• Diana McLaren

My Top 20 Tips for working from home!

I keep coming across ‘work from home tips’, which many people probably need, cause working from home is tricky if you haven’t done it before. But everything I’ve read seems to be written by someone who has never worked at home but only knows it by vague description (wear shoes at your home desk… oh hell no, you’re missing the whole point).

To effectively work from home you need to embrace that you are at home and enjoy that as well as setting boundaries so you can get work done. You are not in your office, and pretending you are isn’t helping. You are in a house with many distractions and no peer pressure to keep working… you’re going to need boundaries, sure, but you’ll also need to keep your sanity and take some pleasure in working from home or you’re going to hate it.

As an artist and someone with a small business I have long since walked the line of trying to keep work-life balance while working from home so here are my ideas: you’re a toddler on your first date, don’t get drunk and don’t piss off the other diners.

1. It’s about being the right kind of drunk: and by that, I mean you want everything fuzzy but not completely blurred. The work/chill line is going to get a bit messy and that’s okay as long as it’s not puking in the gutter messy. Don’t let it get too fuzzy but don’t be too strict either cause you’ll miss out on the good.

a. Make like a guy who’s too proud of his muscles and flex- Flexibility is one of the parts that rocks so go with it. Set the number of hours of work you’re going to do that day and do it but if you get the urge to have a long lunch break and take the dog for a walk… Do it! Instead of working 9 to 5, work 10 to 1 and 3 till 7, or 3 till 11 or whatever (check-in with your team and boss on this one obviously). Just get your set time and or jobs done (see 2a).

b. You’re not washing your clothes by hand- Multitasking being effective is a myth we can truly bust another day... but just know it does not work. However, putting your clothes in the machine and leaving it to do its thing isn’t multi-tasking. Take advantage of the other stuff you can get done like laundry but a. it doesn’t count as a break and b. you still need to make up that work time.

c. Do you want red or white? – You’re going to have to figure out your own preferences. Your structure is completely your own now… do you like to clear your admin and then get into the work or do you like to get all your work done and then deal with admin last? Or do you admin check in the morning, work and then admin check in the afternoon? Trial and error my friends… it’s the only way! And stay flexible, like when goon seemed like a good idea in university but no you know it's shit!

2. You are now a toddler and must be treated as such: I know you’re an adult, but when the social pressure to work evaporates you’re going to need to create a lot of structure if you want to get work done and still have downtime.

a. Set tasks AND time boundaries- at the start of the day set a list of the things you need/want to get accomplished and if you get everything done you get an early mark but if you reach the time limit you’re done anyway. It can be hard to stay motivated working at home but if there’s a potential reward for getting your work done it gets a lot easier. But you can’t work all night and not turn off at the end of the day either. So set the time and the tasks. Whichever comes first wins!

b. Schedule breaks with a start and an end time- it is weirdly easy to work straight through the entire day and equally easy to wander the house aimlessly accomplishing nothing. Make sure you’re taking regular breaks (I suggest morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea because that’s what toddlers do) but make sure they all have an end time as well as a start time.

c. Playtime is important - and you need exercise. You have no idea how much incidental exercise you get every day until you take away your commute, walk to the coffee shop, and wander around the office etc. So remember those breaks I mentioned… don’t just go sit in another chair. A dance party is my favourite but jumping jacks, sit-ups, a lap around the kitchen etc. anything that gets the blood flowing will work, and when it works, so can you.

d. It is NOT 5 o’clock somewhere in the world- Remember you’re a toddler… no drinking! DO NOT have a glass of wine while you get those last emails done… or if you do, don’t hit send till the morning. This is a case of things getting too fuzzy, you know your own limits and all but you’re already in a different headspace than you are at the office because you’re home, so be careful.

