How to work from home (without going stir-crazy)
Working from your home office (or, er, the sofa) for the foreseeable? Don't panic! These top tips will help you stay calm, collected and productive - or at the very least, sane.
Find your space
Creating a specific (ideally well-lit) space to work from home is spot-on for your sanity. If you have to work in a communal space like the kitchen or living room, tidy it away at the end of the day to signify that you’re off the clock, and never work in the bedroom – it’ll interfere with your sleep (as well as any other nighttime activities *cough*).
- Dig out your noise-cancelling headphones to avoid distractions – and so the rest of the household doesn’t have to hear your conference call.
- Watch your back. Chances are your new workspace won’t be nearly as ergonomic as your old one.
- If you need to make important on-camera calls, make sure you have somewhere where you can shut the door (and remind the others in your space not to come in – we’ve all seen the clip of the BBC interview which went, shall we say, a little off-piste. Hilarious for the ones watching, mind you).
Get set, get dressed, go!
You might fancy working in your PJs, but getting ready every morning will put you in the right headspace to be productive (plus avoid any impromptu video call embarrassment).
- If you’re dialling in for calls but can’t bear to sit in your work wardrobe in your own living room, at least look presentable from the waist up – ruffled shirt and PJ bottom combo, here we come.
- We’re big fans of a fluffy slipper here at Muddy, but others suggest that wearing shoes puts you in the right frame of mind for working.
Being at home can mess with your mind when it comes to work, whether it’s being tempted to try and fit in too much housework (I could write that difficult email, but then who would re-grout the bathroom?) or finding your schedule totally thrown off kilter. Give yourself regular breaks to avoid the temptation to procrastinate, and set yourself achievable to-do lists every day to keep on track. Yes, putting ‘make to-do list’ on the list totally counts.
- Create a schedule of household chores and limit them to specific times of the day. E.g. put a wash on in the morning, hang it out when you break mid-morning, clear the kitchen up when you prepare lunch etc.
- Food calls louder at home, so if you don’t trust yourself not to give into temptation, keep treats/biscuits/Easter eggs on a high shelf or stowed away in a cupboard. When the cries of anguish get too loud from the sprogs, buy kid-pleasers you won’t be tempted to nibble on (Dairylea Lunchables, anyone?).
- If you’re struggling with focus, the Pomodoro Technique can be a great way to stay motivated. You work for 25 mins, then break for 5 mins, repeat x 4 cycles then have a longer break – use a timer to track, or download an app like Focus Keeper.
Working with your partner
It’s no coincidence that divorce rates are spiking in China right now! If you’re both working from home at once, throwing quarantine lockdown and childcare into the mix may start WW3 brewing in your living room. If you have enough space to designate separate working zones, then do it, and bear in mind that you may have to work in shifts to juggle the kids.
- Schedule separate working hours for each of you. If you have kids, regular office hours may have to go out the window to make childcare possible.
- Work out who can do tasks early in the morning or late into the evening. You’ll probably need a shared diary/whiteboard and make sure there is time for both of your non-negotiable workday calls/deadlines.
- Be considerate. Phone calls and chatter is less noticeable in an office but somehow one person on the phone at home is a total ear-magnet. Use your call as a chance to get up and move out of a shared room or go outside and give bored, self-isolating neighbours something to ear-wag.
Working with kids
There is NO stress like the stress of trying to work with a small person, and the electronic babysitter can only do so much before mum guilt sets in. In these more unprecedented times, you’re going to have to work out a way of keeping everyone occupied.
- If you really have to get something done, like a call or meeting, try setting the kids small projects with achievable outcomes (“See if you can build this Lego/draw this flower in 10 minutes!”) to give you at least some small chunks of time. Bribes, threats, and a promise of wine later (for you, obvs) helps too.
- Schedule working time and kid time and try and keep the two separate (so if it’s your turn to spend an hour doing a kid-focused activity, try and put down your emails).
- We’ll be giving you plenty of ideas on Muddy for keeping kids occupied – try these creative classes for starters.
Work out your non-negotiables
We might all be in our own spaces for a long time, so think strategically from the off to create a good family rhythm (and avoid major tantrums/meltdowns). Make sure everyone has some input and decide what things you’re going to commit to doing.
- If you can, getting some fresh air every day is going to help prevent the stir-crazy from setting in. That’s not going to be possible for everyone, particularly if people are ill, but in the social distancing phase a daily walk might work, particularly if you’ve a pooch who won’t understand lack of walkies.
- Keep fit. Dig out that ancient exercise DVD, get the Wii hooked up or use whatever resources you have to hand to help. At the very least all tune in to PE with Joe on The Body Coach’s YouTube channel.
- Think about how you will cook (apparently we’re all living off pasta, according to supermarket shelves) and prioritise eating meals together. If you have teens this is a great time to get back into a habit, as they’ve literally nowhere else to be!
- Face-to-face contact may be limited, but writing letters and making FaceTime/Skype calls isn’t. Try a daily family call, or ‘meet’ with your girlfriends over video once a week for drinks from afar.
Apps & tech
No better time than to try and make yourself more tech-savvy! Embrace some of the apps that can make your working day easier or more social – these are great starting points.
- Zoom – we use this for our daily team meetings. You can share your screen, send files and chat face-to-face – it’s almost as if you’re in the same room (just remember to mute your mic when you’re not talking!).
- Trello – this is for planning, big or small. Keep to-do-lists, workflows etc that sync with your computer and your phone, and share with other team members.
- Google Drive – the big daddy when it comes to shared files and information. Dropbox is handy too.
- Toggl – this is great for recording time spent on multiple clients or projects.
Any other top tips? Let us know in the comments!