With a third of the world’s population currently on lockdown many people are experiencing huge changes to their daily routines. Working from home has been rising in popularity for a long time and is often referred to as being the future of work. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, a huge number of people have been suddenly and unexpectedly catapulted into remote working, requiring individuals and workplaces to quickly adapt.
I’m Erin and I’m a Marketing Executive here at The TEFL Org. I’ve been working from home for the last 3 years, so while the rest of the office has gone fully remote, it’s business as usual for me…. well, aside from the fact the government will only allow me to go outside once a day and I can’t for the life of me get hold of certain pantry staples.
Are you adapting to working from home? Or considering starting a new career as an online English teacher so you can work from home? Well, here are my top tips for you!
Set out rules with others in the household
Unless you live alone you’ll need to talk to other members of your household about how you navigate sharing the same space. If you’re currently in lockdown with people not normally at home all day this couldn’t be more important. It’s so easy to get on top of each other, so if you’re in a household with others who are also working then establish your own working spaces. For those not working ask them to be respectful of when you’re on the clock.
And make sure if you have work calls scheduled that everyone else is aware so no one bursts into the room à la Professor Robert Kelly’s daughter…
If you’re suddenly working from home then you’re probably going to be moving a lot less than you usually do. This is bad for both body and mind so it’s important to make the effort to be active.
Getting outside for a walk or run is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise, and take a break from work. At the moment, I’m using my lunch breaks to take a brisk walk (keeping 2 metres away from others!). Stretching my legs and having a brief change of scenery really helps with my productivity in the afternoon as well, so it’s a win-win.
YouTube is a great resource for finding home workouts that require little or no equipment. There’s never been a better time to try out something like Yoga or start a fitness challenge!
Keep work and home separate
Most of us will have designated working hours as determined by our employer. But if you don’t, or you have the option to be flexible with those hours, it can be a really good idea to allocate your working time and stick to it.
The reason for this is that you need to make sure you’re able to switch off. When the workplace and home are in the some domain you want, as far as possible, to separate the two. It can be easy to procrastinate and feel like you can use the whole day to complete your tasks, but if you do that then you’re going to be in work mode for much longer than you need to be.
As well as keeping regular hours, having a separate space for work is also important. It doesn’t need to be a dedicated room set up as an office, but make sure you have a spot where you can sit down and do work – one that doesn’t cross over with where you normally spend your downtime. The couch in front of the TV is a bad idea!
Work out when you’re most productive
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about working from home is that you’re not as productive – if I had a penny for every time someone said to me “oh, I couldn’t work from home – I’d never get anything done!”… Most of us who’ve been working from home for any length of time can tell you that’s not true and, if anything, you can be more productive without office-based distractions. That being said, you do need to put in the work and effort to establish a routine to ensure you’re optimising your working hours. If not it certainly there definitely is a danger of not getting work done!
You probably have an idea of what time of the day you’re at your most productive, but a change in routine – like working from home when you don’t usually – can change that. Pay attention to your productivity over a period of a few days and use that to inform how you structure your day going forward.
Our level of productivity and motivation doesn’t stay consistent throughout the day, and that’s okay. But finding a way of structuring your day, prioritising tasks, and using methods of boosting your motivation (like breaks, exercise, etc.) will help you get the most out of your working hours.
When you’re in the office you’ll be taking breaks for lunch, to make tea/coffee, and you’ll also probably spend some time chatting to colleagues. You can’t be consistently productive for 8 solid hours a day and if you tried you’d fry your brain and burn out.
Take your lunch away from your computer and allow yourself to switch off, just like you likely do in the office. I often use a cup of tea as a little reward when I’ve got through a chunk of work and it helps break up tasks a bit, as well as getting me off my seat. If you find yourself flagging or procrastinating then get up and take a short break, just doing something else for 10 minutes or so can be enough to recharge.
Write up a to-do list every morning
Every morning, I write up a to-do list of tasks I want to complete that day. I keep an ever-growing larger to-do list, which I consult each morning and I prioritise what needs to be worked on that day.
As mentioned already, how you tackle your daily list can depend on your peak productivity times and simply how you’re feeling that morning. I often try to tick off a bunch of smaller tasks early on to get the ball rolling, but on some days it can a big motivation boost to get that one task you really can’t be bothered doing out of the way first thing.
Help yourself focus
If you’ve got a big task that requires a lot of concentration then it’s good to have some tactics to hand to help you focus.
When I’ve got a lot of writing to get through I sometimes turn off Slack notifications and close my emails for a period to help me focus. Be sure to communicate to your colleagues so they know you’re getting your head down and not just ignoring them!
There are so many productivity apps out there, it’s hard to know where to start. If checklists are your thing and help keep you accountable then any.do might be the organisational tool for you. A fun (and very effective) app is Forest, which allows you to grow a forest but only if you’re being productive. When you need to focus you plant a seed, which will grow into a tree if you stay off your phone for a set period of time – but if you procrastinate and check your social media, your tree will die.
If you know of any great productivity apps or tips then share them in the comments below!
Take care of your mental health
Working from home during a lockdown will be harder for some people than others. The Mental Health Foundation has some great information about how to look after your mental health during this time. Keep connected with others and yourself.
At the moment there’s a constant stream of updates about COVID-19, which I’m trying to switch off from during the day – not just to help me focus, but because I’m also trying to keep my stress levels down. If the news is likewise stressing you out take steps to reduce how often you check it.
Careful with snacking
This is a tip from my colleague Thomas, our online courses manager who works from home in Madrid. It can be easy – too easy – to snack when you’re at home and have access to your own cupboards and fridge. Personally, I prefer to eliminate temptation and avoid having things like crisps, biscuits and sweets in (I learnt this was a bad idea early on when I first started working from home). Stock up instead on healthy snacks, like fruit and nuts and reach for those instead when you’re feeling peckish mid-afternoon.
If changing into your usual work attire helps you get into work-mode then do that. But one of the joys of working from home for most of us is spending a fraction of the time getting ready each morning and throwing on whatever is comfortable.
As a seasoned remote worker with a millennial’s aversion to business attire, comfort is key. So while I do get dressed for work in the morning, this usually simply involves changing into a t-shirt and throwing on a jumper. That’s enough to get me in work-mode, but find what suits you!
If you’re new to working from home let us know how you’re getting on in the comments below! And if you’re already an experienced remote worker share your tips to help others out.
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