Survival tips for when you're working from home

14th April 2020

Stay productive and keep your sense of achievement when you're not in the office

We’ve all been there before. You’re working from home and ‘oops!’ the TV magically turns itself on, or you make a ridiculously over-complicated lunch because ‘hey - you can!’ and then realise you’re late back in the afternoon.

When you’re working from home it’s true productivity can shift day to day but there can also be a lot of self-sabotage in there too. As many of us are in the same situation and it’s becoming the new norm (for now), we’ve rounded up some survival tips for working from home:

Take regular breaks

When you’re in the office you are encouraged to take regular screen breaks, usually accompanied by a cup of tea or a quick catch up in the kitchen. The HSE recommends that you ‘take short breaks often, rather than longer ones less often. For example 5 to 10 minutes every hour is better than 20 minutes every 2 hours’’ and this applies just as much when you’re working outside of the office.

These breaks are integral to our physical and mental health. From a physical perspective these ‘little and often’ breaks can help prevent physical ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. From a mental health perspective the cup is overflowing; taking short breaks can help your creativity, motivation and productivity, it can remove any ‘decision fatigue’ you may be experiencing and help manage depression.

It’s ok if no one is there to watch you sit back down, it’s still just as important to take that break. In fact it’s going to improve the work you are producing, so go and put the kettle on!

Check in with your team or colleagues at least once a day

Working from home can be isolating. If you’re used to the hustle and bustle of an office suddenly finding yourself as your only company can be detrimental to your mental health and your work motivation can decline. That’s why it’s even more important to encourage a social aspect to your day, even if it’s a quick online meeting with a colleague.

At BrandStencil we’ve started a daily hangout first thing in the morning which the whole team attends. The first point on the agenda is never ‘What work are you doing?’ but instead a quick check-in with ‘How are you?’ We’ve found that just by touching base with each other (virtually) we’ve managed to keep team morale up and help each other if we’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s ok not to be ok and we’re encouraging our staff to continue having smaller meetings if they need it.

There’s so much technology out there that can help you with this - Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype - and most of them are free!

Another thing you could do is introduce an internal messaging system to keep your team connected. One of the most popular in the digital industry is Slack, a free tool that allows you to create multiple channels for different discussions as well as the option to send direct messages.

If you already have something like this you could always change the way you’re using this to better communicate with your team while working from home. For example, in our Slack workspace we’ve added a social chit-chat channel and random good vibes channel to help us raise each other’s spirit and share things that bring us joy.

The first point on the agenda is never ‘What work are you doing?’ but instead a quick check-in with ‘How are you?’ We’ve found that just by touching base with each other (virtually) we’ve managed to keep team morale up and help each other if we’re feeling overwhelmed.

Keep a routine like any other day

It’s so tempting to roll straight out of bed and log onto your laptop (and that's if you’re even getting out of bed at all!) but when working from home keeping a routine is paramount to your productivity. Our connection between the office and our working mindspace is something we want to keep in order to fight off the sluggishness that can creep up.

So whether it’s get up and do some exercise before work, or just make that first cup of coffee and put on your work clothes make sure you’re keeping a relatively ‘normal’ routine before you come to your office...wherever that may be.

Plan your daily goals and keep them realistic

In the words of Benjamin Franklin ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’ so being at home is no reason to stop your daily to-do list. However it might need a little tweaking…

To keep up with a structured work day you can keep a notebook handy, use a whiteboard or schedule events in your digital calendar, but however you do it you need to ensure that these goals are doable. So, first thing in the morning (or the day before) sit down and write all your to-dos for the day. Then take another look and see what is realistically achievable, taking these things into consideration:

  1. Do you need anything from other team members, perhaps feedback or ideas?
  2. Do you need any external resources to complete this?
  3. How much time realistically will this take?
  4. Is this a priority for you?
  5. Are there any quick-wins in there?

Once you’ve thought about these things you can then strategically plan a day you can achieve. Do this everyday and you’ll continue to feel a sense of accomplishment, which works hand-in-hand with your productivity. Winner winner!

Plan your working location and set it up prior

Although working from the sofa might seem like a dream, mixing your workspace and your leisure space can have negative effects on your efficiency during your working time and your mindspace in your own time following.

Your working location can be the dining room table if it needs to be, but just by dedicating a certain room or space to work can help you get into the mindset when you sit down. Maybe add a desk plant or plan your workspace tunes prior, just to make it feel more like your office space.

You can then leave your leisure spaces sacred to relax in after work and you can truly leave work at the office.

These are just a few survival tips to keep you achieving whilst you are working at home, however there are tons out there so keep researching and finding what works for you. It certainly doesn’t mean your productivity and sense of achievement needs to take a dip so follow these simple tips and let’s get to work!