When working from home, you’re left to your own devices. While the work in itself is defined, the way you go about it is not. You can set your own hours, dress how you want to, and even run errands and put on some washing in between tasks and meetings. You have the independence to work how you like and where you like, and it’s ultimately up to you to ensure you get the job done.
While this sounds like a dream come true for many, the independence associated with working remotely does carry with it the risk of being distracted by the many comforts of home – pets, family members, television and the ever-tempting couch.
Here at Fifty Acres, we know all too well the benefits of working remotely, and the challenges. So how do we stay on task? We’ve listed a few ways we stay focused and productive when working from home – and still enjoy the perks that come with it!
Develop a routine: Every day at Fifty Acres is vastly different from the next. One day you’re speaking with journalists from around the country, and the next you’re drafting up the Mayor’s speech. One way you can remain focused is to establish your own routine, and stick to it. While there are many articles out there advocating specific routines, what it comes down to is what works best for you and makes you most productive. We all have times during the day when we are most productive and creative, and times we suck wind to type even one more word or make one more call. Identify your best hours and plan your day around those natural rhythms of energy and focus.
Designate a workspace: Working on the couch, in bed or at the kitchen is part of the freedom of working at home. But sometimes when you scatter your work around, your ideas, papers and productivity get scattered too. Rather than working in bed where you may be tempted to fall asleep, or on the kitchen table, choose a space in your home where you can close the door, have the space entirely to yourself and work in peace, away from distractions. Invest in a proper work set up, with a good desk and ergonomic office chair, and keep all your technology, files, tools and other work stuff nearby for quick and easy access.
Take breaks: Grinding out work at all hours of the day and night isn’t healthy. Whether it be grabbing a snack to eat or a cup of tea to drink, putting on some washing, packing the dishwasher, feeding the dog, giving our horses some hay or giving the neighbour’s cat a quick cuddle, there are tons of benefits to taking a quick break - they refresh our energy, starve off boredom, and help us refocus on the bigger picture. Remember, though, that your break should be just that, a break.
Coffee or tea (your choice): This one’s self-explanatory. Invest in a good coffee machine for a boost of energy, or have cups of green tea throughout the day to keep you calm and collected.
Create a calendar and To Do list: When you wake up in the morning, do you know what to focus on each day? If not, it’s time to create a calendar or To Do list. What we’ve found incredibly useful is having two kinds of To Do lists – one for the tasks we need to finish by the end of the day, and another for the tasks which need to be complete by the week’s end (these usually aren’t as urgent). Synchronizing our calendars across multiple clients also helps us keep track of projects, while ensuring we can stay focused and fully concentrate on priority items.
Plan ahead: This one speaks for itself. We’ve found that planning our workdays the night before helps us organise our time and ensures that we can wake up the next day ready to dive in to our tasks.
Get out of the house: After a while, working from home may feel like you’re living in a cave. A great way to take a break is to get out of the house. Whether it be for a quick run around the block, a gym session or a visit to the local café for lunch, getting out of the house helps us stay sane and boost our productivity. Our Director Kristy has recently welcomed a Houdini piglet named Miss Piggy to her home, and spends some time outdoors chasing her around the paddock!
Listen to music: Working in silence may work for some, but others may prefer having some background music playing.
Communicate: Our team has a daily standup meeting each morning, which we call a “scrum”, where we share what we're working on for the day. This helps us keep track of different projects and clients, and allows us to communicate with each other in regards to priorities.
At the end of the day, the key to successfully working from home is to create an environment and process that works for YOUR individual needs and preferences. We all have different structures and all work differently, so it’s important to be open to experimentation to find your perfect work-at-home groove.