A couple of weeks ago, I did a Q&A on Instagram. One of the most asked questions was about working from home. I’ve been doing so for about 26 months now (just over 2 years), and I absolutely love it, but it was hard to find my flow when I first started working virtually. So here are my 6 top tips for working from home successfully:
1. Have an inspiring space
The spare room in my flat is a great office now, but it was NOT like that when I moved in. It was instead my husband’s geek den, full of miniatures and plastered with posters with lighting optimised for playing video games on the PC (read: dark). It wasn’t until about 15 months after moving in that I decided to take it into my own hands. I had lived here long enough that I didn’t feel like I was bulldozing my husband.
I only spent about £100 on the makeover; a world of difference was made by just forcing my husband to get rid of some of his things and take the posters off the wall. I was honestly amazed to discover that the walls were blue. A new painting, a wall decal, a soft accent rug, a rocking chair and a macrame hanging later, and I have a space that is far more conducive to my work.
2. Be realistic about what you can get done
The first time I worked from home, I was thrilled to have some distraction-free time on my own to work. I imagined doubling or tripling my productivity. No more tea breaks with colleagues? No more people stopping by my desk to ask questions? Heck yeah!
Except it wasn’t like that. Because tea breaks were replaced with washing up. People stopping by was replaced by laundry. And Netflix was a real problem, too. So while I’ve gotten better, if I were starting out again I’d be a bit gentler with my expectations regarding my own productivity.
3. Get out of the house
In the first two months that I lived in Bournemouth, I must have left the house no more than ten times. In 60 days, that’s not very much. But I worked from home, it was the dead of winter, and I didn’t know anyone in town. I wouldn’t be as productive during the day because it felt like I had all the time in the world to get things done.
The second I started forcing myself out of the house, it did wonders for my productivity. Sometimes I would go for a jog, and sometimes I would go work from a coffee shop. Either way, I was changing up my environment, and that change injected me with a little extra motivation.
4. Find a way to set boundaries
One of the best things I’ve done for my productivity was to buy a lockbox for our remotes. When Alex leaves the house in the morning, he locks the TV and PlayStation remotes in a literal pirate chest. This keeps me from kidding myself into thinking I’ll be as productive (read: productive at all) on the couch with the TV on. I can still watch on the computer if I want, but it forces me to really work for my distractions.
5. Create accountability with a virtual team
The highlight of my week is when I talk to my team. Working from home can be really lonely, and it’s really nice to be able to chat with them. We’re like a little family now, and I look forward to our meetings. But also, our meetings force me to have accomplished something, otherwise there’s no meeting for me to lead. Having people rely on me for things and knowing they’ll ask for them makes me way more productive than I would be otherwise.
6. Choose the right background noise
Reader, THE MOST important thing to my productivity is what I listen to while I work. I’m serious. If I try to listen to the wrong thing during any given task, I will veer off the rails so quickly it’s laughable. So here’s what I’ve determined to be my ultimate pairing guide to work & background noise:
Research/browsing ➝ something crappy on Netflix to which I don’t really need to pay attention
I don’t need to pay focused attention to either, so this is an okay pairing. Reality shows tend to work best. Think The Bachelor, Love Island, Yummy Mummies, and anything else you’d be embarrassed to have the world know you watch.
Admin/design ➝ Podcasts
For something that involves lots of clicking and not a lot of thinking (like when I re-did my hashtags the other day), podcasts are my jam. I can pay most of my attention to what they’re saying and let instinct guide the rest.
Lead gen/communications ➝ Upbeat music
This is something where I need to feel excited and energised, so some upbeat music is perfect.
Writing ➝ Instrumental music
I absolutely CANNOT write well to music with lyrics that you can understand. Ed Sheeran, sorry, but you enunciate too clearly for my writing time. Bon Iver, you’ll do. But good, engaging instrumental music is the best. Film scores work especially well. I recommend Inception; you’ll feel like you’re saving the world (even though that’s not what that film is about).
Music is such an important part of my WFH (work from home) experience that I’m going to be putting together a set of playlists for you based on these recommendations! So stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, happy virtual working!
If you want to add to your virtual team in the form of some marketing services, get in touch to see how we can help! And keep an eye out for our ultimate WFH playlist set, coming soon.