Due to the tighter restrictions put in place by the Prime Minister in response to Covid-19, enforcing remote working where possible, Zelst is currently (and temporarily) a remote digital marketing agency. In light of this, we thought it would be good to share our working from home tips for the rest of the offices that are now working from home.
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:
I’ve been working remotely for the last two months, but for the rest of the team, it’s an unprecedented setup. Therefore, I was asked to share my tips for working from home effectively. So, I’m sharing them with you too. Here is my best working from home advice based on my experience so far, as well as research I’ve found over the last two months.
Working from Home Tips
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) 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 in flow. 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 are near you, sitting in the garden (if you have one) is a great alternative.
3) Introvert or extrovert? Adjust as needed
While some people roll their eyes at the Myers Briggs dichotomies, they can be an incredibly helpful tool when it comes to an understanding of yourself and others. Personally, I’m a strong proponent of it. There are many misconceptions of 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 new-found focus. If you’re in the latter group, why not schedule in some time to video call colleagues or friends or family in short bursts throughout the day?
4) Move around
Although it’s key to have a set working environment, don’t be afraid to deviate now and then. Working in the same place all day can be creatively stunting. A base from which to work is good for an overall semblance of structure, but it’s just as essential to move around if you feel that helps you stay focused.
For example, I always start my day at my desk, and some days, I stay there all day. Other days, I might be working from the dining table by the afternoon. On a couple of occasions, I have even sat on the sofa for an hour or two if I’ve been working on a repetitive task, but I always begin and end my day at my desk. I feel this helps me enter and exit my working day, but it’s all about what works for you.
5) 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 you’re 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. That said, using a time management tool can be helpful, which leads me to my next point.
6) Planning is key
Having a plan for the week is helpful when it comes to focusing and knowing what you’ve got tasked for the day. I use Trello for this as I can easily drag tasks between days. 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.
7) 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.
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.
8) 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.
9) Be kind to yourself – find your normal
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.
Working from home may sound like #workgoals, and while it certainly has its benefits, some people are more suited to it than others. Bear in mind 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.
We hope these working from home tips have reassured and inspired you in light of recent changes! You can find more advice about marketing on our blog.