Working from home sure sounds great in principle, but staying motivated and free of distractions can prove challenging. We’re fortunate enough to work in an industry where work from home set-ups are relatively commonplace, making it relatively easy for us to pivot to remote working. For most, the recent government guidance will mean a first in most people’s careers. Work from home sounds super simple, but one overlooked thing can ruin your day, and crash your productivity. Don’t fret, there are a few things you can do to improve your experience. I’ve spoken with our consultants to determine the Top 10 Aardvark Swift Tips for Homeworking!
STAY CONNECTED – Even if you’re a natural introvert (like myself), a work from home schedule can still be isolating. Not wanting to go anywhere is very different from not being able to go anywhere. Ensure your team are only a click away. There’s LOTS of programs to ensure you don’t go without human contact for too long. Skype, Discord and Microsoft Teams are all fantastic avenues for video calls, messaging and file sharing. If you live on your own, this is even more important. Make sure you check in throughout the day with team members, family and friends. They’ll probably be just as relieved to hear from you. You’ve got to remember, you’re in this together!
A STRUCTURED DAY – Pretend you’re still in the office! Having a clear day, blocked out with tasks, with regular breaks for beverages or a good stretch, will prevent burnout. When you’re in a poor work from home mentality, there’s no clear dilineation between home and work. It’s understandable, you’re in your personal space. Your bed could be a second away from your professional commitments. That can be dangerous. Don’t overdo it. Make sure you rest when you’re supposed to. Have a set finish time and try to avoid ‘just powering through’ crunch.
BE COMFORTABLE – The importance of this cannot be overstated. Do you work better on the sofa or in your own home office? Is your desk wide enough for the work you need to do? You need to think of the practicalities. You’re probably going to be working for six hours, or more, every day in the same space. You might have an office chair that becomes incredibly uncomfortable after only an hour, or a desk which isn’t wide enough to house your two-monitor set-up, with adequate space left over for a mouse and keyboard. A bad work from home set-up is going to crash your productivity as much as external influences.
USE PLANNING SOFTWARE – Knowing what you’ll be doing ahead of time will keep you on course, making sure you don’t get side-tracked by distractions. Software such as Monday.com, which we use and believe it works great for what we do, can help you make simple or complex boards of projects and tasks. From time management and tracking, to project collaboration and delegation with team mates. Knowing WHAT you’re supposed to be doing is half of the battle. Similar programs include Trello and Hubspot.
MINIMISE DISTRACTIONS – It kind of goes without saying that distractions are the bane of the home worker. That brand new game is sat on your console just a few paces away. What’s the latest news on social media? There’s a few things you can do to curb these external forces. Using incognito or private windows on your web browser can stop you getting side-tracked! Searches won’t autocomplete and your login details for sites won’t be stored. That means a suggested autocomplete in Google Chrome can’t side-track your afternoon. You also need to make sure you have your own space.
You might have a partner and children, and it’s great to want to spend time with them, but you need to allow yourself space to work. Friends and family need to understand that just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean you’re ‘off’. That doesn’t mean you can’t do your work on the sofa or in bed, but laying the foundation of the divide between work and home will make your day run much more smoothly. If you’re able, try working with music on. Film, TV and video game soundtracks without lyrics have been scientifically proven to keep you motivated!
MEAL PREPARATION – Working from home means you don’t have to settle for ANOTHER sandwich for the fifth day in a row. The downside is that you might not have the time to prepare much. Depedent on your work day, if you have an hour or even half an hour break, getting something wholesome cooked and consumed in that window will eat into your much needed downtime. Preparing what you can the night before could really help you out in the long run, especially if it’s a meal that then only requires heating up.
EMBRACE NORMALCY – You’re already in a routine. Treat this time working from home as any other normal work day, just with the commute cancelled. Don’t work in your pajamas, make your bed, have breakfast, brush your teeth; get prepped as if you were due into the office. You’ll find that motivation comes easier if you’re in the right mindset.
INVEST IN GOOD TECH – It probably goes without saying, but poor tools give you poor results. You need to ensure you can rely on the technology you’re using, especially as it will most likely be your only gateway to your primary source of income! If your employer provides the computer/laptop for you to take home, then great. Even if they don’t, you can adapt your home set-up around whatever you have. If you’d benefit from two screens (which I can’t recommend enough) then make sure to set that up. You can do this by connecting your computer and spare monitor through HDMI or via remote casting software (which is built into most smart devices). Most modern TVs can now be used as a second screen, so don’t feel like you need to have a spare PC monitor laying around. A good pair of noise cancelling headphones to help with distractions, with a mic for those video calls, is also a good investment! Ergonomic rests will help combat fatigue, as will ergonomically designed accessories, such as a mouse and keyboard.
GET A WHITEBOARD – Sometimes notes and ideas don’t need to be set in stone. Having a place to jot down your internal musings is a great way to see the form of something that you can’t quite pin down. Getting it out of your head and into the physical world is a great way to work through an idea. Maybe you need to visualise marketing avenues for a new project, or decide the best target audience for a new product. Making sure you have it clearly accessible is a plus, especially if it is in your line of sight. This is useful, as you can use it as a place to remind yourself of key dates and deadlines. Having these blocked out within your scheduling software is fine, but having the added physical prompt will keep you on course. Whiteboards don’t have the same formatting constraints as computer-based programs, set information out as you really want them!
GET SOME AIR – Even if you don’t go outside much during your commute, you do at least have to walk to your car and back. Having short breaks, even during your lunch or when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil for the eighteenth time that day, will stop you feeling claustrophobic. As nice as your four walls might be, there’s no substitute for an open space (in-line with government guidance).
We hope these tips help! During this time please do look after yourself, stay safe, and keep on top of your mental health. You’ve got this! Please feel free to share your own work from home hacks with us on social. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.