Digital nomad, telecommuter, remote worker… call it what you like, I’ve been in this business for years. As an expat woman moving around a lot, it’s simply not possible for me to work in a regular 9-5 office. Yet, working from home has its challenges. Here are my 13 tips for anyone working from home:
- Create a personalised routine. It’s tempting to fall into the get up late, work late pattern. Soon you’ll be sleeping poorly, getting up late and the vicious cycle continues. Think about when you work best, when you feel freshest and create a routine that works for you. You might have personal commitments or a lifestyle which you need to adapt your routine around, for example setting aside time when your baby is napping. Write your personal routine down on paper and try to stick to it. If you find yourself slipping from the routine, consider setting an alarm to remind you when it’s time to rest or get back to work. For me, I don’t like to work in my pyjamas; I need to be dressed to get into the work mindset. In terms of working from home tips, creating a routine is number one on the list.
- Create a welcoming work space. Even if you work from your bedroom studio, it’s still possible to designate a welcoming space just for work. Even simple touches converting your bed to a sofa with cushions for the daytime, pulling back the curtains and covering your computer while you sleep create a mental distance between work and rest. Consider zoning your room, keeping all office materials to one side, separating off this ‘office’ with a bookshelf, hanging picture rack or wall colour theme. Creating physical parameters helps you to make the mental switch between work and play. Search on Pinterest for ideas to inspire you.
- Communicate with the people in your space. Talk to your partner, flatmates or other people sharing your living space. If you have children and your partner will need to step in to look after them while you work, it’s important you find a mutually convenient time to do this. If you live in a shared flat, politely ask your flatmates not to disturb you while you’re at work. It can be hard for people who don’t work from home to understand that being at home doesn’t mean you’re on vacation, so do your best to explain your work style. Equally, you’ll need to remain open to their needs. A shared space is just that and if you want to work at 10pm, but your flatmates want to party, you’ll need to find a compromise that works for everyone.
- Make goals, not time commitments. While some companies do require time commitments, the reality is that you’re going to impress your boss through results rather than work hours. Make a list of daily, weekly and monthly targets and do your best to achieve them. You’re more likely to work efficiently with targets than just putting in nine hours of mindless hours’ work per day.
- Set up a work phone & email. Setting up a specific email address and phone line just for work creates a mental demarcation for you, as well as your clients. If necessary, set up an out of office automated email message, so if it’s important people can reach you. If possible, switch off your work phone out of office hours, or leave an automated message for how to reach you in an emergency.
- Remember your wellbeing. As a digital nomad, it’s easy to forget to eat breakfast, exercise and look after your physical and mental health. Incorporate wellbeing into your routine. Whether it’s a regular yoga lesson, massage or spa time, be sure to book time out for yourself. Just like work targets, set yourself wellbeing targets, too. Your personal wellbeing target might be eating a healthy breakfast daily, a run around the block before lunch, or working on your muscle strength – do what is right for you.
- Take breaks. Within your routine, you’ll need to schedule regular breaks. Sometimes it’s just necessary to switch from the screen to a different, non work related task. However, it’s still important to schedule in actual breaks. That means a break, not doing the laundry, grocery shopping or tidying up. Rather than just a change of scene, think about activities which energise you. Yoga, a bath, a run or chat with friends – do what will make you feel refreshed afterwards.
- Leave your work space. Right now, during the COVID pandemic it might not be possible to physically leave your home. Having lived in an apartment during a five-month long lockdown, I understand the challenge firsthand. If it’s not possible to go out for a walk, visit a local cafe or meet at a friend’s house, even simple things like opening all windows and breathing in fresh air can make a difference. Other tips for working from home include removing yourself mentally from your workspace at least, for example reading a non work related work or magazine, chatting to a friend on whatsapp or trying a different at home activity. Airbnb offers a range of online experiences, for example.
- Wind down before bed. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, it’s important to get some downtime before bed. Set aside at least 30 minutes of wind down, no screen time before you sleep. Read a book, take a bath, listen to a podcast. Otherwise your brain will be buzzing and you may struggle to get a deep sleep, which is essential if you want to start fresh again the next day.
- Seek out interaction. Working from home can get lonely. Unlike a shared office where people come to you, you’ll need to reach out for human interaction. You’ll need to be proactive in setting up coffee dates, nights out and meetups. Schedule or write a list of people you want to stay in touch with and make the effort to chat with them in person, on the phone or via Skype / Whatsapp. Remember that a passive comment on a Facebook post isn’t the same as one-to-one communication. If COVID restrictions allow, consider working in a cafe or shared office space. Try group activities, such as team sports or workshops. Collaborate on projects and seek out feedback from colleagues. Reach out to new people and make new friends if you’ve just moved city.
- Start and end your day positively. Every morning and night, get yourself into a positive frame of mind. Do one thing every morning and night that makes you feel good about yourself. It might be a healthy breakfast in the morning and reading a great novel at night. Whatever the stress during the day, starting and ending your day on a positive note helps build positivity in the long term.
- Log your gratitudes. Working from home is a challenge. While I’m not religious myself, I pray in the sense I mentally record my ‘gratitudes’. Thinking of a few things I am grateful for every night is an empowering experience. It could be gratitude for an experience, a family member or good health, for example. You might like to jot these down in a journal, or keep visual cues aside. This way, you can look over your gratitudes and remind yourself how far you’ve come personally. Recording my gratitudes helps me stay focused and motivated.
- Be kind to yourself. Working from home can be a challenge. Everyone has bad days. While I try to separate home from work life, as a remote worker the boundaries are often blurred. It can be hard not to take work issues into your personal life headspace. Sometimes, I get writer’s block and just can’t concentrate. Other times I can’t sleep and feel too tired or stressed to work. And at other times, life just gets in the way. My kid needs to go to the clinic, my husband is away and I need to do all the school runs or something breaks and I need to fix it. Some days I end up breaking all the above ‘rules’. For me, the best way round this it is to accept the bad days, write them off and start again fresh the following day. You’re human, not a machine.
Looking to work from home for the first time? Read here about different types of work from home jobs.