#18 Managing WFH, from someone who actually works from home!
Hi everyone! My name is Rachel and I’m thrilled to have been asked to write a guest series of blogs for Aesthetic Laundry. I first ‘properly’ met Joss face to face back in March – shortly before that wasn’t allowed anymore!
Since then we’ve kept in touch and knowing I am somewhat of a blog whizz (really blowing my own trumpet here before I’ve even got going) she asked if I’d be happy to share some of my experience with you all. So here’s a little bit about me.
Because on your birthday you have to wear tassels and dungarees!
For just over a year now I’ve worked as a freelance marketing consultant and producer of theatre and film. It’s a very weird job description I know, but I adore being my own boss and having such a varied and exciting workload. It also means in the last year I’ve worked from home for approximately 90% of the time.
And let me tell you, working from home long-term for the first time in my life was a BIG adjustment. I then had the double whammy of being my own boss, so whilst yes I report to my clients, there was no one around keeping tabs on whether or not I was working. This meant for the first time in my professional life I was in charge of motivating myself, meeting my deadlines, and managing my own performance.
Fast forward to March 2020, enforced lockdown and people being asked to work from home wherever possible – I must admit I felt a little smug as I’d gone through my adjustment phase and had already got the hang of working remotely!
But mostly I was hugely sympathetic to everyone making the adjustment. Seriously, the memes I’ve seen and very real struggles everyone’s been facing really rang true for me with ‘this time last year’ vibes.
So, if COVID-19 has been the start of you working from home long-term for the first time in your life, good news! I’m here to help. I’ll be sharing some practical, simple tips to help you be your best self when working from home.
1) Be disciplined in the morning
So, this is a big one. We can all be tempted when working from home to have a massive lie in, roll out of bed and start work at 9am still in our pyjamas only just eating breakfast. Most likely you, like me, have succumbed to this at some point since starting working from home.
Now I’m going to sound like a real nag – but seriously, don’t do it. There are countless studies on how we work from home far more productively if we still get into the mindset of getting ready for work. (Trust me: it does get boring in your PJs after a while too!)
I’m not necessarily saying you need to wake up when you would normally for work, for example if you normally commute for an hour then feel free to take that bit of extra time in bed. But make an effort to get up, showered and dressed (and if you’re like me, have some coffee in you) before starting work at 9am.
My other tip for the mornings would be consider if there’s anything in particular you’d like to do before you start work – think of it as a little added bonus in your day. Because my husband (normally) works in an office and has a commute I’ll often wake up at the same time as him and then have some ‘me time’ before work; reading a book, exercising, even treating myself to the newest episode of my favourite TV show over a leisurely breakfast.
So if you’re used to waking up that bit earlier, have a think of how you can structure your mornings to work best for you, and then have a productive working day too!
Also, if your working space can have bunting I highly recommend that too!
2) Have a defined working space
I’ll start out by saying I know this isn’t practical for everyone, especially so now households probably have at least two people in need of an office. However, where possible, have a defined working space that is separate to your living space. Most importantly I’d say avoid working from your bed or sofa if you can.
For me this has been crucial for maintaining good mental health while working from home. It’s far too easy to always feel switched on when you are living within reaching distance of your desk, you don’t benefit from the separation that leaving the house to go to work brings. I have found it hugely beneficial to go into my office each morning and then leave that room and close the door at the end of the day. Putting work behind you and maintaining that work life balance is so important each evening.
Our household coping with COVID-19: my husband works longer hours than me, so he has quite rightly taken over the office while we’re both working from home. We made the decision to convert our dining table into my new desk, and are shortly about to really commit and add an extra monitor, etc as lockdown doesn’t look set to lift soon.
If you’re struggling to create a permanent working space: Can you make a habit of setting up and packing away your portable ‘office’ each day? If you have a storage box/chest or similar, could you put your laptop, work notepads, sticky notes, etc into this at the end of the day then put the box away? Anything you can do to provide that separation and mentally check out for the day will be so beneficial to you.
My dining table desk version 1 (looking forward to upgrading with my extra screen!)
3) Work your normal hours and remember to take breaks
This is probably one of the toughest things to be strict with, but it’s so important! When you’re solely responsible for your time you can often feel guilty about leaving work behind for the day. When we’re in the office other people start filing out and that subconsciously reminds us it’s OK to stop and go home now. So how do you make sure you’re starting and finishing work on time at home?
In my early remote worker days I found myself working through till dinner far too frequently – yes sometimes work is busy and that is an unavoidable reality, but don’t let it become a habit on your ‘normal’ days. I started blocking out time in my calendar, scheduling my lunch breaks, making sure I left 10 minutes between meetings to grab a drink and stretch my legs. I also always eat my lunch in a different room – and will often watch a sit com to ensure I take my 30 minutes if I’m feeling antsy about getting back to work (not before the end of Parks and Rec Rachel).
