Suddenly half the world is working from home and many of us have new workplace surroundings to adapt to. Remember folks, it’s not the most intelligent or fittest of the species who will survive, it’s those who can swiftly adapt to change. I’ve spent huge chunks of my career working from home, so here are my top ten tips for working good in the ‘hood:
- Dress for work. PJs make you work like a slob. Make your bed and “go to work” in your head.
- Dedicate a workspace that is ideally not in your boudoir. Under the current circumstances that might not be possible but it really is best not to work in your bedroom.
- Stick to a routine. I work in two-hour blocks during the day. I do three of those blocks, the earlier in the day, the better, for me and my brain. When I am pumping out a lot of work like finishing my last book or creating my new podcast show, I work in 8 or 10-hour slabs but I set a timer and stop for 60 seconds exercise every 20 minutes. I learned this pearler from my brother Pete. Twenty minutes shoots past fast, then do one minute of squats or lunges or run down to the letterbox and get your heart rate up. Then get back to it. It switches your brain on and keeps your blood pumping. If you find housework distracting to your workflow, put those tasks into your one-minute breaks. Put on a load of washing. Then get back to your desk, quick!
- Kill off interruptions. I’ve nuked all notifications on my phone and laptop. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb if at all possible. Quit your email program. Then dive into your work. Take a look at all those alerts when you are ready rather than when they barge into your focussed work time.
- If you have kids, the bad news is, in my experience, that kids under 12 will make sure you can’t get any work done at home. You’ll need to make plans for kids to be supervised. The good news is, in my experience, that high school-aged kids are able to do their schoolwork in the same chunks of time that I work at my desk. While we are all at home during what I am referring to as The Pandemonium, we are all working together AOK. But my kids are 12, 14 and 16 and the WiFi is holding up. Having said that, I was recording a podcast interview last week and my middle child walked in FOUR TIMES to ask if I wanted to lick the spoon.
- Reward yourself. I give myself my second coffee for the day once I have reconciled my bank accounts. It usually only takes a few minutes to clear a routine task that is crucial to my business and can become a giant, horrid task if it’s left to pile up. Pick something you are least fond of and smash it in the face, then reward yourself.
- If you’ll be using Zoom to have virtual meetings from home, sit where you can get the best natural daylight and be mindful of your background. Your boss or clients don’t want to see your bed or your laundry pile. Promise.
- Keep a daily log of the work you get done. This spurs you on to complete things faster and will gamify your own productivity. When I have managed remote teams, I have been keen to see how productive they are offsite. The best employees keep a simple log of work complete and would email that to me at the end of the day. As they got into their autopilot groove, they would only need to send me a weekly summary. If you do this for your boss, you will help them see that if they spend an hour on the phone to you each day, they are chewing through your time. This simple productivity log once helped me see that a member of my remote team was doing less than two hours of work a day. She was stacking multiple contracts. Naughty. Busted!
- No day drinking. Pandemic or no pandemic, save the goon for after hours.
- Take your usual commute time and DO something with that time. Have a separate project for yourself or for your work that is assigned to the time you were spending travelling. It will feel extra good to have something to show for the time saved by working from home.
- Have fun. This Corona-virus-isolation-work-from-home-caper won’t last forever so make the most of it. You get to choose the office playlist. Woot! You can have the dog at your feet and put the slow cooker on at midday. Stay focussed, have fun and you may well find your house to be an incredibly productive place to work.
Lucy Bloom is a professional speaker and management consultant. She’s the author of two books: Get the Girls Out: a memoir of love, loss and letting loose (HarperCollins 2019) and Cheers to Childbirth: a dad’s guide to childbirth support (Flamingo, 2020).