For the past few years, I’ve been in the fortunate position to be self-employed and running a remote business. What this means is being able to work from home (or wherever there’s good WiFi!) and set my own schedule. As a result, I’ve learned a lot of working from home tips and tricks for not only maintaining productivity, but also maintaining a healthy work/ life balance (which is arguably just as important).
Have a routine and schedule (and stick to it)
First things first: truth be told, almost every tip in this working from home guide is going to pertain back to having a routine. Whether it’s when you take breaks or how you spend your non-working time, if you’re ever going to be able to relax and work in the same space, setting up a routine is essential.
As I have previously discovered (to the detriment of being able to relax, as well as my mental health), not having a routine is incredibly unhealthy. Start your day during the work week the right way: set up a morning routine of small rituals which will put you in the right frame of mind.
Wake up each morning at the same time and prepare your breakfast. Whether that’s a simple coffee or a full English, this simple task will enable you to structure your days. You might also want to consider doing something relaxing such as going for a brisk walk (if you’re able to leave your home), doing some yoga practices (I’ve been recommended Yoga With Adriene), or listening to a podcast.
I personally find that changing out of my pyjamas is another great way to separate my work life from my ‘home life,’ even if they’re both occurring in the same space. Get up, shower, and change into your non pyjama/ street wear. Even if you no longer need to dress as formally as you might for the office, changing will mentally help you get into a work state of mind.
Schedule breaks throughout your work day (and stick with them!)
If you’re working remotely for a company then you may well have scheduled times when you’re allowed to take a break. Make full use of these breaks and do not do work during this time (even though it can be hard to take a break from thinking about work when you don’t have colleagues to distract you).
For those who are left to set their own schedules, I highly recommend giving yourself several breaks throughout the day. Every few hours, give yourself at least fifteen minutes off and take a full break (go for a walk, water your plants, you get the idea!).
With this being said, don’t take random breaks at non-scheduled times. Just remind yourself that every time you head to the kettle to make yourself a new cup of coffee or brew some tea, you’re not being productive! Using the kettle as a distraction can also lead to drinking one too many cups of caffeine, which is also not the best for productivity and maintaining your schedule!
Download/ utilise productivity tools
With the invention of the internet and social media, there has (thank goodness) also been a huge surge in productivity tools. If you’re struggling to focus, relax, or something else, then you have a huge arsenal of tools at your disposal.
The Pomodoro Technique was recommended to be a few years ago by a friend and is incredibly helpful in time management. You can read a full breakdown here, but, essentially, the method involves setting a task, sticking to it for 25 minutes, and then taking a five-minute break. The Tomato Timer can help you with the timings!
Getting a little too distracted by the likes of checking up on Instagram stories, YouTube videos, or the news (in light of recent circumstances, I’m finding it particularly hard to tear myself away from the news), I particular recommend downloading StayFocusd.
It’s an extension for Chrome which will essentially block certain websites during certain times (for example, the period of your work day). I swore by it during my university degree and have used it during various work periods ever since.
Have a dedicated workspace in your home
One of the most important things for me over the past few years has been the ability to carve out a work space from which to work. This will help you mentally separate the time you’re working from the time you’re meant to be taking a break (i.e. your usual ‘home hours away from work’).
You don’t necessarily even have to have a desk to do this, though this is of course helpful. Instead, set up shop on a small corner of your dining/ kitchen table and this will do the trick just as well. Whatever happens, don’t bring your work into your sleeping space. I can’t stress this point enough. Never ever do any work while sat/ lying in bed. This is a surefire way to lead you onto the path of being unable to separate work and your home life and is incredibly unhealthy.
Have a post-work routine
Of course if you’re used to working away from the home, once you’ve finished work for the day, you’ll typically have your journey home. This is a good routine for shutting off work-mode and entering back into your home life. However, when you’re working from home, once you’ve finished work… You’ll still be in the same space.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a post-work routine. If you’re able to leave your home, then a walk in the fresh air is a great way to help clear your mind. If this isn’t possible, then indoor gardening, a simple yoga set, knitting, or reading are all great places to start.
Be sure to set aside time for exercise
If you’re working from home and not leaving to go to work, it’s still important to set aside time for exercise. Many use their commutes as a time to cycle/ walk and so be sure to replace your typical commute time with some exercise, which is just as good for the mind as it is for the body.
If you’re able to leave your house, then jogging, walking, and cycling are all free activities which you can do while socially distancing. if you’re not able to, then I find that YouTube has a wonderful resource library of fitness and yoga videos you can do at home.
Set boundaries with your fellow housemates
Whether you live with friends or family members, it’s important to set boundaries. Since I work from home, many assume that I’m literally free all the time. And while I am pretty flexible in my schedule, that doesn’t mean I don’t get distracted easily! Sit down with your housemates and tell them that you’ll be working and not to bother you during X hours. This is particularly important if you’re like me and can become very lazy very quickly!
Find some fellow working from home friends
Even if you’re likely to be alone for longer periods of time (and currently socially distancing), this doesn’t mean you need to be socially isolated. Even if you can’t see anyone in person, keeping in touch with people is really important for morale and if you simply need to vent about something at work! Set up a WhatsApp chat or Facebook messenger group will friends who are working from home, though don’t let yourself become too distracted by this either!