Working-from-Home Starter Guide

As a digital marketing agency, most of the work we do is creative work, which means we have to work, most of the time, in front of a computer. For a few years, we thought about going remote until we became a fully remote team at the end of 2017. It was something that we had been planning for a while, so when the opportunity arose, we took it. I’m glad to say it’s been a great decision, but it took some time for us to get used to it. Now with “more people in lockdown than were alive during WWII,” we decided to write the Working-from-home starter guide. This doesn’t apply to everybody. It depends mostly on the kind of work you do. If you are one of those fortunate enough to be able to work from home, then here are some tips to make this transition as stressless as possible. While this is something that has worked for us, it doesn’t mean that it is a set in stone. You should try to see what works for you and adapt it from there.

Set a schedule

This one might not seem so obvious. You are home, you have the flexibility of working whenever you want unless there is something critical, or videoconferences going on. But working from home is a two-edged sword. It can help you to work less while being more productive, or it can suck you into putting more hours without making a difference in your productivity. Set a schedule when you will be working and when you are “off” work. Your working hours do not have to be the same as your regular office hours (if your job allows it). Here is a personal tip: you do not have to set all of your working hours back to back. Set schedule breaks, or chunks of the day to rest or do something else. I like to work early and put in two hours of work while it is quiet and try to put my more creative work in there (more about this later). After that, I usually take about an hour off so I can spend breakfast time with my family. Then, I work for about three more hours and then I can relax a bit. Then, depending on the amount of work I have left for that day, I might work a bit more or sometimes I call it a day.

Dress up for work

There are plenty of studies that show that what we wear affects our psychology. I know working from home might sound like a great time to stay in your PJs all day and be relaxed, but wearing the clothes you would usually wear to work helps you get in the “working” mental state. It also helps you set boundaries. If you are done working for the day, then changing your clothes to what you would normally wear at home after coming home from the office, will also help you “turn off.” Remember, we are habit creatures, and simple cues, such as our garments, have a significant impact on our state of mind. So, when you are ready to work, wear the part.

Set a Dedicated Working Space

This goes back to habits and cues. Having an area that you can call “office” at home might trigger your brain into “productivity mode.” If you have an extra room in the house that can be set as a work office, then its idea. If you just have a corner in your room that will work, then set up there. Try different areas until you find a space that works for you. For example, my wife likes to work out of our bedroom. I prefer the living room. Find an area that works for you and make it yours.

Know Your Rhythm

We all have times of the day when we are more productive than others. Science tells us that we all have predefined circadian rhythms that determine patterns for our brain activity. Remember, how I said I like to wake up early and work for a couple of hours while it is quiet? Well, it took me a while to figure that out. I tried doing my productive work, in the morning, during lunch, in the afternoon, even in the late hours of the night. I really tried many hours until I hit my sweet spot for intellectual work. So get to know yourself and find the best productive hours and dedicate them to work. It doesn’t matter if the dishes need to be washed or if you need to walk the dog, once you find what works for you, commit that time to work. As a side benefit, you will find out it will take you less time to get your good work out.

Get the right equipment

I know this is not ideal, but you might have to invest some money to get the most out of your home office setup. Having a slow computer is super frustrating and don’t even get started in an uncomfortable chair. If you need to be in videoconferences often, then find a good microphone and web camera, your colleagues will thank you. Here is what I’ve invested in during the years:

A secondary screen: Yes, all computers have displays, but a secondary, or even tertiary screen if possible, boosts productivity by 20 – 30% according to a study. I personally have three screens: One that I keep for communications, chats, emails, videoconferences. A second one that I use for my main activity at the moment, where I am focusing my attention. The third screen is used as a reference for my main work.

A good ergonomic chair: You will be sitting most of the day, so why sit in a bad chair? A good chair improves not only your productivity but also enhances your health according to this study.

A good set of noise-canceling headphones: There will be times when there will be noise around you when you need to focus. Maybe your kids are laughing in the background, perhaps it is the construction work across the street, the TV on the other room (as I’m writing this my kids are playing video games about in the room next to me), or sometimes you just need to “zone out.” A good set of noise-canceling headphones can have a significant impact on your concentration. This will also allow you to have fewer distractions while talking during video conferences. Most new headsets also include a microphone, which will also improve the quality of your voice during teleconferences.

Final comments

Again, this guide is not a set of rules, it is just a guide. Pay attention to when you have good work days and figure out what made them better and try to repeat those actions to see what works best for you.

What have you noticed is best for you? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a Reply