COVID-19 has been horrendous in many ways, but arguably, this pandemic has been a blessing in disguise and the shakeup that the traditional working day needed. 9-5s are outdated; they lack the all-important work-life balance we are all striving for. Ping pong tables and free fruit does not make up for the quality time spent with families and loved ones. A welcomed goodbye to long, arduous commutes, overpriced transport tickets and on-the-go lunches. Now, we are happily saying hello to more time; with our families, ourselves and at our homes we work so hard for.
“Companies with work-from-anywhere policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organisational costs, according to recent research at Harvard Business School.”
“Telecommuting workers with very complex jobs who don't require a lot of collaboration or social support can perform better than their office-based counterparts, according to another study.”
Freelancers however have been living this way of life for some time. Working with flexibility and freedom also requires great responsibility. It can be difficult to manage and find a workable schedule that can be stuck to and inspire the best work.
Below are some tips that might help my fellow work from home pros to stay productive and maintain balance. In its essence, working from home requires planning; from when to work, where to work and how to create boundaries between work and personal life, all whilst ensuring career development, training opportunities and building relationships with colleagues.
Maintain Regular Working Hours
Set a schedule and stick to it - as much as you can! Set clear guidelines, know when to call it a day and don’t abuse the flexibility. Only extend or shorten your day when absolutely necessary. Automatic time-tracking apps such as RescueTime, help you stick to your hours and figure out what times of the day you’re most productive, and when you slow down. Use this data to your advantage and reserve your hours of high focus for your most important tasks!
The Power of Morning Routines
Morning routines set your day up for success. Humans crave routine; without it, we’re susceptible to stress, poor sleep, poor eating and physical condition. Decide how you want to start your day and what time you’ll sit down at your desk and start work.
But more than simply deciding on times, be sure to allocate time to savour that morning coffee, get some exercise in, and get dressed for the day - don’t just work in your PJs - dress for success!
Set Ground Rules with the People in Your Space
Are you sharing your space with others? Are they working too, or are they sitting around waiting for time to pass and are bored? Maybe you have children that demand constant attention. Whichever it is, set boundaries - and stick to them! Just because you're home, it doesn’t mean that all the chores are left to you. Make sure others don’t assume you will always do everything at home.
Take breaks. Walk away from the screen - this includes your phone and TV screen as well. Take a lunch break and two 15-minute breaks - this seems to be the standard for full-time employees.
Take Proper Breaks
Ever tried apps like TimeOut for Mac or Smart Break for Windows? They lock you out of your computer for 60 minutes so you actually step away and take that well-earned break. Alternatively, set a simple timer that ensures you’re not shortchanging your break times.
Get outside if you can!
Obviously, keep within your country's laws during COVID-times, but if permitted, get outdoors when you can! Leave the building. Get some fresh air. Change your surroundings. Move your body, and find your creative inspiration!
Dedicated Office Space
This is one I personally struggle with most. I like to move about, and when working from a laptop, the screen goes wherever you go. This can be damaging to your productivity and focus. If you can, invest in an external screen and keyboard, so that when you’re connected, you subconsciously know it’s work time. When it’s on your lap - it’s personal time. If you want to take it a step further, you could partition your hard drive and create a separate user account for work.
Do you have a barking dog, screaming child or gardeners with motorised apparatus outside? It might be wise to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones, seek external childcare, arrange with spouses or organise to work evenings with your manager.
Separate Phone Number
Set up a number that can only be contacted by colleagues and clients to maintain that all-important work-life balance. You don’t even need to have a separate device, landline or SIM card. It can be through a free VoIP service such as Google Voice or Skype. As a freelancer, you’re always hustling, so make sure to take a break and switch off.
Loneliness, isolation and feeling disconnected are real and very common in remote work life - especially for extroverts. Try to socialise - even with your colleagues over video chat, it’s good to show face and get to know your teammates better, otherwise, it can start to feel impersonal and robot-like. Don’t wait for the invitation, be proactive and check in with others. They might be needing it more than you!
Take Sick Days
When you’re not well, you won’t work well - so take the time you need to rest and recover and come back better than ever! When freelancing, you often don’t get compensation pay, so it can be easy to fall into the time-is-money trap and try to power through. Don’t do that. Time is only money when you’re not utilising it well.
Just as important as morning routines, evening rituals help you close the workday. Whether it’s signing off from your work chats, an evening dog walk or 6 pm yoga class, find what helps you wind down and mentally switch off. It can be as simple as shutting your computer screen and listening to your favourite podcast. Whatever habits you choose, keep them consistent.
Working from home can boost productivity, reduce turnover and lower organisational costs
Employees enjoy perks of flexibility and lack of commute
To work from home, make sure you have the technology you need, a separate workspace, internet access that meets your needs, a workable schedule and a way to connect with others
Top fields for remote work: computers and IT, education and training, healthcare, customer service, virtual assistants, data entry, transcription, content creation and copywriting and more.
Stick to your work schedule! Many people believe working from home doesn’t really mean working. The burden lies on you to set your working hours, stick to them and actually work during those hours and refuse to let anyone else dissuade you!
Working From Home Bottom Line
Exciting, empowering and sometimes profitable, working from home can be a welcomed escape from the daily grind. But with extra freedom comes extra responsibility, planning, foresight, self-discipline and focus. So whether you’re a part-time employee or a freelancer, design your home-working life wisely for maximum efficiency.