So, you’ve recently found out you’re working remotely?
Well, us too. As of tomorrow, 22 Group will be working from home. Luckily for us, this is something we’re pretty used to. Part of our company culture involves flexible hours, including the option of working from home once a week.
Of course, this scale of remote working is pretty unprecedented, so we’re still trying to get our heads around how exactly it will work! The pros of home-working are the flexibility, but we are all a bit fearful of the dreaded cabin fever setting in.
The sudden intrusion of work into your home life can be daunting if you’ve never worked from home before. The change to your routine combined with the uncertainty of the times we are facing could lead to a real dip in productivity. It seems like the perfect (or not so perfect) time to compile all our tips and tricks from around our team of how best to work from home...
- Find your optimum productivity hours
I feel like this might be the most important tip of all. It’s time for a bit of introspection - ask yourself, when are you truly the most productive? Are you a classic early bird? Is the hour after lunch time a write-off?
When you’ve established your optimum hours, make sure you work your day around them. For example, I tend to assign myself writing jobs in the morning when my brain is at its quickest. By the end of the day, more mechanical work is preferable, as my energy levels tend to deplete as the day goes on.
Ensuring you’re available in the company’s normal operating hours is important, but establishing your optimum times will give you guidance on how to prioritise tasks.
2. Get fresh air early (lockdown permitting...)
Our founder, Eddy, recommends getting some fresh air early on in the day. Clearing the head, establishing focus - this can be a great way to introduce a ready-to-work mindset.
The initial movement and fresh air could also mimic the act of commuting, thereby psychologically putting you in the mindset of leaving home behind and entering the work day.
Of course, in these unpredictable times, it makes sense to say observe due caution when out and about and ensure you are practising social distancing.
3. Get dressed rather than just lounging in pjs.
Quite a few of us here at the office suggested this one. Maybe there’s something that intrinsically connects the work mindset with putting together an outfit that isn’t an old pajama top and joggers.
Feeling presentable and office-ready will help make that transition to home-working smoother. Working in a dressing gown from bed may sound appealing, but the reality is your body is hardwired to relax in such a situation, making productivity more of an uphill battle.
Of course, these situations are highly personal and balance is always needed. Our founder, Robin, recommends wearing a shirt up top with jogging bottoms, so at least half of you is always presentable for conference calls.
4. Establishing a clear workstation
Many of us noted the importance of assigning a certain space from which to work. This could be a desk, dining room table, or even a sofa. Where you work isn’t the important consideration here, what matters is how you approach this space. This space should be kept as separate as possible from homely distractions, such as the TV, bed, or other members of the household, and the sole purpose of this area should be for work. Creating that boundary, both physically and mentally, will give you that much-needed focus.
Your home set-up may benefit from a few adjustments. Do you have everything at home you need to do all aspects of your job? It will be important to contact your employers about what exactly you need to work remotely. Additionally, consider your set-up. Consider moving around - or even investing in - certain pieces that will make your time at home easier, such as ergonomically supportive chairs and desks.
5. Decide upon your working hours
Working from home means that your work-life balance is no more. It is now, well and truly, a work-life blend. Try as you might to mentally separate your work from your home, it will be near impossible to leave work behind if you’re living in the same space you’re working in. This doesn’t mean you have to resign to burnout, however.
Establishing clear boundaries and accessible hours is very important. Just because you're working from home doesn’t mean you should be bombarded in out of work hours by work emails. Be clear and firm when it comes to your working hours.
In order to maintain good working relations with your colleagues, it is important to be available during the company’s observed working hours. However, if you are not going to be available after 5pm, because you’ve been working since 7am, then it could be worth communicating these with the rest of the team. Again, this comes back to finding out your optimum working hours and treating them as gospel. Don’t schedule a meeting for 9am if you know you won’t have properly woken up by that time.
6. Stay connected - phone calls, conference calls
To avoid the feelings of isolation and cabin fever, it is really vital to keep up communications with your colleagues. For us, a few GIFs here and there on Slack keep that team spirit going (at the moment it’s mostly coronavirus-related memes, let’s be honest).
A daily check-in with the team is really useful and easily achievable via webinar services, such as Zoom. It may also be worth substituting a Slack message for a phone call now and again, so we don’t all feel like we’re working from an isolated bubble.
7. Take clear breaks
If you are new to working from home, the sudden luxury of relative freedom can be overwhelming. I can work in my dressing gown? From bed? Eating pizza? This luxury will soon wear off however and you’ll find your productivity will have taken a substantial hit.
Try and be as strict with your work schedule at home as you would be in the office. Give yourself time for a lunch break, and regular breaks as you would do in the office, but try not to go overboard. Don’t fall into a Youtube wormhole. Don’t see how many loads of laundry you can squeeze into one workday. The lure of procrastination may seem more alluring at home, with no-one around to judge, but try and frame it to yourself as a good opportunity for self-management!
8. Keep a to-do list
As an avid visual thinker, I need those clear indications of schedule to keep focused. Now seems like a perfect opportunity to cover my living room wall in post-its. Of course, keep reminders in any medium that suits your working style - this could be done via organisational apps or an old-school calendar or planner.
Keeping that accountability going at home, via a to-do list or organisational tool, will give you a visual of the work you’ve achieved in the day. This is massively important as working from home doesn’t give you the finality of a done-and-dusted day in the office. It’s hard to walk out of the doors feeling accomplished when you’re stuck inside. A simple act of checking off a to-do list a day will remind you of what you’ve achieved and give you an opportunity to mentally check-out for the day.
Exercise, as we all know, is an instant mood-booster. Now, more than ever, it is important to keep endorphins high as we try and stave off feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. As an active bunch, 22 Group have been discussing the various ways we can keep fit in a lockdown situation.
Our developer Olly is a fan of regular stretches throughout the day and our senior creative, Alex, is hoping to keep running and biking regularly.
Home workouts via Youtube are popular, easy and, most importantly, free. Yoga and pilates are particularly beneficial for relaxation - something I’m sure many of us are seeking at the moment.
10. Try to avoid sitting on social media and the news.
At the moment, opening up a social media or new app in the middle of a work day can be like stepping into quicksand. The regularity of news updates, the constant stream of information, misinformation and anxiety can be overwhelming and a major cause of distraction.
Setting aside a certain time in the day to check the news has been a suggestion I’ve seen circulating. This limits the amount of time you’re exposed to information-overload and keeps distractions low. The balance between staying informed and not descending into distraction is a balance we all have to tread.