As someone who has worked from home almost exclusively for the past four years, I’ve learnt a thing or two about getting the most out of it.
Here’s the thing: I know it’s not for everyone.
Our current global situation has resulted in a lot of people being forced into relocating their work station to their dining table, instead of the usual external office setup they’re used to. Some people immediately ran out to IKEA and set themselves up with a chic work-only zone, only to then run into the problem that so many of us wfh-ers face: how do I actually get things done when I’m working from home?
With nosy pets and bored children and endless piles of laundry, it can be really difficult to actually focus while you’re trying to be productive with work. I personally find the cleanliness and overall feel of my environment to be really indicative of my productivity levels and work quality, and I’m sure it’s the same for so many of you out there, too.
Here are all of the things I’ve learnt about working from home, and the ways I make sure I get the most out of each and every day. It doesn’t have to be torturous, or painful, or something that makes you lose your mind. You can pair a button down with your pyjama pants and still appear professional on Zoom, after all, and that’s gotta count for something.
Create a dedicated, comfortable work space.
But I can’t really tell you the exact logistics of that process. Everyone works so differently and gets inspired and motivated by different things. For me, it’s a calm, clean zone with zero clutter. I empty my office bin daily and always tidy up after myself at the end of each day. I don’t like leaving empty mugs or cereal bowls on my desk because I find it so distracting. I also like working in a room with a door, so I can close it when I’m working on especially detail-oriented tasks and avoid a cat-astrophe [literally — Belle walk straight across my keyboard when I’m working in Photoshop and the stress of it almost kills me, I swear].
For you, this might mean investing in a comfortable chair, or upgrading your monitor so you’re not causing insane eye-strain. Whatever makes you comfortable and able to focus 100% on the task at hand. Your work space simply cannot double as your dining table and laundry folding zone. You’ll go crazy and the distraction will lead to a loss in productivity [but hey — your laundry will probably be folded to perfection].
Get dressed — every day.
This will mean something different depending on the tasks you have to complete within the day and how you’re feeling overall, but I do think it’s important to get yourself ready enough to distinguish between work and life. Sometimes this is as simple as brushing my hair and putting on some leggings, other times this can be the full shebang with a blazer on top. Distinguishing between the ‘hey, I just rolled out of bed’ and the ‘hey, I’m ready to work’ is an important step for a healthy mental state in and around your job.
It’s all about the ambiance.
If you’re used to working in an office environment, you’re probably accustomed to getting shit done while also listening to Karen’s latest husband woes and the melodic hum of the ancient printer that your boss refuses to replace. I’ve been working from home for years, but I still find that I need ‘other’ noises to help me stay focused. Weirdly, my sweet spot is thunderstorm sounds combined with a little café chatter. I play these using Apple Music through my headphones [noise cancelling is best], and I can lose hours working away without even looking up from my screen. If I’m not in the mood for white noise, or if I feel I need something more ‘human’, I’ll opt for an episode from one of these podcasts. Find your sweet spot, and use it to help you stay focused.
DND mode will change your life.
I’m the kind of person that has all notifications except for calls and texts muted because I hate the constant noise of it, but I also love to utilise DND mode on my iPhone and MacBook when I’m working on a deadline. No email dings, no buzzing from a wrong-number call: there are simply no distractions. I’d recommend trying this if you’re a constant notification-checker, or just the most popular person on earth.
Understand that needing breaks is human and taking breaks is healthy.
I used to feel guilty about taking breaks, especially because I’ve never really worked in a collaborative space and have never experienced the social aspect of office work. For me, it’s all about taking five minutes every two hours or so to fill up my water bottle, make a coffee if I need it, or even just lay on the ground with my cats for ten minutes and stop thinking about work. I find it’s so healthy for the brain to break tasks up, and I usually come back to work more motivated and focused. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you have to give up that social aspect, either. You can have a chat with your partner, or send off a quick text to your co-worker to let them know that you miss them. Anything to break up the monotony!