Veteran homeworker. That makes me feel old.
But it’s true.
As a freelance copywriter, I’ve worked from home for over 20 years. And, as a single parent for 12 of those years, I’ve learned to juggle kids, home and work without totally losing control.
Most of the time, at least.
It’s fair to say I’ve picked up a few coping strategies for working from home over the years. If I can make your life a little easier by sharing them, then great!
A whole new world…
The world is changing due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Tens of thousands of employees who are used to the accountability, buzz and connection that come with working in an office now find themselves working from home for the foreseeable future.
Where do you start?!
If you’ve never worked from home before, you may feel out of your depth.
How do you juggle work and home life? What about boundaries? How do you focus? What about dealing with isolation?
My new book, Survival Skills for Freelancers (how to go solo without going loco) contains helpful strategies to get more enjoyment out of working from home. But as it isn’t out until June, that’s not particularly helpful to you right now.
To keep you going during these crazy, rapidly changing times, I’ve come up with six super simple work from home tips for newbie homeworkers.
I hope you find them helpful.
6 simple work from home tips
Here we go:
1. Claim your space
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a spare room they can use as a home office. Wherever you decide to work from, set some rules around work-free zones for the sake of your family and relationships.
A supportive, adjustable chair, good natural light, a clutter-free table or desk and a door you can close at the end of the day are a bonus.
2. Start your day with purpose
Get up at your usual time. Shower and get dressed, even if you don’t feel like it. Eat a decent breakfast away from your laptop.
Spend the equivalent of your commuting time reading, catching up on inspiring podcasts or listening to music that lifts your mood.
(My 17-year-old son is continuing to get up at 6.30am, and has decided to spend the time he’d have been on the school bus exercising and doing weights in our garage.)
3. Stay connected
If we can’t meet in real life, let’s do it online.
Think about switching your calls to Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Sure, not everyone is comfortable using video, but if I can get my 73-year-old mum doing it, there’s really no excuse! Let’s make video calls the norm.
Join Facebook groups of likeminded people for support and advice. There are literally hundreds of groups out there, based on geographical location, job type or interest.
Experiment to find one or two groups that feel right. Choose those that focus on the positive, rather than the negative and cynical, which can drag you down.
If you can, set up an accountability group of colleagues or peers for support and to help you stay on track. Use the group chat facility on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to keep in touch, and check in once a week/fortnight/month via video call.
Don’t be afraid to admit if you’re finding things hard. To borrow a line from High School Musical, we’re all in this together – and help is out there!
4. Keep on moving
Too much sitting is bad for us – particularly if you’re hunched over a laptop, so build regular stretching, standing and movement into your day.
If you have an activity tracker or smartwatch, set it to give you regular reminders to move.
(My Apple Watch is great for this. It even gives me regular reminders to breathe deeply. Sounds obvious but it really does help me calm down when I’m stressed out.)
If you really can’t make that call via video, take your phone calls standing up. Pace circuits of your home, if you’re lucky enough to have that much space. I walked over 4.5k steps one day last week while on the phone or waiting for the kettle to boil.
Build time into your day for a walk around the block. Fresh air and exercise are good for productivity and wellbeing, and the thinking time away from your desk (or dining room table) can help with problem solving and clearing mental blocks.
5. Avoid distractions
Turn off the TV, switch off pop-up notifications and use an app to stop you checking social media and email every five minutes (you know you do it).
Set an automated message to reply to your emails saying you’ll check them just a couple of times a day. The world won’t end while you’re focusing on the task in hand, whatever that may be.
Do household chores in short bursts, if at all. For example, unload the dishwasher or stick on a wash while you wait for the kettle to boil.
Alternatively, avoid them altogether during working hours, and commit to tackling them once you finish work for the day. Get help from your partner or the rest of the family. Everyone needs to muck in right now, more than ever before.
6. Introduce routine
It’s easy for work and home life to blur if you don’t have clear boundaries. Start and end your day at a set time just as you would if you were going into the office.
Schedule time for lunch, and an outdoor break for fresh air and exercise. Consider using the Pomodoro time management technique, which splits your day into 25-minute blocks of focused activity with five-minute breaks after each burst.