Ten simple tips for working from home...
What happens if you're working from home in isolation for the first time? How do you cope, what should you do? Here's a few tips to help you with the adjustment.
We are currently in quite an odd set of circumstances, with millions of people being asked (quite rightly) to work from home for a sustained period of time. Fortunately we have good experience of this, having been remote working for many years, and it seems a very good time to share some tips for anyone that's adjusting to a new way of working.
So in our usual no-bullshit but hugely verbose style, let's get to it:
1. Organise your workspace
First things first, you're going to be spending a LOT of time here. So make it nice. Make it comfortable. Make it your own. If you can, have a dedicated room as an office, so you can close the door when you're not working. If that's not practical, try and make your workspace blend in to the room so it doesn't become the dominant feature.
Also, if you primarily work on a laptop or tablet, I'd strongly recommend raising the screen and using a separate keyboard. It makes a huge difference to working in comfort and will help to avoid long-term neck ache.
We've shared a few from our friends here:
2. Have breakfast. Stop for lunch, and properly stop at dinner time
So working from home is not an excuse to raid the fridge every two minutes. Sorry. Just because it's there, and you can, it doesn't mean you should ;)
However, as part of a balanced day, you should do your best to separate mealtimes from working times. Have breakfast before you start. Build in a proper lunch-break, preferably in another room, and absolutely stop work for the day at dinner time.
Doing this will help you stay focused when you are working. And don't worry – there'll still be time for snacks (we'll get to that part).
3. Plan your days; use a default diary
I'm not gonna lie – sometimes the days working from home can blend into each other. It's very easy to lose track when you're in the same space every day. The effect of which is that it's very easy to get sucked in to working on client work rather than stepping back to think about the business or the strategic side of things.
So, build time into your week to do that. The best way to do this is to use a default diary. And stick to it as much as you can. If you need 3 hours a week for marketing – put in 3 hours a week, however you want to structure it, into your weekly plan.
Same goes for sales, finance, planning, catch-up calls, etc. This also gives you a great foundation for really thinking about how much you can get done in any given week.
They are very easy to put together, but if you want a free template to use, just contact us and we'll send over a blank copy for you to start planning with.
4. Get your systems in place
What do you need to work from home efficiently and effectively? Do you work in teams, with projects, clients and other stakeholders? How do you manage the flow of information between everyone?
We're almost spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which online platforms to use to help our workflow – but the great thing is that means there's going to be something suitable for everyone.
At Wild things we've recently switched from Trello to Asana to manage our workflow and sales pipeline. We switched from a custom solution to Xero for our accounts. And we use a combination of Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and Workplace by Facebook for keeping in touch and 'face-to-face' contact with people.
We don't use any paper systems now, even taking notes on iPad instead of the fabled pink notebook (still used for decoration, obvs).
Many people may already be familiar with the technology available, but never be afraid to ask for help if you don't know where to start. There are some tremendous Facebook groups with expert members always willing to help answer questions. And for anyone who's business has been hit hard by events in the last couple of weeks, our friends at Look Touch & Feel have setup a specific (and completely free) digital support group that is well worth joining.
5. Reward yourself for the little things
SNACKS! Told you we'd get to this bit. This is where the discipline of working from home becomes an art (or is it the other way around?).
Difficult task? Reward yourself when you've completed it.
Boring task? Reward yourself when you've completed it.
Been sat staring at the screen for 3 hours? What's wrong with you? Have a biscuit, then see if it all looks a bit better afterwards.
In all seriousness, you are going to need to find ways to motivate yourself to get things done. Even if that comes naturally to you, it can still be a struggle if you're working alone on things that don't necessarily require acknowledgement or input from other people. So find a way to reward yourself even if it's just getting up for a stretch and wandering about for a bit (something else we'll return to later).
6. Stay connected. Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime
This one's hopefully the most obvious, and perhaps the tip that's inevitable as if you've recently transitioned to working from home, you'll still be checking in with colleagues and having regular progress reports via digital services.
That said, if you're a self-employed team of one, it's really worth having a 'support team' of people you can call on for a quick chat on the phone or a Zoom call. Sometimes even a quick WhatsApp discussion can help to keep your mind balanced.
With the NatWest Hub Wild things is a part of, we have access to 9am Zoom calls with the other hub members to go through any concerns we may be facing, and help with accountability within our own businesses. It's really helpful and motivating.
7. Keep your mind occupied. Listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks
Sometimes it doesn't matter how nice your workspace is, it can still feel a bit quiet, a bit isolating, so it's a good idea to keep the back of your mind stimulated throughout the day, whilst the front of your mind gets on with the actual work.
I would ALWAYS advocate background music in such cases, and I'm fairly certain that the right kind of music can help your focus and concentration levels.
For other times, there's podcasts and audiobooks, which are not only a welcome extra human voice, but can also be really inspiring and interesting to listen to. We recently published our Top 10 list of Inspiring Podcasts here.
8. Go outside (when you can)!
Even if just for a 15 minute walk, or a cup of tea in the garden, time spent in fresh air is invaluable to your mental health (see point below). It's a fine excuse to take a break and have a mental reset during the daily working day.
9. Look after your mental health
For many, the biggest challenge in working from home (whether in isolation or not) may be keeping on top of your mental health. Personally, I didn't struggle too much until a couple of years ago when big changes were happening that I hadn't fully prepared for.
Because I want this to be a positive list and everyone's experience of mental health is unique, I wont go into too much detail on this subject.
However, we are fortunate to have a fantastic mental health support service on our doorstep in the shape of Arthur Ellis Mental Health Support. What makes Arthur Ellis unique is that the revenue they earn from their adult clients goes directly into funding free mental health support sessions for children, as well as reducing the time it takes for a child to be referred for specialist support.
If you ever find yourself struggling to feel motivated to work, feel extra tired or lethargic, or have just noticed a change in your general happiness, it might be worth speaking to someone at an organisation like Arthur Ellis that can help you to overcome those challenges.
10. Get a pet!
I must admit I struggled to decide what should round off this list, and I'm not even sure it should be a serious recommendation. But having worked from home on and off for many years, I don't think you can beat the feeling of a nonchalant 4 legged animalwandering about the house, occasionally stopping for a quick 8 hour nap in its basket – or is it secretly checking you're actually working?
Who knows?! I'm sure for some, particularly if you have children, pets might not be the ideal addition to the family (perhaps they're the real nonchalant animals of the story), but for me, having a small and often annoying companion around can help lighten the mood when needed, and definitely helps to reduce a bit of stress or anxiety throughout the harder days.