Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that people are working from home wherever possible to limit the spread of the pandemic. At TopLine Comms, our digital PR agency, we work from home two days a week. This policy has been in place for years, so we’re old hands at working from home effectively. For many people, though, this is their first experience with working from home, so we asked the team for some top tips on staying focused, and taking care of yourself while working from home.
Maintain your routine
Katy B’s advice is to get up, get breakfast and get ready at the same time as you would if you were going into the office. Jack added that it’s worth getting dressed before you start work, even if it’s just putting on a different set of comfortable home clothes. Staying in your pyjamas signals ‘relaxation’ and ‘weekend’ to your brain, which doesn’t set you off to a good start to the workday. Getting dressed puts you in the same frame of mind that you get into when you’re going into the office.
Dana recommended planning out your daily schedule – and being strict with it. That means deciding what time you’re starting your day, when your lunch break is, and when you’ll log off. By setting a clear boundary between time on and off the clock, you’ll avoid getting distracted by home chores, and won’t end up overworking into your personal time in the evening. Jack added that eating is for mealtimes only. Snacking to pass the time is a terrible idea, have a coffee or tea or some fruit instead.
Pick a productive workspace
Rob mentioned the importance of having a dedicated workspace, and ideally arranging it to match your office desk – couches are a no-no! Katie S concurred: having a designated workspace outside of your bedroom is an effective way to get into ‘work mode’ and minimise distractions. Brent added that it may be worth creating a few different spaces in your home to work from, since working from the same spot can cause a bit of a creative block after a while. Elaine endorsed a change of scenery in the afternoon if you’re feeling restless. This can be a walk at lunchtime, planning to work from an alternative location, or even taking the time to give a friend a call.
Dan suggested working with the windows open to get some fresh air and keeping the radio on for some friendly background chatter. Katie C recommended podcasts for the same reason. If you find podcasts too distracting, Sian and Jack are fans of classical or instrumental music instead. Jenna recommended taking some quiet time alone at home to try meditation, which can help with creative ideas and keeping the mind calm.
It’s easy to start to go a little crazy all by yourself, which is why Tom and Tim both emphasised the importance of talking to people at least once a day, even if you don’t have any formal meetings. Ben pointed out that keeping up your social life outside of work – remotely, of course – and working out during lunch are also great ways to make sure you aren’t living like a hermit.
Jenna echoed the suggestion that we should check in on our colleagues and recommended that if you find yourself working from home for an extended period of time, you should consider choosing a buddy and making sure that they are doing okay. Be open and honest of how you are doing with your team – we’re all in this together and we all want to support each other.
Get some exercise
Fleur, Jodie and Sian advocated for getting outside at lunchtime to walk the dog or go for a walk or a run, since this can help you to clear your head. If it’s horrible weather outside, you can still walk around your house to get your legs moving. Katy B also suggested making a list of all of the miscellaneous pieces of admin and chores you perpetually put off and using breaks to tick them off – she will be clearing out her spice cupboard this weekend.
Katie S pointed out a study from Bristol University which shows that moving your body for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps keep impulses in check. Stepping out for fresh air and getting up and taking regular breaks are easy ways to boost productivity.
Luke preached the gospel of good posture, pointing out that core strengthening exercises can help your back. His latest tip is to imagine holding an orange between your shoulder blades and to bring them back as if you’re squeezing it. Bronwen likes a standing desk, which can help keep the blood flowing.
Choose the right technology
Without seamlessly syncing cloud services, we wouldn’t be able to work from home the way we do. It’s critical that your business chooses the right technologies to enable working from home. At TopLine, we use Dropbox for documents, Teams for instant messaging, Zoom for video calls, and Asana to help keep the day focused, all of which are easy to access from anywhere in the world.