With worldwide infection control measures now in place to contain the spread of the Covid-19, thousands of companies worldwide are now finding themselves in the position of having to either shut up shop or attempt to work from home. It got us talking in our office as to how our experiences of working from home could help other businesses, hence this blog. Please keep all arms and legs within the browser at all times and save any questions to the end. This is my 8 top tips to working from home.

Get up and ready for work

Ok, I get it…. It’s kinda like a snow day, but you gotta work. Over the years (especially through uni) I would have rolled out of bed made a cup of tea, made something to eat and stick on the TV. Then I’d waddle back to bed where I would open my laptop, log in and begin to work. In hindsight this was truly unproductive. Why? Because we are creatures of habit. By this I mean that getting up and getting ready for work is what you’re used to. As soon as you disregard this as a priority, you can kiss the rest of your productive day goodbye. 

However, don’t get me wrong, maybe whipping out the slippers and sweats is a cool novelty and will even help you stay comfortable at home but come on! Brush those teeth & don’t skip that shower! 

In a nutshell what I am saying is that your morning routine will set you up for the day ahead.

Seriously… GET OUT OF BED… Have a designated space 

So working off of point #1.

It is important to be sitting somewhere you can fully concentrate and get in the zone. Bed is a terrible idea, beds are for sleeping and not for working. There’s two reasons why sitting in your bed working are a bad idea. 

1. You are going to be less productive as you’re trying to work where you usually switch off for the day.

2. When you go to bed that night you might find that switching off is harder as you’ve been sitting here all day trying to concentrate. 

Having a space where you can work is a lot more satisfying than you would think. You’ve put a little time and effort into setting a cosy space where you want to enjoy working. Here’s a few pointers to help productivity:

  • Use a desk if possible. If not try a table and last resort go on the sofa.
  • If possible have a room where you can remain focused and separated from distractions.
  • Try to get as much natural light as possible into your work space. 
  • Have a speaker to play some music (or whatever you’re into) for a bit of ambiance.
  • Make sure you are surrounded by items essential for your work.
  • Don’t over complicate this space, remember less is more.

Exercise and staying active 

Breaking out the Mr. Motivator VHS isn’t what I have in mind here. Neither is breaking into a 20 minute Crossfit WOD or whatever it is you do that kills the carbs.  

But taking 5 minutes to stand up and stretch here and there is an affordable and essential option when working from home. Even getting up and pacing the room reading a few notes or planning your next task can loosen you up a little. I always find this useful when completing a task or when I’m reviewing some work, emails or trying to understand a brief. You can finally bust out that open mouthed yawn, stretch until you make that *nearly too far* noise without having to worry about what anyone around you thinks. A personal favourite of mine. 

Take frequent breaks 

Ok so the title is a draw in factor here, what I really mean is plan your breaks. Are you the kind of person that thrives on your routine and takes a coffee break at 11am, lunch at 1.30pm late coffee at 3.30pm? If so plan your day around that. 

This type of thinking is embedded into us from when we first start school. We’d have time slots allocated for subjects broken up by breaks and lunches, and the occasional juke to to the vending machine. 

You can manage regular breaks in one of two ways:

1. The method above. Have set times, when the clock hits 11am you stop what you’re doing and get that caffeine fix.

2. Plan your tasks for the day and reward yourself with a break when you complete it.

The second one works best for me but a hybrid of both methods can also be used, whatever floats your boat. 

Breaks have to be planned. It can really kill productivity getting up and down regularly. When you do go for a break make sure you get your coffee/snack/social media fix all in one, don’t run backwards and forwards.

Avoid distractions 

Like I said this is like a snow day but you will be working. Even though you aren’t beside your manager anymore is no excuse for sitting on Facebook. 

In point #2, I mentioned that less is more in your office space. This relates directly to distractions. General clutter should be removed from your desk/space. Dont have something sitting near you if you know you’re only going to waste time interacting with it. 

If you set your smartphone face-up on a table and within view, lets be real you’re pretty much waiting for it to go off. When that happens you’ll most likely take your eyes off what you’re doing and switch your focus to that. Effectively killing your chances of maintaining focus and productivity. Before you start saying to yourself “I need my phone for work” try think of creative ways around this. Research what desktop apps you can use that will help you keep your eyes on screen, Whatsapp, Skype, are all great ways of keeping on contact with your team. 

