How to WFH (getting it right this time)
We've all been here before; so let's nail it this time. Here to help is your sanity (and sex life) saving and productivity boosting Muddy guide to working from home
FIND YOUR SPACE
Creating a specific (ideally well-lit) space to work from home is essential for your sanity and productivity. OK, so it might not be the decluttered zen desk we dreamt of first time round, but this time I’ve put clutter in a bookshelf on the side of my desk and started lighting a scented candle and – hey presto – calm!
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 (Cox & Cox baskets and boxes sell pretty solutions for this), and never work in the bedroom – it’ll mess with your posture and interfere with your sleep (as well as any other nighttime activities *cough*).
- Dig out your noise-cancelling headphones to avoid distractions and signal to the rest of the crew ‘DON’T ASK ME WHERE THE TEA BAGS ARE. I’M WORKING’! – and it also spares them the in’s and out’s of 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, style the background (oh, yes, that IS War & Peace on my bookshelf…) and shut the door (or re-live the BBC interview which went, shall we say, a little off-piste).
THE CO-WORKING LIFELINE
Rural co-working spaces are hot to trot. With lots of people working from home in some capacity, they’re actually a bit of a lifeline. Far from being the bland, soulless office spaces you might expect, they have become cool, creative places where you can power through your to-do list and even enjoy a water cooler moment if you need one. The Good Life Hub in West Berkshire owned by Leanne Duffield has been an absolute godsend for me. It’s a stunning barn, loads of parking, stylish decor and super-speedy broadband. The exceptional coffee, fab cohort of co-workers and location next the the village shop are just a bonus. Having a day (or two) to power through without distractions can definitely improve productivity.
- Be disciplined. You’re paying for your time there so make it count. Have a to-do list of things to achieve that day and crack on.
- If you need to make a lot of calls, check there’s quiet spaces that gives you a bit of privacy.
- Don’t forget to take all you chargers. There’s nothing worse than your laptop/ phone battery running down halfway through the day.
Put those PJs down, sister! Getting your chic on will put you in the right headspace to be productive (plus avoid any impromptu video call embarrassment). I’m not talking ironed shirts – just a bright knit and some bling will do it.
- 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 – cashmere jumper and PJ bottom combo is the A/W 2022 look here.
- I’m a big fans of a fluffy slipper, but for some, the power dressing feel of shoes puts you in the right frame of mind for ball-breaking. So save the stilettos for that tricky pay rise convo.
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 will hang out that washing?), or throwing off your efficiency. Give yourself regular breaks to avoid the temptation to procrastinate, and set yourself achievable to-do lists every day. Yes, putting ‘make to-do list’ on the list totally counts, as does buying gorgeous WFH stationery – I do love a Papier Weekly Planner.
- 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 prep lunch etc.
- Food calls louder at home, so if you don’t trust yourself not to give into temptation, keep treats/biscuits/Christmas chocs on a high shelf or just bin the blighters. 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
If you’re both working from home at once, see off divorce proceedings by designating separate working zones, then do it, and bear in mind that you may have to work in shifts to juggle the kids/school run etc. Lunch can be fraught so either agree a time to sit down together and take turns to prep it, or go your own way to work it round your own schedule.
- 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 parent 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).
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 time to themselves and has their say in the schedule. Then commit to doing it.
- The morning walk is now sacrosanct for me so I get fresh air every day. It’s also pretty productive thinking time.
- Keep fit. Youtube works or commit to a regular online class, run or walk – you know what works by now but make a commitment to make it happen.
- Prioritise eating one meal a day together, but not all – be realistic.
APPS & TECH
Some inventive souls have been using the various lockdowns not just to hone their banana bread recipe but develop time and sanity saving lifestyle apps. They can make your working day easier or more social – these are great starting points.
- 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.
- MyFitnessPal helps track your daily routine, exercise and food intake. It also connects with the likes of FitBit to help you achieve your goals.
Any other top tips? Let us know in the comments!