How we’re staying productive while working from home.
Businesses up and down the country are continuing to attempt to rise to the challenges in the wake of government advice in response to COVID-19. In this era of self-isolation, remote working comes with entirely new surroundings and working practices for most. While initially working from home might seem the dream, it can come with its obstacles and requires extra effort to remain productive and mind-healthy.
At The Bigger Boat, we’ve been working from home since the week before lockdown was announced. We’re banding together, keeping in touch frequently and helping each other to stay motivated. Here, some of the crew explain how they’re remaining as productive as possible during what can be long days of home working, and how they’re looking after themselves.
Keep a routine and exercise
I try to get up at a similar time to before social distancing guidelines came in, so my routine is as close to normal as possible. I’ve set up a temporary office in the loft and because it’s not a room I’d usually spend a lot of time in, it’s become my ‘work zone’. When I leave it, I’m not working (much) and that helps to divide work and time with the family a little better. Maintaining exercise is always recommended. It always clears your head and reduces stress, and anything that can help with that is a good thing right now.
Andy McCaul, managing director
Act as if you’re heading to work
As someone who relishes the office life, and finds it difficult to motivate myself in the same manner at home, my best advice for maintaining productivity working from home is to follow your morning routine as if you were still commuting to work. It might be tempting to throw on some tracksuit bottoms and a comfortable T-shirt, skip the shower until later and approach work in a more casual way. Personally, this doesn’t work well for me, and I much prefer to get up, get my shower, dress as if I were about to walk out of the front door and into my car, but instead sit down at the dining room table and start work. This way, I am refreshed and feel ready for the day ahead!
John Bell, web developer
The office environment relies heavily on social interaction and collaborative working – it’s so important to keep up this momentum, both for productivity levels and mental wellbeing. Go beyond email and make sure you’re using various digital tools available to best replicate that face-to-face communication of the office. Isolating needn’t mean isolation. Throughout the day, we’re constantly making use of Slack, Zoom and Google Hangouts to name a few – being as in touch as we would be in the office allows us to be just as productive in our work. We’ve also set up a team playlist on Spotify, challenged each other in quizzes and met for a virtual drink after work. It all helps to keep us smiling. Plus, regrouping like this maintains relationships with colleagues and eases any feelings of loneliness.
Carrie Webb, senior writer
Find a balance
Drawing the line between work life and personal life is crucial if you want to keep your productivity and motivation up in both of these areas. There always needs to be a balance, otherwise, the scales tip and you either get overwhelmed by work or lose grip of your career. As for distraction and focus when working from home my advice would be to set up a clean desk/workstation. Get those notebooks and plates off the desk! Other great boosts when it comes to working from home include music, lighting and decoration. Choosing the right music that gets you in the “focus zone” is important. Lighting, especially when working at night, needs to be on point. Your eyes and the brightness and hues of colours it receives guides your body towards either productivity or relaxing. Choosing a bright white light or two less bright sources of light usually works best for me personally. Plants and other decorative pieces will brighten up your room and that usually impacts productivity as well! Ultimately, if you can combine all of that and be able to have a separate room dedicated for work, that would be ideal!
Vladislav Nikolov, web developer
Adapt your days for you
I am trying to exercise in the morning and on an evening so I’m not stuck at the desk all day. I’ll ride my bike if the weather’s good and I’ve kitted out my garage with a make-shift gym. To keep me productive during working hours, I’m compiling a ‘working at home’ playlist and trying to use Zoom or a phone call, rather than email and Slack, so you get a more ‘face-to-face’ experience, rather than all text chat.
Doug Main, creative director
Learn to switch off
I think it’s really important that we don’t get too over-consumed by trying so hard to keep in touch with everyone – it’s important, yes. But so is spending time on your own or with your immediate family in your household. I’ve found that making sure I’m planning designated ‘catch-up nights’ with friends and family really helps because it makes me feel like I don’t have to always have my phone on me. Spending time by yourself is also paramount at the moment. I’m not saying have a long bath and spend three hours pampering yourself – for most, this just isn’t feasible. But could you get out early for a run on your own, set up a space to do yoga in a quiet corner of the house or work on that 20-minute skin care routine?
Ruby Ribbons, account manager
De-clutter and keep tidy
At the end of every day, I make sure I tidy my office and my desk ready for the next morning. A clear workspace means a clear head and this way, I’m able to keep focused on the task at hand.
Kara Clifford, designer
Get in the right frame of mind
My top tip for staying productive while working from home is making sure you start the day off right. This could be by exercising in the morning and getting some fresh air before you start, making sure your workspace is tidy and organised before you settle down for the day, or, perhaps, most importantly, having a good breakfast!
Joe Vickers, account manager
Fresh air is key
During the working day, I really miss interaction with the team, especially being able to ask quick questions over the office desk, which is why I’ve tried to pick up the phone and have a chat instead of sending an email. A change of scenery for me at work in general is really important to my productivity, and although a little more difficult at home, I have enjoyed soaking up some sun and working in the garden when the weather allows. I’ve been listening to more music than I normally ever do and have curated different playlists to keep me focused in the day. At the end of the working day I have been taking full advantage of going out for a long walk and practicing to fully ‘switch off’ during this time, meaning disconnecting from my phone and just enjoying being outside and having some me time. I think we have to be kind to ourselves and understand that some days are better than others. This is new to us all, and we’re adapting every day to this new way of working.
Grace Lenihan, account manager
Stick to routine
Keeping to the same morning routine really helps when working from home (it certainly helps the kids kick start the day when home schooling!). Keeping in touch with everyone helps and not just always talking work, sometimes you just need a little bit of normal chat! I have also found that going out for my hour of daily exercise daily is helping. It means I get to spend a good hour with my children while taking in the fresh air then back to it.
Emma Heslop, account director
It’s important to not let your self-discipline dwindle but equally set boundaries between work and life outside of work. I try not to blur the lines between home and work too much so having a designated workspace and creating a setup that mimics the office helps me stay productive – I’m talking pens, notebooks, monitors, Sellotape, a printer and even a stapler.
It’s good to mentally disconnect from work and properly recharge. When I feel sidetracked, I go downstairs and play with my dog, Lola, for 10 minutes. My boyfriend and I will agree on a time to have a proper lunch break away from the computers and chat. It helps to keep my brain sharp and I can then hone in on the next set of tasks with more energy. We all arrive at offices at a certain time, get the work done and then once we leave it’s our time to decompress. I think it’s vital to do this whilst WFH too. It’ll help to curb any stress on top of stress from what’s going on currently with the world.
Charlotte Allen, designer
Everything in moderation
As a man with no children, my personal physical health and fitness is the number one priority. Focusing on my diet and exercising makes me feel better about pretty much everything and it helps me think clearly.
Another thing I find is that if my working area remains tidy and orderly, it helps keep my mind tidy and orderly. It helps to have a routine. That way everything becomes automated and you don’t develop blind spots for things that are becoming out of place, which is easy to do if you are in a chaotic environment. Finally, I find it is important to stay active in multiple communities because it helps contextualise the environments I’m in and identify when things are not optimal and gives me perspective on how to improve things.
Steven Powers, web developer
Break up your day
I’ve developed quite a rigid routine since we first started working from home – and it includes productive work time, all-important down-time and it allows me to get some fresh air when I need it. Here’s what my day looks like:
- I go outside in the garden for 10 mins with a coffee first thing to get some fresh air
- I get some music on and then crack on through to lunch
- I’ll get away from the screen and make something nice for lunch
- In the afternoon, I listen to podcasts while I work for background noise
- If I get bored being in one place, I move around a bit and go work in the living room
Mark Jenkins, digital marketing manager