A lot has changed in 2020. One of the biggest changes is that a lot more people are working from home – be it by personal choice, new workplace protocols, or otherwise.
Working from home has many advantages: there’s no commute, you don’t have to pack a lunch, and you get to see your pets all day long! Of course, this also comes with challenges. Many of these issues are ones you likely haven’t anticipated when you were suddenly shifted into working at home. You’re dealing with problems that you’re not used to having to manage within your workday.
My position at nine10 has always been a remote position. Before joining the team at nine10, I worked as a freelance designer from home. Since I have a bit of experience with this, here are my top tips for staying productive while working from your home office.
1. Find A Space To Make Your Own
If possible, set up your workspace somewhere in your home that is separated from the rest of your home. This helps to separate your home and work lives, which have now become more intertwined. A separate workspace allows you to feel like you’ve actually left work when you’re done for the day. This boundary becomes crucial when you have a full house. Since everyone is at home these days, it’s vital that you keep your workspace as private and quiet as possible.
Even if you don’t have a room you can make your new workspace, it’s still a good idea to set up a specific space for working. I recommend using a signal system to indicate to other people in your household when you need privacy or quiet. It can be something as simple as a coloured Post-It. This serves as a quick signal to housemates that they need to avoid interrupting you.
I currently use the den in my apartment which luckily has a door but, at my old apartment, I wasn’t so lucky. I chose to set up my space in the entryway. It didn’t have a door but there was a distinct separation between the living area and my workspace which still allowed me to have the feeling of leaving work at the end of the day.
2. Don’t Go Radio Silent On Coworkers
Stay connected to your coworkers. Tools like Slack and Zoom make this manageable, and several other great options exist. Working from home doesn’t mean you have to be disconnected from your coworkers entirely. Having positive relationships with the people you work with is an important part of job satisfaction, so make sure to use the tools you have available to keep in contact. These days we’re disconnected from the people around us, so it’s important for our wellbeing to maintain contact through the amazing technology we have available today.
Your employers have likely already set something up to ensure everyone stays in touch. If they haven’t, I would recommend suggesting these tools (or others) to keep the lines of communication open. It’ll make working from home that much easier.
3. Plan Your Work
It’s easier to get distracted while working in your own home. Making a plan for your workday is vital to staying focused and productive. Take time at the beginning of each day to make a list of all your tasks. Plan around your own natural work cycles and be sure to schedule your most difficult work when you have the most energy.
I usually create a rough plan for my week on Monday. I use Trello to track my ongoing projects and every Monday I review my Trello board to see what tasks I want to get done that week. I use Google Calendar to roughly block out my week with the tasks I intend to complete. At the beginning of each day, I’ll also review my blocks for the day and make adjustments as needed. It’s still good to be flexible with this schedule because, as we all know, the unexpected often comes up at some point during the week.
4. Don’t Wear Your PJs to Work
You may think that working from home means you shouldn’t get dressed for the workday, but – having done this for a while – I disagree. Sure, you don’t need to get as dressed up as you would go into the office, but the act of getting ready helps to signal to your brain that it’s time for work. I’ve managed to find a way to combine comfort and professionalism. Usually, a combination of a dressy top with leggings since people mostly see only my upper half.
Getting ready also helps to differentiate your work time from your personal time. Since these lines are more blurred than ever before, take advantage of every opportunity to separate them.
5. Give Your Brain A Break
For some reason, taking a break feels different when working from home. It feels less necessary and even indulgent sometimes, and yet it’s still important to take them.
Your mind and body (especially your eyes!) need a break. Get up, eat some lunch, stretch your legs, do anything you would normally do to take a break at the office. Breaks are an essential part of work-life balance and help you stay as productive as possible.
If you’ve got pets at home, this is the perfect time to go give them a little snuggle. I have 2 cats, one sleeps in my office but the other one I don’t see unless I go find him in my house. I like to take quick little breaks to go pet both of my cats. This quick little break helps boost my mood and energy.
6. Learn to Laugh At the Unexpected
One thing I’ve noticed now that more people are working from home is everyone is more understanding of the noise in the background. Most people do not live alone so there’s likely to be other people moving around your home. We all do the best we can to minimize these noises, but there’s only so much we can control. I find that it’s best to laugh off the random noises in the background.
As I previously mentioned, I have 2 cats. Usually after about 3 pm, one of my cats decides she would like to be fed immediately. To signal this to me, she sits next to my office chair and loudly yowls. Most of the time, I’m the only person she is bothering with this noise, but occasionally she does this while I’m on the phone and treats the person I’m speaking to – sometimes clients! – to the song of her people.
I always apologize for the noise to whoever I’m talking to, but I’ve found that most people have a good sense of humour about these things. Especially now that a lot more people understand what it’s like to work from home.
7. Give Your Workspace A Personal Touch
I have always loved decorating the space I’m working in. It’s never mattered whether I’ve had an office or a desk to work at, I’ve always brought my personality to my workspace. I feel like this helps make the space mine and adds comfort. Since I’ve been working from home for nearly 2 years now, I’ve gotten to give my workspace the personal touches that make it mine, even if it is already in my home.
I collect crystals & minerals and keep many of them on my desk. I love to take small mental breaks and observe some of them. I also have filled my walls with art created by loved ones, such as a weaving done by my sibling, and I find that looking at them reminds me of the love I have for the person who created the art.
Decorating your space with things that uplift you or make you happy, really helps to boost your mood throughout the day.
The Gist of Working From Home
Shifting into working from home might feel a bit awkward at first, but I can assure you from experience that it will get more comfortable as time goes on. Be flexible with yourself, it’s completely okay to be thrown off by this sudden transition. I promise you’ll get used to this eventually, just like I did!