Because of Coronavirus, we’re all forced to work from home. But how do we do it?!
I’ve been working from home for as long as I can remember. I never had to work in an office aside from my internship in Milan where I had to physically go to an office. For digital nomads like me, working from home is no big deal. But I am quite surprised how many people are struggling when it comes to setting a work environment at home. It seems to be a hard task to sit down in the comforts of your sofa, kitchen counter, or your bed – the creativity and vibe do not come easily.
My personal struggles in working from home
Being a full-time traveler for the last 10 years, I never had the problem to sit down in a cafe or in the hotel lobby to work. As long as I have my computer and the place I travel to has good Internet, then I am always in the groove.
However, when I started having my own home, the transition has been very difficult. I had to dedicate a working space in my home by converting my guest bedroom into an office. That actually took a lot of time, money, and effort because I used to earn by renting this extra bedroom on Airbnb. I had to get rid of the bed that was in there and I had to do it fast. Sure, I can easily work in any part of the house – I have a big garden, a patio on top of that, an amazing dining table but these spaces didn’t actually make me productive at home. Everyone says that working from home is the best job in the world but very few people know how hard it is to sit down and gain momentum.
I am also obsessive-compulsive when it comes to my house. Since I work from home, I always want a pleasant environment to work in. But when I wake up in the morning to make my space conducive for working, I end up spending the whole day cleaning the house and not actually touching my computer. I also have to cook my food in between, meet some friends in the afternoon/evening until the day is already gone and I didn’t do anything.
There is a lot of freedom that comes with working from home but if you are doing it for the first time, here are some work from home tips that I’ve been practicing for the past 5 years.
Create a dedicated space
Like what I mentioned above, sitting down on my patio or garden did not work for me. This is one of the things that I invested in. I want to have a conducive environment by having a nice table. There are many DIY tips on Pinterest on how you can design your home office for cheap. You don’t need to spend big bucks! All you have to do is find that small space in your house. It doesn’t need to be an entire room but this space should always scream “this is my office” whenever you look at it. Design is very important in setting your mood for work so after creating this dedicated office space, sit down and ask yourself: does this space make me feel like I want to get things done today? If not, then you’re not in the right space.
I realized that light is important when it comes to working from home. The space you will choose should have natural light. Sure, my garden is as cozy as it can be but there are no outlets in my garden which makes me move from one working place to another. Make sure you have everything you need when it comes to your home office. Every little detail such as charging your computer will need attention to details. You need to treat this area in the same manner as your real office desk.
Tips on creating your home office environment
Make a standing desk. I recently converted to a standing desk in my home office because of my back problems. Sitting down for long hours can take a toll in your health so a standing desk really makes a difference. My standing desk is a simple plywood attached on the wall like a shelf. You don’t need to spend big bucks and you don’t even need to buy an office chair (which are normally expensive).
Use Pinterest. This is the best time to create a space according to your liking. No rules. Whatever you feel like putting in your office, do it! There are many design inspirations on Pinterest. They even have do-it-yourself guides on how to easily make your table or paint your walls!
Ask your employer for monthly Internet allowance
It’s funny how I am giving this as an advice but in the begining of my work from home adventures, I honestly think this will not work. I am currently in a small town in Mexico where high-speed Internet is a luxury. The normal provider here is Infinitum. It is an Internet connection that everyone has but it is very slow. Slow for the type of work that I do. My clients then started complaining about how slow I can deliver things. I sometimes even have to apologize because my bandwidth is not enough to upload videos and photos on Dropbox. But I know very well that this is not the best excuse for digital nomads like me, especially if my clients are seeing how updated my social media channels are as a travel blogger. It doesn’t make me look good.
Most companies who have remote workers provide Internet allowance so they can avail better Internet services but that doesn’t apply to all. A friend of mine who’s been a digital nomad for the last 16 years told me to ask my employer for Internet allowance on top of my monthly salary. Surprisingly, they said yes! There goes the saying “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Although there is no guarantee that your employer will add extra at this time of crisis, you need to tell them what will work for all of you in this transition. You just have to be open about it. You won’t lose anything if they say no but at least they will know why you get delayed on finishing major tasks.
Work from home also entails going to cafes or co-working spaces but that is not an option for us right now. At this time, we must avoid being in large groups so working at home is the best way we can be productive. I would like to know how your employer will respond to this request so please leave a comment below if it worked for you or not!
