Working from home if you can is no longer a legal restriction; however, some companies have felt the benefits and are moving forwards with a more flexible approach to work locations. Here at Zelst, our team found that working from home increased productivity and improved work-life balance, so we now operate three days a week in the office and two days working from home. Having done so for almost a year now, we consider ourselves seasoned professionals in the matter. Therefore, we thought it would be fitting to share our working from home tips for offices looking to move towards this approach.
If your company has asked you to work from home, this may be new territory that begs questions such as, ‘how can I stay productive?’. Like anything, working from home has its pros and cons. The good news is that studies, including this one from Stanford University, show that working remotely increases productivity significantly. In this particular study, the results showed that working from home led to:
- A 13% performance increase.
- Improved work satisfaction and 50% less attrition.
- Gains of 2000 dollars per employee
You can watch the TED Talk here, explaining the study in more depth:
We like to think of ourselves as pretty good at working from home – we’ve all had enough practice at it! So here is our best working from home advice based on our experiences and research that we’ve found.
Working from Home Tips
Tips for those with an office space:
1) Environment is everything
One of the reasons working from home leads to increased productivity is because it’s generally a better environment to get things done. Despite their many positives, offices are hugely distracting in many ways. Howard Gardner proposed the theory of multiple intelligences – eight different modalities for learning. If our preferred learning style can be one of eight different types, it comes as no surprise that we each have preferred working environments.
Choose a distraction-free area of your home to become your designated working environment so that your brain can differentiate between work and play. Work out what you need to create the perfect working environment for you and go to that workspace every morning as if you were going to the office. Perhaps you prefer sitting on a balance ball instead of a chair, or like to listen to film scores instead of the radio. Maybe you work better in complete silence. One of the beauties of working from home is that you can create the best working conditions to suit your working style.
2) Decorate accordingly
Having a space to work from that you enjoy working in is a blessing, and it will help keep you at your desk for longer. Your space should inspire productivity and make you feel happy and calm. Why not try adding plants to your office to help breathe life into the space? Snake plants or aloe vera plants are low maintenance and help to create a calm environment. Additionally, your workspace doesn’t have to feel like a box. Soften your space with plenty of cushions, rugs and throws to add ambience and texture.
Lastly, if you have access to natural light, use it to its fullest! Place your desk in front of the window for maximum Vitamin D exposure. If you don’t have access to a window, place multiple low-level lamps around the room for cosy vibes that are much more inviting than harsh, overhead lighting.
Tips for those without an office space:
3) Clean your space
No one wants to start their day off in a messy room. Tidy space, tidy mind and all that. Create a calm environment for you to work in by cleaning your space at the beginning of the day, ensuring that you have a workspace clear of clutter or any distractions. Consider using scents to ‘scent zone’ your office – rosemary oil has been linked to increased concentration, and peppermint can help to improve alertness.
4) Watch your posture
Whilst in the confines of our own home office, we may not have access to the comfy, ergonomic chairs we sit on in the office. Specially made, ergonomic chairs aren’t the most financially forgiving, and so many of us tend to grab the spare dining room chair and a living room cushion to sit on for the day. However, this can have a detrimental effect on your posture and may lead to back pain. Whatever you decide to sit upon, watching your posture can help to reduce cramping. Ensure your legs are planted into the floor and form a right-angle, your shoulders are rolled down and back, and your ribs are stacked over your hips. The NHS website has plenty of tips on how to improve posture whilst sitting at your desk.
Tips for those who are easily distracted:
5) Introvert or extrovert? Adjust as needed
While some people roll their eyes at the Myers Briggs dichotomies, they can be an incredibly helpful tool for understanding yourself and others. Personally, I’m a strong proponent of it. There are many misconceptions about introversion and extraversion. Put simply; introverts find socialising draining and energise from being alone. Extroverts find being alone draining and energise from socialising. So, if you’re an introvert, it’s not that you don’t enjoy company, but working from home might be incredibly energising for you, leading to a higher quality of work. Extroverts, on the other hand, might find it more challenging.
As an introvert, I’ve adapted to full-time remote working as a duck takes to water. But I have extroverted friends who are finding social-distancing tough and feel isolated when working from home. If you’re in the former group, enjoy your newfound focus. If you’re in the latter group, why not schedule some time to video call colleagues or friends or family in short bursts throughout the day?
6) Get Outside
It can be so easy to sit in front of your laptop all day. I have, on occasion, worked continuously through my lunch break if I was working inflow. But, not only is it important to move for your physical health (preferably every 30 minutes, according to science), it’s also imperative for your mental health. Being outside is also proven to boost creativity levels, so if you’re struggling with writer’s block, it’s probably time to get up off your chair and give your eyes a break from the screen.
Why not use your lunch break to go for a walk in a non-crowded area? I’m incredibly lucky to have the beach on my doorstep, and I’ve noticed the benefit of going for a run in my break. However, going for a walk in a park or forest is equally beneficial. If you don’t have access to a park or green area near you, sitting in the garden (if you have one) is a great alternative.
7) Move around
When you work from home, it can be so easy to continue working through your lunch or past the end of your working day. Why? With no commute, you no longer need to leave for a bus, train, or to beat traffic. You also may feel like you have to overcompensate for working from home.
But for the sake of work-life balance, it’s crucial to shut down your computer and leave your workspace when your workday ends. Going outside straight away can be an excellent time to set this boundary and tell your body and brain that you’re done for the day.
Tips for those new to working from home:
8) Create a morning routine
However extravagant you make it, having something you do each morning that is consistent and puts you in a great mind frame is essential for starting off your morning right. It may be as simple as a cup of coffee or as detailed as going to the gym, having a shower and eating overnight oats with your morning matcha (fancy!). Creating a routine that works for you and gets you excited and ready for the day ahead will help replace your usual ‘commuter mind frame’.
