woman sitting on white couch using laptop computer - Representing working from home

How to ace working from home

These are strange times indeed. A new decennium off to a very memorable start, but not in the way any of us would have hoped. In a global effort to fight what we can now officially call a pandemic, many of us find ourselves working from home. For some of us this might not be anything new. Meanwhile, others might be scratching their heads trying to figure out where to set up shop in their homes.

In times like these, what else is there for you to do but buckle down and make the best of the situation? Anyone that has ever tried working from home knows, that it’s not all about the physical set up. You need to be in the right mental state to really get some work done. Curious about what you can do to get into the right state of mind? Read on and find out which 10 steps you can apply!

1. Take care of yourself

First things first, all these big plans, you have are completely meaningless without you. All these great intentions are just that intentions, without you to realize them. So even before you plant yourself on that chair and prepare to glue your eyes to the screen for the next hour(s) or so, remember that you are not a machine. Take care of yourself! It is scary how easy it is to just start working only to realize hours later, and a little past lunchtime, that you haven’t even had breakfast yet.

Remember where your priorities lie and adopt routines to make sure you do right by those priorities. Whichever way you choose to approach this remember that your physical and mental health should always come first!

2. Adopt a morning routine

Start your morning by grounding yourself, whether it’s through yoga, a moment of silence, journaling, affirmative thoughts, reading the paper, staring out the window in silence over a cup of coffee. Do you! Take care of your mind and spirit and to help you get ready to tackle your daily goals.

I have found that sticking to a routine helps, but it’s also great that the routine can be flexible. The trick is finding that balance, sticking to a stable routine each day, with added flexibility to deal with unexpected curve balls that life throws at you

Michael Erasmus — Data Lead at Buffer

Continue by getting ready like you would any other morning. Feel free to listen to your own needs when it comes to what you wear. Some of us can use getting dressed to help get us in the right frame of mind. Others can work in their pyjamas, or those shorts you love, and power through their workday, like nobody’s business.

3. Develop a workout routine

Now that you’ve thought about your mind and spirit, don’t forget to do right by your body as well. Sitting all day, logged in to your virtual office is not healthy. It’s important to disconnect, stretch your legs and get that recommended 30mins elevated heart rate, workout session in. Now don’t overthink it, you don’t need to have a whole gym worth of equipment lying around the house. Jumping jacks will do, dancing, kickboxing, jogging in place, jumping rope, burpees, squat jumps etc. You can be as creative as you want. Use what you have lying around the house to help you get your 30mins in.

4. Set up a dedicated workspace

Before you can actually start working it is helpful to have a place where you can actually work. Someplace free from distractions. You don’t have to go out of your way to rearrange your house, but it does help get you in the right mindset to have a physical setup you can go to that you can associate with work. That way when it’s the workday is finished, it’s easier for you to mentally disconnect from work.

Great! You got your station up and running however this won’t get you anywhere without the right tech setup. Do you even have access to the right website, software or technology to do your job? If not, that’s definitely something to get in order before you move on. Next, depending on the sensitivity level of the information, or whether you need to connect to a private network, you might want to consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Otherwise ensuring the security of accessing something remotely becomes tricky.

5. Keep a schedule

For some reason, I’ve noticed that time passes really quickly when working from home. To make sure we can avoid that feeling of: “What did I actually do today?”, make sure you have a schedule that you can refer to. Preferably one you made the day before, so you don’t spend precious brain power to come up with it on the spot.

Some key essentials to put in there can be minor household chores, personal errands, this will help break up your day and give you a boost when you’ve accomplished them. It’s also a great way to change scenery and keep you sane. The value of a walk around the neighborhood, or any other form of exercise that gets the blood flowing back to your legs again, should also not be disregarded. Generally speaking, don’t underestimate the power of sunlight and fresh air!

Be kind to yourself when you take your breaks. Try to avoid shortening them and get in the habit of setting alarms to make sure you don’t just work through your breaks.

Create a signal to indicate the end of your workday to help you steer clear of workaholic tendencies. For some it can be tempting to tell yourself you can work a little bit longer since you’re not commuting to work. But beware because it is a slippery slope all the way to overworking yourself and tilting that work-life balance.

6. Set up ground rules with those you work with and work around

Before we even get to the people you work with, you might to want to consider setting some ground rules at home as well. This is a tip for those that have other people at home while working. Also, setting these rules creates clear expectations for adults and children about what you can and can’t do on a workday. Unfortunately, there is no telling the cat/dog or any other furry/feathered/scaled friend that it’s work o’ clock. But the least you can do is make sure your co-home sharer(s) understand that mid video conference is not the ideal time to turn on that obnoxiously loud coffee machine. Nor is it the time for them to engage in a call of their own, so loud you’d think they were updating the whole neighborhood about Aunt Gina’s weekend. My point, talk so you can avoid awkward explanations to your colleagues/clients later on.

