11 hacks to smash working from home
© Bongkarn Thanyakij; Unsplash
With more people moving their office desk to their living room, here are some tips and tricks to help bag that promotion without even leaving the front door.
It's amazing how much more work you can get done working at home as opposed to the office. If it's not Dave from accounts chewing your ear off by the kettle, it's those endless meetings about other meetings that always - always! - end in everyone doing that little mini nodding thing which basically translates to 'we could have done this over email'.
On the other hand, as good as it is working from home and being your own boss, so to speak, there are still plenty of obstacles to navigate while working remotely, including the warm, comforting embrace of your old friend the television. Well, turn it off and get to work, because here are 11 tips to ensure you become a remote working legend.
1. Walk or run around the block before work
It’s all very well and good having the shortest commute of all time, but an active commute has been shown to enhance performance and keep blood, glucose and oxygen levels high — so try leaving the house for a brisk 15-minute run or walk before opening the laptop. As well as providing a cognitive boost, it gives you an excuse to get dressed properly, ensuring you’re less likely to fall into any bad habits than you would do in your PJs.
2. Break work up into 25-minute chunks
One of the biggest benefits of not working in an office is being able to buck the herd mentality and work to your own beat. The Pomodoro Method – a time management system breaking down work into 25 minute spells separated by short breaks of between 3 and 5 minutes – is a perfect way to help dice up your day. Scientifically proven to increase your output, you can even use website Tomato-Timer.com to keep track of your progress.
3. Find your ultradian rhythm
Want to achieve the heightened state known as 'flow', which, according to many leading neuroscientists, leaves you more receptive to activity immersion and miles more productive? Well, pay attention to the times you feel productive in a day. The brain cycles through 90-minute periods of extreme efficiency, known as ultradian cycles, when your mind is where you’re more attuned than ever. The cycle in which we dip in and out of them is called the ultradian rhythm - tap into yours and you'll be a remote working dynamo.
4. Utilise Gmail's scheduling tool
Even if you do start early and smash all your targets by 4 pm, one of the pitfalls of working from home is having to maintain the illusion that you’re always present, always on. So thank the lord of early finishes, then, for Gmail, which you may not have realised features a scheduling tool allowing you to fire off emails at pre-set times. Simply compose an email, click the blue button with a triangle icon next to ‘send’, schedule exactly when you want a message to leave your outbox, and then crack on with that game of Call of Duty.
5. Spend time with a pet
It may sound counterintuitive but playing with your pooch may help you smash through your workload while working from home (WFH). A 2012 study at Virginia Commonwealth University found employees who worked with their dogs experienced lower stress levels and displayed more job satisfaction. Pet owners are also less likely to suffer from loneliness, so if you don’t already own a furry colleague, it might be the best time to take one home.
6. Invest in a stand-up desk
Just as in an office, being hunched over a table all day isn’t going to be all that good for your back, and before you say it, lying on the sofa isn’t going to make you all that productive, either. The answer? A mini standup desk, giving you the opportunity to mix it up when you fancy a change of scenery and improve your focus. This Yo Yo Desk Mini will drop right onto any existing desk and, ahem, stand you in good stead for your workday.
7. Journal like a pro
One surefire way to keep on top of your workload is with a digital To-Do List. Look no further than Day One, a swish journal designed to streamline your thoughts, ideas and tasks in one place, even using photos, videos, drawings, or audio recordings to bring your journal entries to life. Though if you're leading a team remotely, we'd suggest keeping track of everything in Asana or Trello, which are absolute lifesavers when it comes to managing people and projects.
8. Use a different browser for work
Procrastinationville, population: you. Despite best-laid plans, with social media and the hum of 24hour rolling news, it's all too easy to end up here when you don't have the boss's eyes on you. One surefire way to keep focused is to have one browser, i.e Google Chrome, specifically for work-related bits. Bookmarks, tabs, shortcuts, plugins - make them all work-related and you'll be distraction-free in no time. Trust us, it works.
9. Make your workspace green
Numerous scientific studies have proven that plants in the workplace can increase product productivity among employees. NASA's 1989 Clean Air Study, meanwhile, has found that certain household plants can absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, and provide a natural way of removing volatile organic pollutants in the air. If nothing else, they'll also help make your environment look a bit more swish. Helpfully, you can read all of the recommended houseplants here.
10. Turn the music off occasionally
The jury may still be out on whether music at work is a help or a hindrance, but at least where creative thinking is concerned at least, experts are largely in agreement that background music can stifle creativity. That's not to say you shouldn't listen to music while you are really up against it, best pause that Spotify playlist and tune in to your inner voice.
11. Clean up at lunch
Short of going for a nice big run, if it's tipping it down outside we advise getting the vacuum out and having a big clean up on your lunch hour. Not only will this put some order and routine to your day, keeping you active while also processing the past few hours' work, but it gives you an excuse to spruce up your desk and workspace. In 2011, researchers at Princeton found that clutter made it difficult for the brain's visual cortex to fully focus on tasks. You know what they say: tidy desk, tidy bonus come the end of the year.