Top tips for working from home
Wondering how to stay productive (and sane) while working from home? We asked a group of people familiar with working in isolation – our UQP authors – for their top tips.
- Stay away from the kitchen.
- Get up before the rest of the family for a couple of hours of quiet.
- Go outside even if it’s just to stand in your doorway and feel the sun on your skin.
- Go outside. This may seem counterintuitive but working from home doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself in the laundry for eight hours because that’s where the wi-fi signal is strongest, for some bizarre reason.
- Beware the lure of online shopping. I used to be one of those home workers who sheepishly admitted that Hello, my name is Chris and I am a FarFetch addict. The DHL guy was at our door so often, I wound up being best man at his wedding. Well, it didn’t really go that far, but I had fantasies.
- Bake, or learn to bake. Assuming all the flour has not been hoarded in some secret baby boomer grain silos, baking is one of the keys to isolation happiness. Even if you’re hopeless at it, failures tend to taste good.
3b. Buy a rifle to defend your baked goods. Show no mercy.
- Start the day with a friendly chat with your co-workers ie. yourself. Ask yourself how you're doing in these wild times; say, 'Isn't it crazy!'; have a quick whinge about ScoMo; share how devastated you are to have to cancel that Bali trip with the girls; or comment on the crazy new hairstyle your co-worker (ie. yourself) is trying out now she doesn't have to go into the office.
- Remember to get up and move around every 90 minutes, but don't stray too far from your desk or you'll start rearranging that bookshelf! A quick dance is fun. If it's a little cramped in the cupboard/ laundry/ shower recess you've set your home office up in, crack out that old Riverdance CD you found when you reorganised the bookshelf and do an Irish jig!
- Try and remember to do some work at some stage; but don't worry if it doesn't happen, there's always tomorrow!
- Find a routine: mine involves a coffee outside (I am lucky enough to have garden, but if I didn't I would stick my head out the window) and then a decision about whether to wear my morning or my afternoon pyjamas.
- Stay connected with friends during the day. Break for a Facetime call (and remember to put clothes on).
- If you have a dog, delegate any email tasks to them. You can't do it all.
- Get into a routine. My wife and I are working from home with two kids under three. We having a grand meeting on the weekend to plan out everything: meals, times to exercise, together time, separate time, work time. Having an agreed upon routine allows for certainty in an uncertain world. (And we kinda did this before COVID-19 anyway.)
- Set a mission critical item for each day. It’s easy to get lost in a cloud of work. Some days you’re going to feel super unmotivated, and particularly with what’s happening in the news, some days you’re going to need to take a breath. Set yourself one mission critical item for each day – if you get it done, your day is done. This draws the line in the sand and allows you to shut your computer with confidence.
- Delete email off your phone. This is a biggy. But now that you’re working from home, you don’t need it. It’s not like you’re ‘out and about’ and need to check your inbox. If possible, I’d recommend you even switch your phone off, but I know we all use it for a lot of streaming services and connecting with family and friends. Give yourself clear digital boundaries – ditching email from your phone is a great start.
- Bonus tip! I highly recommend the app ‘Freedom' (www.freedom.to) as a way of blocking websites and apps in scheduled time chunks. This is a life saver for me and permits greater focus.
- Most of us own a FitBit. When we sit at our desks, we tend to become engrossed in what we're doing and forget to move. FitBits are great for providing a little buzz to nudge you into action.
- If you really need to focus, switch off your social media notifications or mute them for a set period.
- Remember creativity doesn't pour from a tap. Be kind to yourself. If it's not working, it's not working. Go do something else.
- Few of the 'maintain a dedicated work space and routines' tips apply to me. I have a six-year-old and a two-year-old plus my husband. Plus we live in an apartment. And we might all be very much TOGETHER for a while. So I'll work with the opposite principle. None of this is my dedicated work space, therefore, all of it is. The whole apartment. Dining table, bedroom, balcony, kitchen bench. A bookshelf is a standing desk. When I have a day at home to write fiction I'm a bit the same. No proper office so I skip all over the place.
- Pen-and-paper to-do list. One for today, then one for tomorrow. Little hand-drawn boxes next to each item. Big fat ticks. Basic stuff.
- Perhaps reduce the lunch/dinner/education pressure by like 30 per cent. Looking down the barrel of being in this space together feels – to me – almost unsustainable. So. I'm not an elaborate cook at the best of times, but I've decided to really let that one slide.
- Don't work in your pyjamas, as this may rip a hole in the space-time continuum. It also looks bad in video-calls.
- Create a comfortable, inviting workspace that's separate from your living area. Keep your desk tidy and place few magical nicknacks, inspiring pictures, and/or healthy pot plants in sight. Keep water within reach, snacks in a drawer, and your phone inside a box full of bees in a far corner of the backyard.
- Buy a jumbo pack of soft foam earplugs. Tell your family/partner that when you're at your desk, you are NOT available to help them locate Lego Batman's head, operate the washing machine, examine their rash, or watch a 'really short' video of a hedgehog wearing tiny shoes. If they persist, construct a barricade from heavy furniture.
- I make my home office somewhere I want to work. Tidy, light-filled. Full of art, books – and swords, obviously. Now our kids are mostly downstairs, but when they were little their stuff was everywhere. It helped to have what Hemingway called 'a clean, well-lighted place.'
- I own noise-cancelling headphones. The second-greatest modern invention, after the dishwasher.
- I take regular breaks for things like: walks, cups of caffeine, chin-ups, hugging my kids, practising rapier. This is healthy for me and for my work.