Try not to leave too much to assumptions: “I thought you were checking that.”, “I thought you already replied to her”. The truth is you thought wrong! Basing your way of working on assumptions is a sure-fire way to making mistakes. Best to clearly define the way-of-working in order to streamline it. Especially, if there is no trust, or it still needs to be built, it can be useful to rely on clearly defined guidelines.

7. Get the communication flowing

Try communicating more than you normally would. This way you can avoid missing things due to assumptions. Make sure to communicate clearly with your clients and colleagues in order to manage their expectations. Consider using videochat to help keep people engaged. It’s just a tad bit harder for your focus to drift when you know you are being watched. We can all use that accountability sometimes, to avoid listening with half an ear and missing vital information, missing cues and in general coming across as unprofessional and or unprepared.

In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.

Michael Dell — Dell

A great way to build a sense of unity even while working remotely, is to have daily check-in meetings. This can help increase engagement by restoring accountability and a sense of control amongst employees and managers. With that in place, communication is more likely to occur and be seen as an essential part of the workday.

8. Make time to socialize

So, now that we work from home, we’re just going to pretend that those water cooler conversations don’t happen? For the less social amongst us, you might be just fine not having to deal with those but even you need to keep your spirits up and make sure you don’t start to feel isolated.

To make sure that we get our daily dose of casual social encounters, you have to proactively set up social moments. Whether it’s a social lunch date, Friday afternoon drinks with all colleagues, a bootcamp session, make sure you get your social dose one way or another. Socialize by doing activities that you enjoy and just have fun with it!

9. Experiment with productivity strategies

When it comes down to getting the work done and being productive, it’s entirely up to you to find out what works best for you.

  • Multitasking vs. Focused Work: Try batching your work into productive time pockets instead of multitasking. The idea here is that with less distractions from constantly switching between tasks aka multitasking, you can apply laser focus and be more efficient. To help you find the ideal length for your time pocket and to help you to stick to it you can use tools such as the Pomodoro Technique.
A quick how-to video for the Pomodoro Method – Francesco Cirillo
  • Instant Messaging vs. Emailing: Opt for using instant messaging instead of emails to increase the rate of response, decision-making and to reduce the inefficiencies associated with email ping pong.
  • Try making three lists of three: The first contains three things you have to do today (Important-Urgent). The second is to keep a list of three things you would like to get done today but which can wait (Important-Less Urgent). Lastly, come up with a list of non-critical things that have to get done (Less important-Urgent). Of course if there are things that are not important and not urgent, consider eliminating them from your day altogether.
A quick how-to for Eisenhower’s Matrix – Eisenhower.me

10. Minimize distractions

I’ve already mentioned the benefit of focusing instead of multitasking. Yet, without actually removing your distractions this will just remain an interesting notion. Until you make an effort to remove that which causes your eyes to drift and your mind to wander absolutely NO work is getting done. And if you insist and are convinced that you are the exception, great but consider how much time you would save if you focused on one thing at a time.

Starve your distractions, feed your focus

Anonymous

Now, I know most of us are not made of steel and thus we are affected by stimuli from our surroundings. We can be tempted by an ad or convinced that we need to watch a Youtube video which we stumbled upon, after ‘quickly’ checking the spelling of that word we stared at just a bit too long until it didn’t look quite right anymore. Somehow it always seems to escalate so quickly, until you find yourself 40 mins in and still no further with that task you needed to get done.

If you, like myself, suffer from shiny object syndrome and a strong urge to indulge in random trivia questions that pop into your head, then you might want to get some (tech) help. Technology to the rescue! High time to consider distraction blocking tools such as SelfControl, KeepMeOut, Freedom and the list goes on.

Takeaways

It is possible, it is doable but you have to DO IT. You have to make an effort to prepare your physical space such that the correct mindset can follow. But all that is pointless talk if you don’t put yourself first. Acing working from home requires you to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Nothing great can be built on a rocky foundation. Make sure you have that in order and the rest will surely follow, a lot easier.

Happy working and remember, ALWAYS HIT SAVE ;)!


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“So many people think the remote work community is made up of only spoiled, privileged millennials and Instagram influencers, and that’s not who we are. We’re people of all ages, from all countries and all socio-economic classes, and what brings us together is our shared mindset that we want to do something different and have adventures sooner, rather than later in life.”

— Spencer Jentzsch, Hacker Paradise

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2 comments

  1. I sure need to follow No.9 – productivity strategies. Thank you for providing such practical tips.
    Wonderfully written as well! I really love your opinion and your writing style.
    I enjoy your work so much that I have subscribed to your blog. 🙂

  2. 6 and 7 are so necessary! Especially as a newbie working from home, creating expectations and communication from the start are let for everyone on the team! Great article!

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