For many of us, working from home is nothing new. We know only too well the joy of not having a commute, being able to keep costs low and giving ourselves a flexible schedule.
But we also know that it can be lonely and soul-destroying at times. Just getting motivated to sit at our desks and start something is tough when we're in our home environment, surrounded by distractions.
Bad habits aren't uncommon. We might stay in our pyjamas, forget to take breaks and work even longer hours than we would if we had a job and worked for someone else.
With everything that's been going on lately, many of you will be working from home for the first time. Here are some tips to help you stay focused, healthy, productive and happy (and some reminders for those of you who are carrying on as usual).
Get up and get ready as normal
Shower and get dressed as though you're going to the office. Have breakfast and have a work 'start time'. Don't immediately go to your laptop: give yourself a healthy morning routine. Some people find it helpful to leave their home, go for a little walk and return, mimicking a commute to kickstart work mode.
Dedicate a zone for work
Find somewhere away from the rest of the family where you won't be distracted. Make that area tidy and remove any clutter. Natural light helps, so by a window is recommended – as long as there are no glares on your computer screen. Inform the rest of the household of your work hours, too – so they know not to disturb you. A small adjustment goes a long way. If noise is an issue, consider noise-cancelling headphones.
Take care of your ergonomics
If you're not used to working from home and don't have a dedicated desk or setup, create one to take care of your body and avoid causing pain. We love the IKEA laptop support stand, as it raises your laptop to eye level, saving your posture. Your neck will thank you for it. Just plug in a keyboard and connect a mouse, and you're away.
Try the Pomodoro technique
Distraction is the enemy at home. You need focus. We highly recommend the Pomodoro technique, a simple process for time management that boosts productivity, too. This is how it works: choose a task you'd like to get done; set a timer for 25 minutes; work on that task until the alarm goes off; tick something off your list and then take a short break. For every four Pomodoros, take a longer break. Here's a free timer to get started.
Get outside and walk
During your breaks, take the opportunity to leave the house for some fresh air, exercise and vitamin D. Need some inspiration? Check out Discovering Britain for some walks on your doorstep. Or the Ramblers Association if you're near to the countryside or have some time to venture further.
Take advantage of virtual tools and apps
If you're self-isolating right now, you can still stay in touch with clients and colleagues, as you know. But it's the "face time" that's important. We all know of Skype and Google Hangouts, but can we suggest Zoom, too? It's video conferencing like the rest of them but pretty darn good. Schedule virtual meetings with people to stay in the loop and maintain relationships. And if you want to feel like you're in an office with other people? Some people use Zoom Rooms to beat loneliness and have fellow creatives in the background for company.
Have a strict cut-off time
It's so easy to fall into the trap of overworking at home. Set a time when work must stop. Tomorrow is another day, after all. And you'll probably do better work after a night's rest. Of course, you don't have to follow a traditional 9-5 if you're more productive at other times. That's not what we're saying.
Mentally close the door on your work
If it helps, write your job list for the following day – even if you use an app like Things to manage your tasks: the physical act of writing everything into a notepad will act like a "brain dump", helping you to close the door on your working day and switch off.