How to survive working from home

By Elmarie Grant, head of Synthesis Academy

You have now been tasked with navigating a new world: working from home. This may sound great until you are charged with being the home-school teacher; your dog decides your new life purpose is playing fetch with him or her; you realise that your significant other is the loudest eater ever to have walked the earth; and you have to manage all forms of other new and unexpected interruptions – all while doing your job and keeping your customer happy!

Fear not. After extensive research, we have gathered the top tips to help you survive working from home:

  1. Set working hours
    Setting a schedule for yourself can be helpful in balancing work and life. Get up at your usual time, and be clear when your workday starts and ends. This way, you’ll feel more in control of your time and know when you can walk away without feeling guilty. It also gives you some flexibility to catch up with others – can you work for an hour or two before the kids wake up, or work another couple after they’ve gone to bed?
  2. Create a morning routine
    Deciding you’ll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine indicates you’re about to start work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed (wearing pajama pants to work is a perk for some, but a bad strategy for others). A routine can be more powerful than a clock at helping you get started each day.
  3. Keep a dedicated “office” space
    Creating a clear space that signals “this is where I work” can be helpful in separating work from fun. If your laptop is on the desk, it’s worktime, and if it is on the dining room table, you can allow yourself to check your social media or watch a movie. Keeping your space clean, neat and stocked with whatever supplies you need (power cables, additional screens etc) will also help you focus and be intentional about your activities. Use the same space everyday so this space is your office away from the office, providing you with a physical and psychological boundary.
  4. Set ground rules with the people in your space
    Having little ones or loved ones around can be very distracting when you are working. Setting ground rules about how and when they can interact with you (especially when you are at your “work desk”) can be helpful. It helps them understand when they can expect your full attention, and minimise interruptions. Additionally, just because you’re home and can let service people into the house or take care of pets doesn’t mean other family members should assume you will always do it. If that’s how you choose to divide up the domestic labour, that’s fine, but if you simply take it all on by default because you’re home, you may feel taken advantage of, and your productivity may suffer.
  5. Schedule breaks
    Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your usual lunch break, or schedule time to walk away (and spend some time with your little ones). Regular breaks also help improve your productivity, manage your energy levels and reset your attention span.
  6. Be strict with social media
    It is natural to want to check what is happening on social media and to check the latest news but this can become all-consuming. Rather allocate time to do this as breaks in your day. Set an alarm if necessary to ensure you don’t fall down the rabbit hole and waste your day.
  7. Show up to meetings
    Instead of office meetings, you may be required to dial in or use other virtual means for meetings. Make sure you schedule these in the same way you would normal face-to-face meetings; they are a great way to check in with your team, measure your own progress and socialise a little. Raise any issues or risks, but also celebrate the small things. Don’t skip them!
  8. Look for training opportunities
    There are a variety of online, self-paced training resources available. Using your time working from home to learn a new skill set, hone an existing skill or reading more broadly about something you are interested in will not only keep you engaged and energised, but help you find new ways to add value.
  9. Over-communicate
    Working remotely requires everyone to be clear on what they are doing. Not seeing colleagues continuously makes it much harder to keep track of where they are and what activities they are completing. When you finish a project or important task, say so. If you are running behind or are facing a challenge, speak up. Over-communicating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself.
  10. Create an end-of-day routine
    Like your morning routine that gets you ready for your remote workday, set a routine that lets you (and your loved ones) know that you are winding down. It will allow you to leave work at work (so to speak) and engage with your after-hours activities mindfully and meaningfully and relax.
  11. Be present and be positive
    Whether you are working, or taking a break and spending time with others, be present in that moment. The best way to focus and improve your productivity is to aim your attention to one thing at a time. Cultivating a positive mindset has many benefits – from making you happier and more productive, to spilling over into your relationships. Let’s face it, being cooped up with others can be challenging, and keeping a positive, open mind will help you overcome those small irritations.

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