Our team at Helix House has been working from home for nearly a month now and we’re getting pretty good at it. Sure, dealing with our new “coworkers” can be a bit of a nuisance, but stopping to pet our cats and dogs is one of the many joys of life. Beyond the increased distractions, we’ve developed a set of tips that we follow on a daily basis. I know a lot of them have helped us. So try them out and see if they work for you!
It may seem silly, especially if you have no video conference calls or anything scheduled for the day, and your workspace is feet from your bed. We all know how comfortable pajamas are, but they are not conducive for a productive day. Before “going to work,” be sure to get dressed every morning.
It doesn’t have to be a full suit and tie but look presentable! A simple act of changing clothes and getting dressed for the proper occasion helps your brain kickstart the day. It’s like a metaphorical cup of coffee that helps snap your routine into action.
A huge part of working from home is NOT settling into your couch or bed. Trust us, it will kill your motivation for the day.
The key is making your workspace feel separate from the rest of your home. It doesn’t have to be in its own room. For example, our project coordinator Alex recently acquired a small table she can work on in her studio apartment, while our content writer Casey turned an empty corner of her house into her office space.
Remember, this is your space. You’ll be spending a good deal of time here, so make it comfortable. Find an area with decent lighting (natural light if possible), make sure you have a comfy place to sit, and enough room on the table for everything you need during a typical work day.
We can’t stress this one enough. It’s so easy to fall into a routine of distractions and push off work for cleaning or fun. Don’t do this. Set clearly defined work hours that benefit you and your coworkers. At Helix House, we’re all now working a 9-5 schedule (or close to it) so it’s easier for us to coordinate with each other. This is not typical for our team, but it makes our work days so much more efficient while we’re not in the office.
Communication is tough when you’re working from home, but you have to stay diligent with it.
At Helix House, we use Basecamp, Skype and Zoom to stay connected. Basecamp is for tasking out projects and client communication, Skype is for internal group chats, and Zoom is where we hold all of our meetings.
Staying connected is crucial right now. It allows you to keep up with people you regularly see, coordinate on projects, produce timely results, depend on one another, and convey any new information, questions, or tasks. Try to keep it as close to what you do in the office as possible. Just because you’re not face to face with your coworkers, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t converse with them.
Working from home isn’t always the easiest thing to do. We get it; there’s a lot of noise you’re not used to, other people distracting you, and no one to keep you accountable beside yourself.
If you feel like you’re not getting enough done or have too much to handle right now, talk with your boss about what you can accomplish at home. Communicate with your coworkers if you’re having trouble or don’t have that much to do.
Every morning, we have a video call with our team to set out the expectations for the day. Alex, our aforementioned project coordinator, checks in with us throughout the day (normally once or twice if we don’t message her first) and that helps keep us all on track and keep the team updated with what we can and can’t do.
It also helps us keep our priorities in check. It’s always an ongoing conversation that builds on itself to make sure what needs to get done, gets done, and that we’re not overworking ourselves.
Let’s face it, keeping yourself accountable is not the easiest thing to do. If you’re easily distracted by things in your home (such as a pet, a kid, or the internet), you’re not alone. It’s hard to force yourself into your normal work routine when everything is not normal.
If you’re the type of person who finds taking a break at home tempting, set timers on your phone for scheduled 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day. Don’t overdo it though — you’ll still have to meet your required work hours.
If you’re someone who never takes a break at while working (especially when you’re working from home), do the same thing! Set a timer to take time for lunch and turn off your work. Try to get up and move out of your workspace too — don’t eat at your desk!
If you don’t live at home, you’ll need to communicate with those you live with. That includes pets and kids. If your cat is anything like some of ours, then they like to invade our workspace and take over video calls. Don’t let them do it. Put them back on the floor or your lap and continue to keep your focus on work.
The same is said for kids. They’re going to be okay if you shut your door for a meeting. They are home after all. If your kids are younger, try to schedule meetings during their nap times to avoid any tantrums or distractions.
If you’re living with friends, share your schedule with them and ask them to close their door (or close yours if you can) when you need quiet. You’re not being rude — you’re doing what you need to do. There is nothing shameful about trying to get work done or needing a quiet environment.
Our last tip is probably one of the most challenging things to do. Some of us thrive when we’re forced to stay at home, but a lot of us don’t. It’s tough to stay happy when you’re in the same space every single day and unable to do what you want to do or see the people you want to see. That’s why video calls, set hours, designated workspaces, and sticking as close to your regular routine as possible is so important. All of this isn’t just to keep you working, it’s to help keep you out of a funk.
Give yourself a sense of normalcy during this crazy time. Your mental health will thank you for it.