I love working from home. I’m a known advocate of working remotely way before corona hit us. I prefer way much to get up and start working without having a commute in between. But, I know it’s difficult for some, and there are a few changes that even I had to implement to work perfectly for me. Here are my tips for having a perfect productive remote workday, based on what I learned in years of working from home.
“Remote work does have its share of problems. Some people dislike working in the same place where they live and relax, and it can be difficult to create and maintain a company culture without people being in the same room.” ~ Vox
Quotes like these, always get my nerves. I don’t agree with it. There are a ton of companies working successfully remotely for years now, way before we got to #stayhome. Trello, Doist are a few of them, and you can quickly read about their experience (just check my Twitter where I shared these and other companies’ experience in the last few years).
That is why I always advocated having the possibility of choosing to work from home, at least a few days a week. And that’s what I and my husband have been lucky to be able to do for the last few years. We both work for companies that have been slowly accepting more and more the possibility of having remote work a few days a month or a week, so when corona hit, this wasn’t anything new to us. That is why I decided to share what worked for us, and how are we able to be our best productive selves while working from home:
1. Have a designated work space
This is the first thing: have a designated space to where you go to work. It can be an office if you’re lucky as us now, can be a desk in the corner of your living room (we were there last year, each one in a different corner of a very small living room in a city apartment) or a corner in your dinning table (also me, before I bought the second desk for that small living room). Whatever option you have, it’s important that this space is your dedicated area to work, where you go to have full wired work done.
READ MORE: How I Got Started and you can do it too
2. Keep the 9-5 boundary
This is the one where most people fail and most likely, the reason why things go south when working remotely. When you are working in the office you know that you need to be there between those 8 hours (or whatever is the time you are contracted to), why would you do it differently at home? I had more than one friend, family member, colleague falling in this topic in the last year. Not because they want to do it, but because it’s easy to be available 24/7 when we are working where we live and all the Slack and Teams and WhatsApp available. But, as you would do in the office, you can also keep the 9-5 boundary at home. Stick to your usual work hours. Plugin your computer at the time you need to start working and plug it off at the time you’re hours end. Do the same with your mobile phone. If you have a company phone, do the same thing, if you use your personal, use the Do Not Disturb functionality in your phone (you can set it up to turn on at your logging-off hours) or in the apps you use to work (Slack, Teams, WhatsApp). And if you have different work hours than your coworkers (e.g. you need to log in one hour before and log off earlier to go pick up the kids) just be sure to let them know, that way they won’t try to contact you after that time.
3. Lunchtime away from the computers
I know this can be a controversial topic. I have been working with colleagues from so many different countries that I know that not every country has the same habits or legislation about lunchtime. In Portugal, we have 1 hour of lunchtime for every 8 work hour day, and we take it very seriously (have you looked at our food? Off course we do!). And actually, it is proved that taking a lunch break can actually improve your productivity for the afternoon (specially if you do it right). In Finland, I found that lunch was very religious too, but they would get back to work in less than that time, so they can leave work earlier. That’s ok too! In England, I found it’s usual to eat at their desks or in the meeting rooms, usually a sandwich they bought from their coffee shop run in the morning. Now, working from home and in lockdown, companies are asking them to remember to take breaks from their screens too. Because it works. It’s necessary. You need a break! Just set up a usual hour like 12-1 pm, 1-2pm, whatever works for you, but get up, grab something to eat, and do it away from your desk. Chill on the sofa, use that break to go for a walk, exercise for 15/30min, watch that tv show, read… Whatever works for you. But be sure it’s not work and that is something that relaxes or excites you, so you get back relaxed and motivated for the rest of your working day. If you want to know, I and André always lunch together, in our living room, while catching up on the news. Other days, we spend a part of it in the backyard, just talking and enjoying the weather, other days we even take a deep in the pool!
4. Coffee breaks!
Remember those? We did it all the time at the office, why not doing at home too? I would regularly take a break in the morning and afternoon during my workday at the office to eat something, drink a coffee, refill my water bottle and have a chat with my coworkers. It’s something I love to do and totally recommend doing, it’s the way to create networks, friendships and even improve company communication. So many good ideas and opportunities came from those social times! Now that we are working from home, I still do them, but now with my office “coworker”, my husband! Usually, one of us gets up from his desk in the middle of the afternoon and asks “coffee”? And the other answer: “f*ck yes!”. Well, more or less. We leave our work for 15min and grab a cup of coffee or tea and just talk for a bit. It’s that simple and it feels good. When we are back at our desks, we are re-inspired and ready to continue the workday. If you don’t have a “coworker” at home, you can always do the same thing virtually or over the phone. Align with a friend or colleague a daily hour where you meet and just share the hot beverage together over Zoom or something similar. It will improve highly your day. (I had set up a weekly 30 min chat with my teams’ members earlier this year when Portugal got back to lockdown, and it was awesome to get to know each other better and just having fun. It was just a 30min weekly call in a very full-packed project, and it helped and worked, so everything is possible!)
And there you have it! My top secrets to have a super productive remote working day. You can find other few tips to add to these ones on my last post 4 Top Things That Helped Me Work From Home This Year, where I go a little deeper into a few tools I used.