It’s equally important to take screen breaks throughout the day! Research recommends you take a 5-10 minute screen break every hour – so make sure you’re getting yourself a drink, standing up and having a bit of stretch around at least once an hour.
If you’re really struggling with taking those well-needed breaks throughout the day, why not try setting alarms on your phone at regular intervals? One for a mid-morning coffee break, one for your lunch break and one for an afternoon leg stretch.
My top tip: If you have a friend who’s struggling with working from home too, schedule a 10 minute call with them and have a daily coffee break together over a video call! Just make sure you set a timer so you wrap up on time.
The essentials, coffee, notepads and my trusty planner
4) Get organised, or as I like to say, plan, plan, plan!
When you’re working remotely, from my experience, you’ll find yourself more self-sufficient and responsible for managing your own time than you’d perhaps normally be.
Balancing my weekly workload is something that took quite a lot of practice for me when I first started freelancing, I’ll often have multiple projects on the go at once and come Monday it would feel a little overwhelming when I’d see everything I had to achieve that week. Taking the time on a Monday morning to plan out my workload across the week according to all my deadlines, then taking things one day at a time, was hugely worth it!
Everyone’s different, but my preferred method is on paper. I got myself a weekly planner that is split by day and I map out all my different tasks/projects across each day. Then I can just focus on my daily list and take each day as it comes.
Just remember: The other side of the coin here is being flexible if things don’t go exactly to plan. Sometimes things are going to take longer than you think! So remember it’s OK to need to rearrange a few things across the week – don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get loads done in one day. I often pop big tasks across a couple of days so I have a bit of leeway built in if I can’t get it all done in one sitting.
If you need some inspiration, here’s my favourite working from home Spotify Playlists
5) Enjoy the perks!
In case you hadn’t realised yet: you’re the only person in the office now. If you want to listen to the radio, pop on that Spotify playlist or podcast you like to work to, eat your favourite but very smelly sandwich, that’s all fair play now! My norm for working from home is a selection of playlists I rotate between depending on what sort of work I’m doing, and I always have good coffee in the house for my coffee breaks.
And how could I forget – you can wear your comfiest clothes now! Yes, I have advised against PJs, but you can get dressed into your favourite big jumper, baggy tees and elasticated trousers. Personally, I’ve been living in my trusty Aesthetic Laundry black harems, and throwing on my whitney jumper for when I want those tassels to impress on a video call.
Those little perks, whatever they are for you, will help you through the day and hopefully help keep you smiling.
Other working from home perks include: more time with my sleepy fur babies
6) Remember this is all an adjustment
I have had conversations with a lot of my friends recently where in my self-employed, working from home, all-knowing wizard role I have said to them time and time again: “To start with, you will not be as productive as you were working from your office, and that’s OK!”
We all put pressure on ourselves to work at 110% all the time, and whilst it is definitely a good thing to be motivated and do our best, remember to give yourself a little bit of time to break in this whole working from home routine. Be kind to yourself and celebrate the little wins each day rather than getting frustrated about things you feel could have gone better.
To put this into context: it took me about two months to really settle into working from home when I started this time last year.
Just let that sink in!
I feel it’s also worth touching on COVID before I wrap up. I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media pointing out that we’re not really working from home, we’re at home because of a pandemic whilst trying to work. I think that really hits the nail on the head. It is such an important time to practice some self-love and take care of ourselves, and know you’re processing and going through a lot, whilst also completely changing your routine (both working and personally!)
It’s not the easiest time to be starting this new chapter in your working life, and I’m relieved I personally didn’t have to process COVID and make that transition at the same time. You’ve already survived a month or so of this new routine, so a big pat on the back and well done to you for making it here!
I hope these tips will help you make your working day that bit smoother, take a little bit of the mental strain off things, and I also hope I’ve shown you that this working from home malarkey isn’t too hard – it will just take a bit of time.
Well, I think that’s enough for now, so I’ll see you next week!
Thank you so much for reading,
To find out more about working with Rachel click here.
Rachel is a Marketing Consultant and Producer of Theatre and Film based in the West Midlands. She is currently working alongside Joss at Aesthetic Laundry to provide support, where she can, in a voluntary capacity. When she isn't working, she enjoys eating any gluten free cake, drinking good gin or wine and lifting weights at the gym. Rachel is really passionate about supporting small, independent businesses - especially female led creatives. Drop her a follow @racheltimeblog for a daily dose of colour, silliness, and to see her two adorable pet rabbits Eevee and Parnsnip!