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#FridayFive: Five Tips for Working From Home

Friday Five

Due to Coronavirus, almost all of us are working from home or remotely. Schools and universities are closed, forcing classes online and all work to be submitted electronically.

It seems that this could potentially be life as we know it for the next couple of months with a few offices in New York even handing in their lease until the end of the year, planning to work completely online until things sort themselves out.

I know that this in an extremely uncertain time for a lot of people and a lot of jobs as we see small businesses struggle, people on buying the necessities and all social activities ceased with entertainment facilities unable to open.

The longer this continues, the more likely we are in for another recession, and unfortunately for me, will likely happen around the time my year in New York is over and when I’ll be looking for another job. Fingers crossed, that doesn’t happen though.

This meeting could’ve been an email

What we’re also seeing by working from home, is that there is a lot of what we do that can be done from home. For me, my job has not changed one bit. I am able to do exactly my same job in my flat in New Jersey, just the same as I was doing it in the World Trade Center.

Could this pave the way for more companies allowing more remote working for all employees? Could this mean a lot of companies are renting out office space when they really don’t need to? Hello Zoom and Google Hangouts for team meetings.

There are so many different networks and software available for companies today that enables us to work from home but still be in contact with one another. Those two hour meetings that you used to have that have now suddenly turned into a short memo? Look at all that time you’ve got back!

Personally, I would love to work from home or at least have the option to add it to my weekly routine. My dream in life is to be able to work from anywhere in the world, with just a laptop and an internet connection. Maybe this virus is creating opportunities for this to happen in the future.

If you would like to employ me from my villa in Bali, do let me know, thank you.

The expert expat

Now that I’ve been working at home for two whole weeks now (I know! Where is my pension already?!) I thought I would share some tips as to what helps me stay focused, stay productive and produce the same level of work as I would in my office surroundings.

It’s not been the easiest two weeks as I also have four other flatmates that live with me in a small confined place. Two of those flatmates work for a drinks company, selling tonic water to bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Since the bars and restaurants have all shut, they now can’t do their job.

My other two flatmates work for large corporate banks, and take a lot of conference calls throughout the day, so it’s not really appropriate to have South Park on the TV while speaking to the VP of Asia Pacific.

But, we’re making it work.

1. Have a dedicated work space

As I said, there are five of us all squeezed into one small living area/dining table. I was the first to start officially working from home, so managed to set up shop at the head of the dining table, giving good light from the window for video calls, far enough away from the TV and kitchen and also with a lot of room to spread my lists.

One other flatmate is currently working from the ironing board (we’ve had to improvise) and is enjoying the wide space it gives him while trying to research any bars that are still operating or in business in NYC. Another flatmate is currently quarantined in a separate flat (more about that here) so that’s one less person needing desk space.

Another flatmate has taken up what used to be our drinks table and is using this as a personal desk instead which seems to be working for him. Although he, like a lot of the other interns, haven’t been given work laptops or been given access to certain software so can’t actually do a lot working from home except join in calls and keep an eye on emails.

My final flatmate likes to spend the morning in bed with her laptop, although this has led to unexpected napping and fatigue in the afternoons. Sometimes she likes to come out of the room and spend the later parts of the afternoons at the dining table with me.

Personally, I recommend any workspace that isn’t your bed or in your bedroom at all. You need to separate your working mind from your relaxing mind. Your bedroom is your sanctuary, where you switch off at night, so you don’t want to associate that space with your laptop and by lying in bed for 8 hours while you sleep and another 8 hours while you work.

Plot yourself by the window, somewhere with a lot of space, beside a plug for your charger and somewhere that isn’t too noisy or distracting.

2. Get your morning routine in order

I spoke more in depth about my morning routine in my daily email that went out this morning – you can sign up to those here – but I think your morning routine really sets you up for the working day ahead.

My morning routine now that I work from home, has been vital. I wake up a lot earlier than I used to, even though I realistically need to move from my bed to the living area. It means that I have an hour to work on myself before I start working ‘for the man’ at 9am.

I use my extra hour or two to work out, drink good coffee, catch up on my emails and social media, read my book and work on my blog. It makes me feel a lot more productive for the day and once 9am comes around, I’ve already ticked a lot off of my to-do list.

3. Minimize distractions

If you have flatmates or pets running around your flat, house or shack, then this could be very distracting for you. Housemates that want to have long conversations while you’re working to deadlines, or flatmates that watch the TV really loudly while you’re trying to take a call, or a dog that has been jumping at you to take it for a walk for the past five hours can all be very distracting to your working life.

Set some boundaries with your flatmates. If you need to take a call, either let them know or take the call in your bedroom. Stick a post-it across your forehead saying ‘Do NOT disturb,’ if you have to, or hide the batteries for the TV remote.

Other distractions to your working from home life can be your phone and the kitchen. Many people tend to over-eat when they work from home as they can’t seem to stop snacking, given that the kitchen is right there. Oh wait, just me is it? Well, we’ll all come rolling out of isolation together, don’t worry.

If you find your phone the most distracting thing, now that there’s no one to give you a stern look after you pick it up for the twenty-fifth time, then turn it on Do Not Disturb mode. Or you could download the Focus app that actually deletes all of your social media apps for a certain amount of time. I haven’t tried it and don’t really want to, but it’s an option for all scrolling addicts out there.

4. Make some lists

Lists are an absolute life-saver for me. I can’t start my day until I’ve written out all of my tasks that need doing, and even the tasks that I need to do outside of work. ‘Send tax forms’ has been on my list for around three weeks now.

I list out my day around times. For example, I’ll have a 7am-9am section where I’ll add things like: gym, coffee, emails, social media, read, blog post, etc. Then the next section will be work to do before lunch and then a section for work to do after lunch.

I don’t need to tell you about the satisfaction that comes from ticking things off of your list, I’m sure you already know about that. But making lists helps so much with productivity and also helps ensure that you won’t forget anything that you’re meant to do, since you are no longer in the office.

And with all those distractions around you at home that I previously mentioned, it’s going to be very easy for you to start forgetting things.

5. Be productive around your work

Working from home allows you a lot of freedom to get a lot of other things done that you wouldn’t normally be able to. For me, it allowed me to go to the gym in the mornings and at lunch as I wasn’t rushing to be in the office (now there’s no gym and I can’t go outside, I read during those times instead).

But being at home means you can do your laundry, do some cleaning, walk the dog during your lunch hour, call friends or family, keep watching your favourite Netflix series (during your lunch, obviously) and even have lots of meals prepared for your family or housemates.

But with working from home and self-isolating, now is your opportunity to start doing things you’ve been putting off since time began. Never had any time to read? Wanted to start a blog? Wanted to write a book? Have a business idea you’d like to pursue? Well now’s your chance.

Really put this time you have to use and make the most of it. Read more, start a side-hustle, write a blog, write a book, start exercising. Whatever it is you want to do, now is your chance.

We’re all in this together.

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