9) Planning is key
Having a plan for the week helps you focus and know what you’ve got tasked for the day. I use Trello for this as I can easily drag tasks between days. Of course, just because you have a plan doesn’t mean it has to be followed to the letter, but I’d be lost without my structure in place.
You can also use time management tools like the popular Pomodoro technique. Our whole team uses time logging software called Trigger, and while this is generally used to store information for client reports, it also doubles as a useful accountability tool. Everyone can see what others have done each day and how long they’ve spent doing it, should they wish to know.
One thing to note is that it takes 23 minutes to resume a task once you’ve switched your focus, so if you need to limit checking your emails to certain times, do that. It also helps to plan less intensive tasks around meetings, so you don’t lose too much time getting back into the task post-meeting.
10) Stick to working hours
When you work from home, it can be so easy to continue working through your lunch or past the end of your working day. Why? With no commute, you no longer need to leave for a bus, train, or to beat traffic. You also may feel like you have to overcompensate for working from home. For the sake of work-life balance, it’s crucial to shut down your computer and leave your workspace when your workday ends. Going outside straight away can be an excellent time to set this boundary and tell your body and brain that you’re done for the day.
11) Schedule breaks
We’re lucky to be able to take as many breaks as we require, as long as we complete our time and tasks for the day. For some companies, the policy on break times may be different. Ensure you are up to date with your company break time policies, and utilise them to their fullest. Schedule your breaks at the beginning of the day in between your tasks so you know when to click the kettle on. Put your phone down, take your eyes off a screen and move around!
12) Get dressed
This is one of the most basic tips for working from home effectively – get dressed! Nobody goes to work in their pyjamas, and you likely won’t feel as productive or empowered when you’re donning Harry Potter jammies. That said, if you’re new to working from home, if you don’t have meetings, wear whatever you want for the first couple of days. Let the novelty wear off. You’ll soon realise you feel and work a lot better when you make an effort to put on regular clothes.
13) Overcommunicate with your team
Working remotely means you don’t have the luxury of looking across the room to see whether someone is engrossed in work at their desk or is out for lunch – it requires a little more communication. Letting your team know your schedule and availability is essential for smooth team management. Check-in with your immediate colleagues several times a day to make sure everything is running swimmingly.
14) Socialise with colleagues as normal
Whilst it’s important to talk to colleagues about work, make sure you maintain regular conversations with team members to keep up team morale. You don’t only talk about work in the office, so why should you when working from home? Ask people how their weekends were, their holiday plans, or even what they had for tea. Bursts of regular conversation can help to keep relationships alive and make you feel less like a corporate machine. We love discussing our evening plans and using ALL of the gifs!
Tips for those who house share:
15) Set boundaries with housemates
If you live in a house-share, you might be sharing your space with multiple different people, all working different jobs on different schedules. Setting boundaries around working hours and managing expectations is the key to maintaining healthy relationships. This helps make sure your flatmate doesn’t try to make lunch whilst you’re on a call at the kitchen table!
16) Discuss your work plan in advance
Discussing your work plans with your house can help to avoid unnecessary noise or awkward interruptions. It’s important that you all check in to update each other on any important meetings you may have that require the house to be quiet or when you will be having lunch. You don’t want the rattling of a washing machine disrupting your meeting! By discussing your work plan in advance, you can all work around each other’s schedules to guarantee that no one is disturbed or bothered throughout the day.
17) Use headphones
Multiple zoom meetings at once can not only make the internet act up but could also give you a bit of a headache. Using headphones can help drown out white noise or noisy house-mates, so you can focus properly in your meetings and not be side-tracked by various sounds. Additionally, headphones with a built-in microphone can help pick up your voice better, allowing for a more seamless video call.
Headphones aren’t just useful for meetings; you can use them throughout the day too. Stanford University researched the relationship between music and studying, and it was proven that playing music, specifically classical, has been shown to help your brain absorb information easier. Additionally, music has mood-boosting properties, helping you to feel motivated and happy. For those who find music too distracting, try just popping in your headphones to muffle external sounds – bonus points if they have a noise-cancelling function!
Tips for those feeling anxious:
18) Don’t feel guilty
Working from home doesn’t work without trust, and if you’ve been trusted to work from home, you shouldn’t feel guilty for it. Nothing is as demotivating as being micromanaged and, as a professional adult, you’re responsible for getting your work done. If you think about it, you regularly stop your work and chat with your colleagues when working in the office. You might even get up to make multiple drinks during the day.
So, don’t feel guilty about getting up to make drinks at home, or popping a laundry load on while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. You’ll still be spending more time working than you do when you’re chit-chatting in the office.
19) Find your normal
Working from home may sound like #workgoals, and while it certainly has its benefits, some people are more suited to it than others. Remember that excellent communication is essential and can take time to get right, as things can get lost in translation (or cyberspace). Additionally, if you’re prone to FOMO, you might want to set up a group chat on Hangouts or Slack. Just remember – others in the group might want to focus, so don’t expect everyone to reply instantly.
Find what works for you, and don’t worry if it’s not the same as everyone else’s preferences. Find a routine that suits you and go from there, check-in with your team, and be compassionate to yourself and others during this time of uncertainty. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have available.
20) Be kind to yourself
This is one of the most important pieces of working from home advice. This time is an adjustment for everybody, not just because of the change in the working environment, but the broader context and gravity of the situation that led us here. If it takes a few days to find your groove, ride with it.
We hope these working from home tips have reassured and inspired you, and now you feel ready to work from home productively and happily! You can find more tips and advice about working in marketing on our blog.