Distractions can be defined as anything that will break your focus. Television, pets and other people in your home, generally anything that is a distraction to you.

Learn how to focus 

So I’ve used the word focus a few times now and it’s probably a good idea to explain what that is. In my line of work, focus is zoning out everything around me and giving 100% of my attention to the task at hand. You’re probably thinking that’s not hard to do. Well… working in an environment where you feel too comfortable can often lead to a more relaxed approach to focusing. You’re at home in your safe space where you usually chill. You’ve gotten used to leaving work at the front door and switching off quickly. This is a habit that is all to easy to utilise when working at home. 

Learning how to focus or “get in the flow” is a must. When I need to focus I will have a list in front of me with the tasks that need completed. I will stick on some music that will relax me (save the power ballads for cleaning) then systematically go through that list point after point without lifting my head. At the end of the list and only at the end will I review the work I’ve completed. I find that if you complete a task then review it, then repeat with all your other tasks you run the risk of stopping and starting several times over which is a bit of a detriment in getting your workflow on point. Here’s a quick example of my basic workflow. 

  1. Work through your tasks
  2. Review them
  3. Fix anything outstanding
  4. Deliver like a boss 

Try develop a workflow that suits your needs and the best way your mind works. It might be a list of people you have to call or email, or checking in with your team/video calls. 

Have a plan and set goals

Right, you’re home office is looking sweet, your phone is on silent, you’ve fed the cat and got a coffee at hand, time to start…. eh well… start what exactly…?

I know so many freelancers that will never complete work until the 13th hour. Mainly because they don’t have someone above them setting some deadlines or they’re undisciplined. 

When you’re working from home you’ll most likely have work that needs completed, but you’ll decide the deadlines that day. You might have deadlines set for you already, if so awesome, don’t worry about that. If you have a soft deadline (“need it by the end of the day”) you should always be aiming to have this completed at least an hour before it’s due. 

Planning is the answer! Like your breaks you should set a plan for when you want to complete this work. 

Planning can be anything from writing your key task on a post-it to creating a detailed list. The key here is being able to set smart goals rather than targets. For me, they’re not the same.

Targets are what I need to get done.

Smart and measurable goals are what I want to achieve. 

For example, a target might be “web design needs completed by 4pm”. My goal would be “Finish this design by 3pm and leave 45 minutes to review/change, then 15 minutes to prepare the email before it’s sent”. 

Setting your own goals along with getting in the flow will totally change how you work at home.

Use tools to keep on top of things

Do you use any kind of specialist software where you work? If no, keep reading. If yes, keep reading anyway. 

I work with a lot of software on a daily basis. 

  • Email Platform
  • Internet browser x 4
  • Slack for communicating with the team
  • Whatsapp – for both work and social purposes
  • 6+ Adobe apps at any given time 
  • Dropbox and apple files 
  • Skype

I could double that list on a busy day. 

So when I find an app that consolidates even two of those tasks together I literally jump at the chance to use it.

Don’t be afraid to search around and find productivity apps you think might help you. I’ve only recently started using reminders by Apple as a way of making a daily task list. Stops me writing stuff down and keeps my eyes on my screen when I want to stay focused.

However you might surprise yourself by using tools at home that you normally dont in the office. This is cool because you will associate that new tool with working at home rather than the office. 

Summary 

I can only talk about my experience on working from home. What I’ve written might not work for you as well as it works for me. Sticking to the points above has helped me so much and I’m lucky to be in the position where if I need to work at home my manager has total faith in me being able to complete my work on time and to a high quality. 

Isn’t that what we all want from working at home? The ability to be motivated enough to be trusted and work/earn from home. I would love to hear your thoughts on everything discussed above and how you manage your workload at home.

Hit me up at johnny@no79design.com and tell me what a fool I am, or how I’ve changed your working from home life, either is cool, I just like talking. 

Thanks for reading.

Peace. 

Johnny Lowe

Senior UX Designer 

No79 Design