleagues/partners or not.
My regular work hours are 8 to 4.30 or 8.30 to 5 – I am quite flexible in that department. But how early or late I can start my day depends on the time of the morning meetings I have to attend. If my first meeting occurs at 8.30, I would start at 8 to look at my emails and schedule and see if there’s anything that needs to be prepared before the meeting. If my first meeting starts later, then I can afford starting closer to 8.30.
If possible, keep your work hours as close to your normal work hours, unless there’s a reason to shift it. Starting earlier is fine if you know you can finish earlier, but in my case, even if I start at 7.30 I know it is highly unlikely that I finish before 5 – so why bother?
When you WFH, it is easy to pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee, grab a snack and go back to your work. In some cases, it’s ok. But make sure that you do schedule breaks. Breaks are necessary for brain function and productivity. They are necessary for your body, overall. When you work for very long periods of time your brain, your eyes and body get tired, and you begin to lose concentration. Take 5 minute breaks after every 45-60 min of work. Get away from your screen, walk around the house, do some squats or stretches; look in the window shifting your gaze from something in the distance to something very close (window glass) to release the tension from your eyes.
Schedule breakfast/brunch and lunch breaks, as well. Keep them as close to your normal work schedule as possible. I usually don’t have breakfast at home. I come to work, check emails and attend the morning meetings, and go for breakfast after, around 9 o’clock. Then I have my lunch at around 12:30-13:00 o’clock. At home, I keep to the same schedule. I start work first, attend Zoom meetings, and when I have a plan for the day set, I take a 15 min break to have breakfast and coffee.
People in Your Household
This is important to consider because your ability to work uninterrupted directly depends on what the others are doing. It is ideal that you have a place where you can work without any interaction with your household. But we don’t always have a separate room that could double as a study/office area. We also don’t always have someone to mind the children while we work. In that case, you need to have a plan in place about how you’re going to occupy the children while you work.
I serve breakfast for my children in their play room while they watch their favourite TV show. This is just a temporary measure to allow me have my meetings without interruption. Once the meetings are done and I am ready to have my breakfast, I bring them downstairs. My oldest daughter was given a lot of studying to do while she is out of school, so I would seat her down in the kitchen and get her started. The youngest has the option to sit down with us and draw something, or she can go play in the sitting room. Throughout the day I would try and alternate their activities between free play, colouring/drawing, studying and watching some TV. I don’t have a set structure here and tend to go with the flow – whatever works to keep them quiet.
I suggest you experiment with what works for you here, because the daily structure for your family will depend on the ages, needs/responsibilities and even tempers of your little ones.
Assess what daily activities need to be done when you’re at home and how you can schedule them around your work.
For example, cleaning: you need to have a clear space in order to work productively. If you use your kitchen table for work, like me, then make sure that it is clean and clear of clutter before going to bed. Set up your laptop and monitor or whatever else you may need before sleep, so you have your workstation ready in the morning. If you require that spot for breakfast in the morning, then plan your time accordingly.
Cooking is another thing to consider. I suggest cooking in the evenings so you have a lunch ready the following day. The last thing you want is to spend your lunch break cooking.
My Morning Tips for Productivity
Starting the morning right is extremely important as it can predetermine your mood for the entire day. Starting it right means scheduling in the activities that may boost your mood and put you in the right mindset. There are two things that help me set the tone for a productive day: exercise and motivation. Trust me on this one – once you get it into your routine you wouldn’t wish to go
I love working out with Asana Rebel app on my iPhone. They have a great range of yoga and yoga-inspired workouts for different fitness levels, different goals and various durations, from literally 4 minutes to 30+ min workouts.
I squeeze in the 5-minute workout in the morning regardless of whether I will exercise in the evening or not. This gives me an instant boost of energy and endorphins that make me feel better about the day ahead of me.
After the workout I get dressed in the usual business casual manner (it is a great recommendation to always dress the way you would for work – trust me, you won’t get far in your PJs!), and sit down to have a cup of coffee. But here’s the trick – I turn on YouTube.
There are plenty of channels on YouTube to suit everyone’s taste. I usually pick something about productivity, healthy lifestyle or minimalism. I enjoy practical tips about minimalist lifestyle from Matt D’Avella and the cozy look of his videos, or white and clean shots of Jenny Mustard’s videos.
If I am short on time or not up for watching a video, I opt for reading the daily digest from LinkedIn. Here’s another trick – if you scroll to the bottom of their news digest, they always have something inspirational, motivational or at the very least useful waiting for you there. Sometimes one good idea in the morning is enough to bring perspective to your entire day.
After I’ve had my daily boost, I am ready to open my emails and take the day on.
I hope that with these tips you will be ready too!
So to sum things up: