I know what you all think about home workers; we sit in our pyjamas, working from our sofa… Just kidding, I know only my Dad thinks that.
I’m no stranger to working from home. When I worked in-house as a designer, I often had to work from home due to a print deadline coming up or if we were at an event. But working from home full time is quite another matter. Without the routine of a normal working day we can become unmotivated and I for one, tend to procrastinate without some things I’ve put in place.
I’ve worked from home full time for the last 5 years and it’s not been without its challenges. The isolation, the postman leaving parcels for neighbours at work or even the dogs pining for me… it’s not always easy.
The reality is, a large part of the UK might need to adapt to working from home very soon. So with that in mind, I’ve put together some tips which will help you be productive and who knows, you might actually enjoy working from home!
Nowadays I have an office at home, but once over I used to work from my kitchen table. I found it difficult to differentiate between ‘work’ time and ‘home’ time so I’d only do work on the table, whereas in the evening or at break times I’d sit on the sofa. This helped my mind to focus but also to lose the feeling that I was at work ALL THE TIME. There’s no escape from work when you work from home… which leads me on to my next tip…
I really struggled with this in the beginning; even now I have to be strict and try to work in the hours I’ve set. My personal circumstances are that I have a 5 year old and two dogs to look after. During the school term I work in blocks from 9-12 and then I take the dogs out for a walk from 12-12:45 then I work from 1-3. School pick up time is 3.10 and I usually take time off to do chores etc and spend time with my daughter until bedtime at 7.30pm. If I need to, I then work until around 9pm. This might not work for everyone but I feel like these are the best hours for me to fit around my life. My tip is to choose hours that work for you and your family. Obviously, you might be dictated work hours by your employer, so try to stick to those hours so you don’t end up doing too much and losing balance in your life.
Some weeks are great for focussing, whereas others tend to be a little more difficult. Especially in the summer when the weather is nice (sometimes!) I find it difficult to not look outside and just want to be in the fresh air. Once thing I do is work using the Pomodoro technique when finding it hard to focus.
The Pomodoro technique breaks down working time into intervals of 20 minutes, with a 5 minute break in between. Using a timer like https://tomato-timer.com you work solidly during those 20 minutes allowing yourself 5 minutes after to make a cuppa, browse social media, have a walk or whatever you want to do! After doing 4 lots of 20-minute work blocks, you get a 15-20 minute break for whatever you want. Honestly, it works! If I’m really struggling to focus, it makes a massive difference to my productivity.
This links to my last point; give yourself a treat when you’ve completed a certain number of tasks or a particularly difficult one. It sounds like we’re training a puppy, but actually it does work and it doesn’t have to be food related. It could be a chapter in your book, a new episode of a Netflix programme or doing a crossword. There’s loads of rewards big and small over on this blog: https://www.developgoodhabits.com/reward-yourself/
WORKING WITH CHILDREN
This could be a blog post on its own… I’ve had to on occasion work with my 5 year old around, when she’s been poorly or in the holidays. Obviously, if the current virus situation means children will be off school for a while, I’d be reluctant to send her to her grandparent’s houses, since they’re more at risk of complications due to ill health.
With this in mind, I’ll have to adopt another approach. Now my daughter is old enough to understand, it will be slightly easier than when she was a toddler. It was almost impossible to focus with a demanding little one around. But if your children are older, I’d suggest working in 20 minute blocks and communicating to them that this is work time. Leave a snack box on the worktop, in case they need food, so you won’t be disturbed. If your child is anything like mine, they will be wanting a snack often! Make them easy-open ones for little fingers if your child is younger.
Distraction is your friend when working at home with kids. With older kids, don’t feel guilty about how much TV they are watching. If the schools are closed, TV will have to be your friend for a few weeks! Plus, they will be absolutely buzzing that there’s no sanctions on watching Netflix. If you have a tablet, load it with educational, age appropriate apps.
One thing that helps me when I’m working in the holidays is to use websites such as Twinkl to print off worksheets and activities for my daughter. She loves word searches and colouring in, so it’s perfect for printing off things to keep them busy.
More than anything, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself. Some days will be better than others. One of my friends gets up at 4am and works until 7am and then when her child gets up, she spends the day with him. Then once he goes to bed at 7pm she starts work again for an hour or two. This might not work for everyone but it’s an option!
One thing that can really put a spanner in the works is when friends or family call in when you’re in the middle of a task. Sometimes it’s a welcome distraction, other times it’s not so welcome. The key is simply set boundaries and let your friends and family know when you’re working. Obviously, if we are in self-isolation, they won’t want to visit you anyway, so that’s a bonus…
LONELINESS & ISOLATION
So, even when there isn’t a virus affecting us, working from home can be very lonely. I personally prefer to work on my own than in an office, but I know it’s a struggle for many people. If things tighten up in terms of needing to isolate ourselves, then the internet will be our friend… Set up a group chat with colleagues, perhaps schedule a time when you all have a chat about a certain subject. A watercooler moment, if you will.
Face Time and Zoom or Skype friends and family to break up the monotony of the day.
So, these are my tips! Let me know if there’s anything you would like to add, or if you have any questions. Be kind to yourselves and look after each other x
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