Working from home has been a part of my life for the past six years. With the vast majority of my clients being located around the countryside or needing in-person visits to their own offices, there has never been a need for ProjectBox to have an office. It has come with many challenges – when to work, where to work, creating boundaries between work and personal, equipment, and relationships with customers and family.
Working from home means grappling these issues plus many others. With a lot of people who now find themselves in this situation, here are my best tips around how to stay efficient and focused as well as manage working with kids.
It’s really easy to get caught up looking at the mess on the floor, breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink, clothes that need washing, and lawns that need mowing. By the time you take care of all of that and settle in to work, the day has gone.
So it’s really important to set yourself up with a base. An office as such. Somewhere that you can shut off from distractions from around the home. Spare bedrooms and garages work really well for this! This also helps when it comes time to stop working. Having an office allows you to shut the door which signals to your brain that work time is over. It helps you to disconnect.
It’s also important to note that just because you have an ‘office’ that does not mean that you have to ALWAYS work from there. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are confined. Don’t hesitate to spend some time working from different places – your kitchen table, outside, on the couch. Sometimes this can be the burst that you need to reinvigorate your creative juices or just help to get you to refocus. Just keep in mind ergonomics – working from the couch every day is not good for your body. And make sure to keep moving. Get up and stretch every so often (there are some great apps for helping with this!).
It is okay to get your work done from places other than your office.Pip Meecham
The BEST thing you can do when working from home, is to try and stick to a routine. Especially if you have kids in the mix.
Still get up, shower, get dressed (business up top, party down bottom if it makes it easier), do your hair, put makeup on. I find that doing these things takes me away from the weekend/holiday, trackies and PJs all day feeling and helps me to focus on ‘work’.
Set yourself a start time and end time. This doesn’t need to be the whole day. You could just choose when you are going to start, and then make sure you start then. Don’t put it off. Commit to it. Then as soon as you start, tell yourself what time you are going to work until.
Even if it’s just chunks. Something to trigger your brain that it’s time to start and stop work.
Make sure you take breaks! Get up and stretch. Move around. Take lunch. Hold a virtual watercooler meeting (see stay social below).
When you finish working, put your comfies back on. Just like what you would do when arriving home after a day at the office or out on the road.
Working With Kids
Working from home is one thing, adding kids into the mix brings it to a whole other level!
- Continue to make lunches. There is nothing worse than having to contend with the ‘I’m hungry’ whining all day. Having a lunchbox empowers them to make their own controlled decision and stops them going for the snack box all day every day.
- Allocate time to spend with them. This needs to be uninterrupted time where you give your focus solely to them. Phone off and put somewhere where you won’t be distracted by it. What works well for us is one hour for me to work, then 30 to 45 minutes of playing whether this is building lego, baking, kicking around a ball, playing barbies, colouring, doing an experiment. Whatever it is that they want you to do. I find that by them knowing that the time is coming, they are much more inclined to keep themselves occupied for that little bit of time. Use a kitchen timer so that they can see how long there is until you are all theirs.
- Sometimes, all they want is you near them. So instead of working from the office, sit at the dining table, or next to them on the couch while they watch a movie.
- Get them involved. Kids love to help us. What little tasks can you give them to do that makes them feel important and a part of your ‘work’? For example, I get my daughter to help with publishing social media posts, I open up my Canva account and just let her try and design something. If you have a spare computer or laptop, open up a word document and ask them to type you a letter to someone. Depending on their age, you could even have them complete actual tasks for you. Put them on payroll and reward them with extra screen time or special treats. Treasure hunts with a lollipop at the end work really well for us.
- Come up with a system to let them know it’s time to come in. Whether this is an alarm that goes off, a red light green light system where you hang something on the door. This can really help with limiting the interruptions.
Focus and Rewards
Create yourself a list of things that you need to do. Then allocate yourself one thing at a time to complete. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed with the work that needs to be done and especially if you are switching between work and kids can become really hard to keep your focus.
So have a list that you can turn to each time you begin to ‘work’. This also gives you something to cross off which is very rewarding.
Reward yourself. As much as bribery and rewards works for kids, it works for us too. Find something to help motivate you to get that next chunk done. Some Netflix, a bath, a cold beer. This needs to be something that makes you feel good.
With no colleagues, customers or suppliers dropping in, working from home can quickly become a lonely gig and cause a disconnect and feelings of isolation. It’s really important that you keep up your connections with others. Hold virtual watercooler meetings where you jump on zoom and have a social chat, or have lunch dates where you can eat lunch with each other (via zoom) and talk about your day. Pick up the phone and call someone! Have instant messaging channels set up with your team, family and friends to help break up the day.
At the end of the day…
Don’t be too hard on yourself! What starts with a lot of excitement and well-meaning plans, can quickly go haywire when reality sets in.
It’s important to realise that it can take some time to settle into your new routine, for friends and family to adjust, and for it to become a sense of normal.
Just keep going, adjusting things where need be, and finding out what works for you.