At some point most of us have probably fantasized about working from home - rolling out of bed 2 minutes before logging on, staying in your pajamas all day, long lunch breaks on the porch, no more exhausting commute and always home in time for dinner. However after a few weeks of enforced WFH you may be realizing it’s not all as good as it seems. If you are used to working in a more regular office environment, surrounded by people and a familiar routine, you might be feeling isolated and lonely, or have difficulty staying focused. Add in the complications of homeschooling and worrying about staying healthy and it’s not exactly conducive to being your most productive work self. Our agents are used to working independently, so we asked them for some key tips on how to stay focused and on task during the work day, and keep work and home separate even when they are in the same building.
We’ve all seen the funny clips on Facebook where everyone on the Zoom call is only dressed from the waist up, and there are reports from clothing retailers that sales of shirts are up and pants are down. While it may seem one of the main attractions of working from home is not having to stuff yourself into a suit and tie every day, it can help to dress as though you are going into a work environment, says Ides Figueiredo. “If I know I have an important call with a client, I will wear clothes that make me feel professional and business-like. Dressing for the task in hand helps me feel more confident and prepared”. Save your sweatpants for the weekend.
Designate a Work Space
Matt Asdornvuttikrai suggests “reorganizing and making a specific part of the house your work space. Having a dedicated place for your work can help you to separate work life from home life.” If you are lucky enough to have an office space in your home then that is an obvious choice, but with maybe 2 adults trying to work plus kids homeschooling it’s not always that easy, and you may need to improvise. This could be a folding table set up in a bedroom, a set space at your dining table or your laptop on the kitchen counter, but each person should have their own space where they can spread out their work. You can use something like this rolling cart to gather up all our papers, worksheets, pens and devices at the end of the day, making it easy for everyone, even the kids, to keep their stuff together.
Anne Spry also recommends designating different places in your house for different tasks to keep focused. “My real estate work is all done in my office. I use my living/family room for other things like email or social media. I do all things bills and prepare for my taxes on my kitchen table. And I feel like I’m on vacation when I work from my basement!”
Wherever you are working, it’s important to create the right atmosphere. Some people find music, especially classical, can help you tune out background noise and keep your focus in the space. Others prefer a more ambient background - Adam Sams suggests the National Park Service website where you choose the Rocky Mountains as your work soundtrack.
If you want more ideas on how to better furnish your home for remote working, read our blog on Furnishing Your Home for Extended Remote Work.
Block your Time
There are distractions working in an office - think of the time spent each day gathered around the coffee maker or ordering lunch - but at home those distractions are multiplied. It’s all too easy to get distracted into “just” doing little jobs around the house - for example “I’ll just empty the dishwasher / place that Amazon order / put a load of laundry on / walk the dog” - and before you know it an hour has gone by. You can still do all these jobs - it’s one of the perks of being home - but be conscious of blocking out time to do these, and time to work. Maybe replace the time you would have spent commuting with doing 1 or 2 household chores, and then start your work at the usual time. Block yourself out a “lunch hour” and make an effort to move away from your work area and take a real break. Erica Carson knows the benefits of time blocking to make the best use of your own natural productivity. “I’m most inspired and focused in the morning — so anything that requires a lot of creativity or diligence all gets done before lunchtime. Afternoons are for emails, making calls, and getting organized. Time blocking is key.”
Focus on One Job
If you are doing double duty with work and childcare, try this tip from Katie Tully. “I will set myself reminders on my phone as things come up throughout the day - emails to send, calls to make and so on - and then when the kids are occupied for a period of time I will sit down and hammer out a few things at once. It’s much more effective than trying to respond to emails while cooking dinner and helping with homework!” Breaking your work time into chunks can help the kids stay occupied too. I-Ching Katie Scott says “I will say to my children 'I’m going to spend 30 mins on my work now and you can do the same, then when we are done we will do something together'. It helps for both of us to break it into smaller chunks of time but with older children you could try longer periods.”
Take it Outside
The benefits of fresh air have long been documented but it’s even more important to bear in mind when we are confined to our homes more than usual. Now the weather is improving there is really no excuse not to get outside for a short period each day. Taking a break for a short walk, bike ride or run can help improve your concentration and focus, as well as having other benefits for your overall fitness. Even taking your morning coffee outside gives you a break from your screen, a chance to stretch your legs and get a change of scenery Jenny Nordan says “Make the best use of any outdoor living space you have - I’ll pull a chair onto my porch for a zoom call or grab my phone and stand outside for 10 minutes to check emails”. Naomi DeLairre agrees “Getting outside on a sunny day is a good way to re-energize”. You can take it further and combine work with exercise and chores - invest in some good headphones and join your next teleconference while walking the dog.
There are plenty of articles that can give you further tips and advice, so take some time and find out what works for you. Ultimately this will end and we will return to more regular patterns of work, but you may find that working from home has actually brought benefits to both your business and home life. If you want to consider a more permanent remote working arrangement, and your current home no longer fits your lifestyle, get in touch. We can help you find the right place to work and play.