We live in extraordinary times. While many in the business community have been asking companies to become more flexible in their work practices for some time now, it is only with the spread of COVID-19 that many businesses have started taking #wfh seriously and have begun investing in helping their employees work productively and efficiently from the comfort of their own homes.
While some of us are used to working remotely as a result of work or life requirements (jobs that take us on the road or personal situations that mean we are looking after little ones), for others this is the first time they embrace working from home. And for those people, I thought i'd share a few things I've learnt that might be helpful getting you started and establishing good working patterns. As a member of the Lois Hazel team based outside of Melbourne, I've learnt what works and doesn't work for me when working remotely. Here are my tips for working from home successfully**.
Set up your space
Even if you don't have the luxury of a home office where you can shut the door, it is important to designate an area of your space for work. Ideally it will be calm and comfortable, and allows you to set up your laptop or desktop correctly. The last thing you want is a sore neck as you peer over your laptop resting on your lap on the couch! If sharing your space with others, take advantage of headphones to block out the world around you, and use features on video conferencing programs to blur or change your background to keep teammates focused on you.
If you can, choose a spot that allows you some natural light (don't want to miss out on your vitamin D dose, plus sunlight is great for boosting concentration and mood).
Establish a routine
It can be really hard when working at home to separate the personal from the professional. And without the usual 30 min commute to the office, its easy to get into bad habits of switching on your computer as soon as you wake up and spending the day working from your bed. While there's nothing wrong with doing this once in a while, in order to protect your mental health it is worth setting yourself a routine to help keep you motivated and make it easier to switch off from work mode when needed.
Whether it is going for a quick run in the morning before sitting down at your computer, establishing a daily morning call with your team, or practicing 10 mins of meditation at the end of the day before going back to your personal life, choose whatever works for you as a way to make it easier to maintain some kind of work/life balance.
Similar to establishing a routine, in my experience it can be difficult to remember to take breaks when working from home. But it is so important to look after your mental and physical health when working from home, and not get sucked into hours and hours spent without leaving your chair. When working in an office it is easier to make sure to take breaks because there are others around you to take a break with - whether you take a 10 minute tea break to talk with a colleague about the date you went on last night, or at least have a 5 min break between working at your computer and the start of a group meeting.
Set yourself an alarm on your phone every 50 minutes, to give you a reminder to stop and take a break. Have a quick stretch, make yourself a cuppa or even give your mum a quick call to give yourself a short physical and mental break. You'll feel more refreshed and be more productive as a result.
Take advantage of technology to work collaboratively
We have so many tools available to us today to support remote working, so be sure to use them! Tools like Trello and OneNote can be great for setting group "To Dos" and tracking progress, and programs like Slack, Zoom and Skype for Business are great for allowing you to chat with colleagues and set up video conference calls and other meetings. Also make sure to use things like Google Docs or Onedrive to create cloud-based folders and files that can be accessed and amended by various team members. Just remember to establish good etiquette for these programs - the last thing you want is two people working in the same document and over-riding each others work.
Be seen and heard
Now is a great time to use video calls. You may look tired, not have showered, and have kids playing in the background, but hey, that’s OK. We all have lives and everyone needs to get used to the "new normal". It's important to show your face especially in this time of self-isolation and social distancing, because yours might be the only face that your colleague sees all day! A smile goes a long way, even if it is over a computer screen.
Dress for Success
Get out of your pyjamas! As comfy as they are, working in your pyjamas won't help you stay motivated and alert as you attempt to write that sales report that was due last week... and it makes it way too easy to just go back to bed! Of course you don't need to wear a suit or high heels, but wearing smart and comfortable clothing (that are appropriate outside of the house) will help you mentally separate out work from home life. The new Lois Hazel Scrunch collection has some beautiful pieces that are also super comfortable and #wfh appropriate. I particularly love the Skivvy Rib Dress, and have been living in it these past few days as the temperature drops.
Be kind to yourself
This is a strange and scary time, full of change and stress. So remember to be kind to yourself as you navigate this transition, and get used to your new normal. Make sure to take time for self care (whatever that means for you), and reach out to friends and colleagues for help if you are struggling with figuring out how to set up your computer camera, share documents or any of the other new challenges that you will be taking on. Now is the time to support each other and share the love, even if it is virtual.
**I appreciate working from home becomes infinitely harder when you've got young children to look after. Hopefully some of the above tips still apply, but if you need advice on working from home with kids, there are some great resources out there including this article by Sarah Goff-Dupont: https://www.atlassian.com/blog/productivity/working-from-home-with-kids
If you've got more tips and tricks, please share with the LH community in the comments below ❤️