Many people who have started working from home due to COVID-19 have found that they enjoy it so much that they are seriously considering giving up the daily commute. But what really goes on behind closed doors? New Zealand-based, freelance online content creator, Bronwyn Bulwer looked at working from home around the world to see what the different experiences have been.
Catherine Charnock, a designer from England, reports that even though she works fewer daily hours, she is definitely more productive than when she used to work in an office. “There are no colleagues to chat with at the coffee machine, no unnecessary meetings, and no-one to come and chat with me when they are work-avoiding.”
Most homeworkers agreed. Interestingly, for many, their focus has switched to completing what needs to be done rather than filling set work hours. “I find I can get into a state of flow far easier and I focus more on productivity rather than time,” explained Clive Vanderwagen, a training specialist from South Africa.
• Take a break
“Don’t feel bad about taking breaks, your productive blocks will be intense when you have no distractions at home,” said Liora Saad, designer and business owner in New Zealand.
Some homeworkers go for a walk, play with pets, do a household chore or even take a power nap.
“I go outside and sit in the garden with my notebook when I need to brainstorm,” explained Bianca Rohan, a self-employed HR Consultant, Coach and Facilitator in South Africa.
• Work from home playlists
Listening to music while working from home seems to be common wherever you are in the world. “What I listen to varies according to my mood and what work I am doing,” commented Tom Ford, a consultant from New Zealand.
Favorite playlists ranged from jazz to Chopin and Bad Seeds to Hot Country. Recorded nature sounds, brain.fm and Noisli are popular for deep focus tasks.
Switching off at the end of the day
Without exception, everyone said that the best way to maintain a separation between work and home life was to be able to close the door of their home office at the end of the day.
“I have to physically close my office door and turn off my laptop otherwise I’m always checking one more thing, responding to one more email,” explains Belinda Weaver, a copywriter and copywriting coach in California.
Doing something physical or fun seems to be one of the most effective ways to make the mental transition. Fetching children from school, preparing a meal or working out are all popular practices.
While nearly all the homeworkers said that they were more productive due to fewer interruptions, some missed the energy of colleagues. “I miss bouncing ideas off other people around me,” explained Clive.
“Cuppa tea” catchups via Zoom and video calls during lunchtime with colleagues and friends are easy ways to stay connected with others during the day.
Daily Routine for working from home
• Set a schedule and stick to it
Most of the homeworkers set themselves specific work hours. Many appreciate the flexibility to work around school and child care, which results in increased productivity in the fewer hours they have. “I have a lot to achieve in a small amount of time, there’s no time to mess around,” explained Catherine.
Bianca agreed. “I find that a routine is important, even on the quieter days, to remain productive.”
• Create a pre-work ritual
Lighting a candle, pouring a cup of coffee, writing up a list of priorities for the day or playing a “mojo” song are some of the daily rituals that homeworkers use to get themselves into a work mindset.
• Dress for success
While some work in their pyjamas, (only changing into a smarter top for Zoom meetings!) the majority of homeworkers I spoke to wear comfortable, casual clothes.
“I find that when I feel better, I work better,” explained Pip Christie, a copywriter and website designer in England. “That being said, I do like to have a day working in comfy clothes every now and again – you’ve got to take advantage of these things!”
“Sometimes if I am feeling tired or lacking vitality for my work, I dress to lift my mood and energy levels,” says Tamu Thomas, a coach, speaker and writer based in England.
The home workspace
Most of the homeworkers I interviewed are fortunate to have a dedicated office space in their house.
After working on her dining table for many years, Belinda has created a space of her own. “I finally kicked the spare bed out of our small, third room, and bought a big desk, bookshelves, and awesome wall decals. Now it’s my workspace and I love it!”
“I’m very lucky to have a separate office space in the house which I share with my boyfriend,” said Pip. “For me, it’s all about keeping it tidy, having some work inspiration on the wall, and a gorgeous candle for a touch of calm!”
Clive also shares a home office with his partner. “It’s filled with books I love so it feels like I’m working in a small library.”
Dealing with distractions
While everyone said that they found it easy to focus, some days distractions are just too tempting.
Many homeworkers mention snacking as the worst temptation. “When I stress, I eat, so on bad days I spend a lot of time staring longingly into the fridge!” said Clive.
Social media is another big potential distraction, and many homeworkers have taken the step of removing social media apps and notifications from their computers.
Pip had another good suggestion. “My main distraction has to be Instagram but I have time limits set-up on my phone to monitor this and, when I really need to focus, I’ll leave my phone in another room so I’m away from temptation.”
“I find that putting everything into my online calendar helps me manage my time more effectively,” explained Bianca. “The calendar sends a reminder when I am distracted or immersed in another task.”
Tamu uses the Pomodoro technique to stay focussed. “Social media is the worst distraction,” she explained. “I remember to ask myself if this is helping me create the future I want.”
The best things about working from home
- Being home for children before and after school
- No time and money wasted commuting every day
- Not having to deal with office politics
- Working in a personal and inspiring workspace
- Listening to your own music
- Being able to control the temperature of the room
- Not having to share a loo with other people!
Tips for working from home
- Create a separate office space if you can and make it as comfortable and inviting as possible
- Set working hours and stick to them
- Take regular breaks
- Be intentional about socialising with others if you crave the interaction
- Find a way to mark the end of the workday and switch off
Thanks also to insights from: William McQueen, Business Owner and Director of Rekord and Food Truck League, Nicola Cronin, Business Owner littleolivetree, Peerayot Gwilliam, Kitchen Designer, and Larise Carte van Zyl, Account Case Manager.
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