Has the Covid-19 pandemic given you a working from home experience? Do you want to start working from home and be productive?
For someone who has had a 9 to 5 job for the longest time, working from home full time has brought a roller coaster of emotions.
At first, I was excited when that email asking us to work from home landed in my inbox. Freedom! Was all I thought about when I read the email.
I’m a night owl, so I thought that if I worked from home, I’d sleep in the morning and work through the night. I’d be extraordinarily productive and slay all my deadlines, or so I thought…
The first two weeks were chaotic.
I would sleep all day and try to reply to work emails at night and get a few things done. It was so bad that at times I’d be woken up by calls from my workmates during the day to ask if I had finished my tasks. Or ask why I hadn’t replied to urgent emails.
My mental health was deteriorating, I didn’t eat most meals, days were just passing by…
It was crazy…
Crazier if you factor in the saddening news we’ve all been receiving from social media and news sources.
Staying sane and getting work done during this period is not easy.
But, after the two weeks of chaos, I figured it out…for the most part anyway.
9 Work from home tips
1. Use a habit tracker
What makes working from home chaotic is the inability to manage yourself, your schedule and your attention.
Working from the office enables you to manage the three as there’s a set time to be at work (eg 9 am to 5 pm) and for most of us, we have managers who ensure we do what we’re paid to do.
Working from home means that for the most part, you have to manage yourself.
I learnt about using a habit tracker from reading James Clear’s atomic habits book.
Since you might not have the time to read the whole book right now and you want to get started with productivity, use a habit tracker. It’s simply a custom-made calendar where you write a list of the productive habits that you want to do while working from home.
This one tip will enable you to concentrate fully on your work tasks. Which allows you to rest fully and guilt-free when you’re done with work.
2. Use the Pomodoro technique
Apart from enabling you to beat procrastination, this technique helps you get your work done without feeling like work is a punishment.
It’s a time management technique. You get to use a timer to break down your work into 25 minutes (only!) attention spans with 5-minute breaks in between. This allows you to finally experience that work-life balance you’ve been dreaming about.
I wrote a short step by step guide on how to use the Pomodoro technique.
3. Dress up
I know you want to live and work in your pj’s, cozy socks and bunny slippers. That’s what I dreamt of too!
But creating a difference between chill time and work time enables you to focus and be creative.
One of the ways to do this is through dressing up. Okay, I don’t mean wearing a suit or head to toe glammed up official wear.
I mean putting on clothes that send a signal to your brain that says ‘it’s time to get sh*t done and slay the deadlines!’
This video from Justine Leconte is a great guide on how to put together a casual chic outfit.
3. ‘Commute’ to your work area
You need to have a dedicated office space at home. This can work even with limited space. I have a friend who lives in a studio apartment and has nameD her couch as ‘my office space.’
Her bed is her relaxation, cozy reading, binge-watching (entertainment space) while her couch is where all the work gets done.
Do the same. Train your brain to know when it’s time to work and when it’s time to stop. Have clarity.
Having a morning routine will also help you with this. Ask yourself ‘what is that one thing that I will do each morning that marks the beginning of my working time?’ You know, the same way you were using commuting to and from work as a signal before all this happened. This could be gathering your work tools or brewing a cup of tea or coffee.
4. Schedule everything
With all the distractions in the form of social media, kids running around in the house, and the news, it’s hard to remember everything you need to do. Don’t trust your brain with all these details.
Block time on your calendar to get productive work done. Schedule calls with family. Have time to exercise either indoors or outside if you still have the privilege and schedule time to do something creative.
5. Have an accountability buddy
If you’re new to working from home, you will find it challenging to measure your progress and know if you’re making progress.
Have an accountability buddy. This could be your roommate, family member, friend or even colleague. Works better if it’s someone who knows exactly what you’re trying to achieve.
Alternatively, seek feedback from your manager or person you’re reporting to. Companies have systems to ensure that employees are still putting in the hours and delivering quality work. Take ownership of this process.
If working from home is temporary until we win the battle against the pandemic, you want to ensure that you come out of the situation with quality work experience. You want to grow your career. To learn new skills.
6. Get enough sleep, at least 8 hours
Sleep deprivation plays a huge role in your productivity. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will suffer throughout the day. You won’t get any work done! For the most part of your day, you will keep getting distracted while wishing that you slept more.
Enough quality sleep protects your mental and physical health. There’s no way around it. Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night. Try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern.
“If you routinely lose sleep or choose to sleep less than needed, the sleep loss adds up. The total sleep lost is called your sleep debt. For example, if you lose 2 hours of sleep each night, you’ll have a sleep debt of 14 hours after a week.” Read more on this from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
7. Set rules with family
If you are fortunate enough to have family you live with, setting work ground rules will help you to achieve your goals.
Inform your family about your working times. Ask them to avoid distracting you, unless it an emergency.
Set all the rules you think will work for you such as asking them to lower the volume from devices if you don’t work well with noise.
When you’ve achieved all you had planned to do from your to-do list, you will feel proud. And have the joy of spending time with your loved ones without thinking about work.
8. Do what works for you
Make it personal.
I have a friend who wears heels while working from home. That’s what she uses to communicate to her brain that it’s work time.
9. Celebrate your wins
It’s okay to treat yourself like a child in this situation. Be your ever-present cheering squad.
When you complete a task, do a little dance, get yourself a healthy snack, give yourself a treat.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Are work from home jobs legit?
If you’re in search of a job you can do from home, this question must have crossed your mind.
Yes, there are many legit/real online jobs out there.
What plants the doubt in our minds is how we’ve been conditioned to believe that a job is ‘something that you go to.’ I’m here to reframe your mindset. Work is not something that you go to, work is something that you do. This can be done anywhere, which is why domestic chores should be recognized as work and women or moms who work from home should be compensated for it
There’s also the challenge of scammers. For every one legit job, I can bet there are 50+ scams. This is especially so during this pandemic since online scammers know that a lot of people who have been laid off are vulnerable and desperate.
Here is a checklist you can use to avoid getting scammed or ripped off
Ask friends about it.
Use social media such as LinkedIn to ask people if they have heard of the company. If yes, ask them to share their experience.
Check online reviews.
When people are happy with a company’s service, they leave reviews online. If the negative reviews outweigh the positive, run!
Call the recruiter and ask questions.
Ask about the job description, work hours, terms and everything else you need to know to feel secure. Be on the lookout for red flags. If they avoid some questions or give vague answers, don’t sign up.
Check their website.
Legit companies have professional websites with contact details, location and even names of employees. If not all, at the very list, there’s a list of top management. Go to LinkedIn and check that these people exist and work in the company.
Ask for references.
Ask the recruiter to provide you with current or former employees that you can ask for references. If they don’t have any, unless it’s a start-up, run.
Think hard before paying or buying the work from home equipment.
Some legit online job sites ask people to pay a small fee to filter out scammers. However, if you feel like they’re rushing you or asking you to send the money to a person as opposed to the company account, they’re most likely scammers.
Also, ask them about the return policy of the money and equipment. They should have official documents to sign off against.
Ask them to provide the equipment you need to work from home.
These include stationery, laptop, mouse and printer. A company should be able to provide this equipment to its employees.
When in doubt, verify the company’s legitimacy.
Check the Better Business Bureau.
Working from home is a learning process. Eventually, you get it right. Keep showing up at your work desk.