3. Be aware of the other diners- Your coworkers are the freaking worst: I know Scotty from Marketing is the actual worst but your new coworkers; yourself, your family and your pets/ plants are pretty bad too. And you’re going to miss how un-shit your coworkers actually are.

a. You are closed for business- as in closed to get your business done. Family, roommates and pets (and whoever else you might be isolating with) have a very different relationship to you then your coworkers so if you’re sharing your home get clear on when you’re working and when you’re not. I have a closed/ open sign on my door to my bedroom so people know when an interruption would be welcome and when I will shoot you in the face if you so much as ask if we can have a quick word.

b. Talk to rubber duck- the option of asking the person next to you isn’t there anymore, sure you can message or call but it’s going to delay your work. So here’s the secret, voicing it out loud is when the brain flash comes and you may not need that other person. This is something I learned off a programmer (Thanks Dan) when they have code problems they explain it to a duck and it weirdly works. You can use a pet or a picture on the wall but if you get stuck on a problem talk it out and you will often get your breakthrough, it’s the same as talking to a colleague except you don’t have to deal with their answers. And if it doesn’t work then call someone. And don’t shy away from looking like a crazy person… really go for it, my dog is particularly good at design problems.

c. Morning wood is not a thing- you’re not a teenage boy, you’re not ready to go the second you wake up. You might think ‘Hey, no commute I can wake up at 8.50 and be ready to work at 9.’ You would be wrong. You need some time in the morning to actually wake up. That being said you don’t have to commute to the office or anything so you can sleep later but I suggest there is at least a 30 - 40 minute window between waking up and thinking clearly.

d. Other people are eating here too- You’re coworkers, whether they be your housemates or the people on your conference call, they all have their own shit going on, respect it. If your call starts late because your coworker had to get their child occupied before the call, respect that. We’re all doing our best. If your housemate is having ‘work time’ don’t interrupt them with questions about lunch or they may shoot you in the face (I believe this is why Nerf guns were actually invented).

4. Treat it like a first date… you’re going to need ambience: you got to get in the mood to work when you’re not used to working from home and the ambience makes the mood.

a. Mood music- you’re going to have two problems, firstly its way to quiet and secondly you’re not really focusing because the TV or music is distracting you. For some tasks, you won’t need all your concentration so that’s cool but for others, you need to turn that noise off to get it done properly (and quickly so you can have your early mark). So pick your tasks and if it’s possible, put your background music on in a room near you but not the room you’re in. It will remind you of the annoying chatter coming from the break room.

b. Location, location… it’s not just about location: Setting up a specific workspace is great but not necessarily possible, we don’t all have a spare bedroom. My desk has been less than a meter from my bed for 4 years and I’m still fine (twitches). And my personal fun time on the computer and my work time happen in the exact same space. What’s important is the feeling of separation. One option is to set up a separate login on your computer that has a different desktop picture/ colours etc. Another is my habit of swapping glasses: no glasses = fun time, blue glasses = creative work, grey glasses = admin and worky work. I also use the lighting state of my room: Fairy lights = chill time, overhead lights = work time… you get the idea.

c. Put your pants back on… you perv!- This could also fall under the ‘you are now a toddler thing’ but either way just remember… put your pants on. Get dressed each morning but it’s a relaxed dress code, take pleasure in that. I have swapped from my PJ’s to yoga pants only to swap back 8 hours later, hell I’ve swapped from sleeping PJ pants to working PJ pants. It seems weird but it does help again with the separation thing. So get dressed but remember one of the benefits of working from home is comfort and embrace that as well.

d. If you’re going to hit record… stay aware of the camera- If you’re a part of a team you’ll be doing conference calls, and it’s tempting to open other windows on your computer but keep the camera in the corner of your screen. Don’t ever cover it up because it’s easy to forget that they can see you and you may end up peeing in front of your team or picking your nose… equally gross in my opinion. And this goes double for any remote logins… they can see your screen people, close that Porn Hub tab you were saving for later or your eBay order for adult diapers.

So that’s it just remember- you’re a toddler on your first date… don’t get drunk and you will be fine. Hell, it might even be fun!

And if you enjoyed this content or other content on my website, or you've had the chance to read my FREE BOOK, please remember you can DONATE to the out of work performer who also freelances supporting artists, which has also dried up... that's me!

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