How to work from home: 6 tips to do it better
Working from home might sound like a dream come true, but it can also present difficulties in staying focused and being productive (especially if your cat’s favorite place is your laptop keyboard). Follow my 6 steps to reach your A-game and become a work from home wizard.
Rather than trying to work while slouching around on the sofa or other spaces in your home associated with chill time, set up your own dedicated workspace. The design of your workspace will have a huge impact on your productivity, so it’s worth investing time making sure it’s right for you.
Firstly it’s important to get the set-up right. It’s all about creating yourself a space to work from.
1. The desk really matters
Having a specific workspace will help you separate out work life from home life, keeping you focused and allowing your mind to rest at the end of the day. It also makes it very clear when you’re working, which can be useful if you’re living with others. Set up somewhere in your home that’s distraction-free, like in a spare room or in the corner of your bedroom. If your workspace is in a communal area, face it towards the wall or a window so your attention doesn’t get diverted (and potentially invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones).
Keep your desk as minimal as possible – a clear desk is a clear mind.
It doesn’t matter how small your workspace is, as long as it’s got everything you need to boss your brand. Make sure it’s comfortable and well lit, and that all your essentials (like your notebook, sketchbook, tech, and whatever else) are within easy reach. Hunt around for the right desk – fold up designs can be great for small spaces, or a simple, sturdy table could be great if you’re spending a lot of time designing.
Make your workspace inspirational. Place a photograph of that person who really inspires you in your eye line, or print off your life goals and hang them on the wall. Putting effort into your workspace will help you start each day with confidence and determination.
2. Plan EVERYTHING
Working from home may mean you can be more flexible, but a proper plan will stop you from thinking work 24/7 or from losing hours to procrastination.
Start a routine and stick to it. Clearly set out your work hours and give yourself agreed time off so you know exactly when you’re supposed to be working and your brain gets a real break when you’re not. You could even print out your hours and hang them in your workspace, or share them with close friends and family so they can check-in when they notice you’re over or underworking.
Think about what you want to achieve and break down your aims into big monthly achievements, weekly targets and daily to-do lists.
Relating each day to your larger picture helps you keep focused, plus regularly tracking your work helps you see what’s succeeding and what you need to change. Turn your goals into posters and hang them above your desk so you can always see them. Many pro stores use Masterplan to map out their aims. It’s a free, handy organizational tool and also helps you keep in sync with fun upcoming events (hello, National Cheesecake Day).
3. Set ground rules
Communication is key when you’re working from home, especially if you’re sharing your space with other people. Talk to those you live with about your office hours and come up with ways to reduce the number of distractions. For example, sitting with headphones on could mean you’re not free for a chat, or agree a regular time that you’ll be free to walk the dog.
Explain to your cat that you’re free for meetings about how unacceptable the hoover is, but not when you’re in the middle of your working day.
Set ground rules for yourself, too. When you’re working from home you are your own manager, so think of your workspace as a highly functioning office and set yourself standards to reflect that. Ban yourself from casually browsing Instagram during work time, and don’t allow yourself to have Netflix playing in the background while you’re meant to be answering emails. You can also make it harder for yourself to slip up by removing your distractions: leave your phone in the other room when you’re working, or use a different browser on your laptop so you can’t accidentally fall into Facebook.
If you’re still struggling, there are various apps to help with productivity. Mindful Browsing is a free Chrome extension that gives you gentle nudges whenever you try to access sites you’ve marked as unproductive, reminding you what you’re meant to be working on. If you need a step further, Leechblock, a free Firefox, and Chrome extension allow you to block specific sites from yourself for set amounts of time and set up redirect pages for when you try to access a blocked site to help keep you on track. Alternatively, you could try using an egg timer – every time you work for 25 minutes solid you get a five-minute break.
4. Keep up your commute
This one might sound weird, but going for a short walk every day before you start work is a great way to wake up, get your head in gear and feel ready for the day. Working from home might give you an extra hour in bed, but going straight from pyjamas to your laptop isn’t ideal for productivity.
Set yourself a route and stick to it every day – walk round your garden, run up and down the stairs three times, power-walk round the block or to your nearest post box, whatever feels right to get you up and moving before you start focusing.
5. Video call where you can
One of the difficult parts of working from home is dealing with the lack of face-to-face contact, so it’s important to take steps to reduce feelings of isolation.
Switching your calls to video chats makes your meetings more personal, improves communication, and makes your conversations more memorable. Video calling also makes it easier to have a coffee break chat – having a friendly catch-up with the people you’re working or collaborating with can really improve your professional relationships and is a good shout for your own well-being.
6. Let your brain stop
Keeping yourself focused and driven all day is hard work, especially if you’re working from home. Proper breaks are vital – downtime allows your mind to recharge so you can come back refueled, ready to tackle your next hurdle.
Take full lunch breaks away from your laptop and always shut down your work apps at the end of the day. It’s easy to let your work creep into your spare time when your professional and living space is so close, so defend your boundaries hard by booking in fun things to do when you’re free. Going outside is always a great way to start unwinding, even if it’s just sitting in your garden with a cuppa at the end of the day.
Bonus: What’s in it for you?
One of the best things you can do is put a reward at the end of your plan, along with your goals. New trainers? That holiday? Promise yourself something back if you stick to your plan. It helps keep you committed long after the initial excitement has passed.
Get a photo of what your reward is and stick it up by your desk so you have something to look forward to and remind yourself why you’re working so hard.
Are you ready to become a work-from-home pro?