Keep regular hours
Congratulations! You can now work whenever you want, especially if your employer does not have a tracking tool on when you start and end working. But don’t get too excited yet. You might think waking up and sitting down to work is a walk in the park but it isn’t. When we don’t have working hours, we tend to be less productive than when we have working hours.
Back when you were working in the office, you wake up at 7, drink your coffee, shower, then get to the office at 9:00. But working at home is a different thing. You may wake up at 7 but not actually get out of bed until 9. You don’t need to commute so the brain is programmed to not hurry or not move at all. Having this much freedom rattles us and more often than not, we don’t know what to do with it.
I am a full-time digital nomad and was never required to work at certain hours of the day. My work is usually task-based: if I finish the task assigned to me today, then it doesn’t matter how many hours I did it. The important thing is for things to get done. However, I realized that with this sytem, my work from home dynamics have been very poor. With this, I set my work hours from 9:00 – 17:00, like what normal offices do. It is very important to set this time because when you are at home, you can do whatever you want at any given time. If you don’t set hours, you might end up working in the evening where you could have been sipping wine or seeing friends. Believe me, working at night is the worst! The upside of working from home is that you can create a healthy lifestyle while keeping yourself busy. This is totally in your control.
Split your working hours
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I recently had so many friends visiting me here in my home in Mexico and somehow, I always find an excuse not to see them during the day. I am also an Airbnb host so you can imagine how many times I need to stand up from my computer to do check-ins and check-out. With this, I have decided to split my work hours into two. My day usually goes like this:
- 6:00 – 7:00: coffee, read book, attend to pets
- 7:00 – 10:30: work straight
- 10:30 – 12:00 prepare for lunch/eat lunch
- 12:00 – 15:00: Work
- 15:00 – 16:30: go to the beach (luckily, I live in a beach town!)
- 16:30 – 18:00: finish the last remaining tasks for the days
I realized that splitting my work hours has made me more productive because I can attend to my work and at the same time, do the things I need to do at home. Taking frequent breaks is the key to a successful work from home routine. Now that you have all this freedom, you can do 3 straight hours of work, break, another 3-4 hours, break, and so on. That’s what I call a productive day! Remember you are not only trying to complete your job tasks but you are also expected to create a healthy lifestyle in order for you to continue working from home.
Take Breaks in Their Entirety
Studies show that thousands of Americans feel useless when they are working at home. The office environment gives them a sense of fulfillment. It’s even hard to take breaks. Now that you have all these freedom, it’s time to pay attention to your mental health: take breaks in their entirety. Sure, having so much freedom can be overwhelming and it makes us anxious. You may sometimes wonder, why am I out for lunch right now? Why am I having coffee outside at 3 in the afternoon? Why am I walking my dog right now when in fact I should be working?
It all depends on what time you set your breaks be but remember: use all these hours for your break. If you set a 2-hour lunch break, then take 2 hours of lunch break. It’s as easy as that. These are all psychological challenges. Our minds can play tricks on us. The “odd hours” are so weird it make us feel unproductive. Whenever I find myself in a situation where I feel like I have so many hours of breaks, I usually meditate. And it helps a lot. Again, working at home will give you the privelege to focus on your mental health. This is very important factor that most remote workers don’t pay attention to. Now is the good time to do it.
Set ground rules with the people you live with
Lucky for you if you live alone but what if you don’t? When transitioning, you need to disc what specific things to discuss because we are different individuals with different work dynamics. Still, I want to share you what my ground rules are:
- I cannot be bothered when I am working. I have a zero-talking rules unless it’s an emergency.
- When the house cleaner comes, I ask him not to touch my office desk. I like to tidy my own office. It’s easier for me to find my stuff. I like the chaos, too.
- I am allowed to play music.
These are the only things I can think of now but as you go, you will learn what you need to discuss with your housemates. At this point in time, I am sure it will be easier for them to understand and support you as they might be transitioning to working from home as well.
Are you a remote worker? What are your work from home tips?
Because of the coronavirus, many people are now forced to work from home and yet they know little about it. If you have more tips, please leave a comment below to help other new workers from home understand the tricks of the trade! Use Pinterest in looking for work from home tips! There are a lot of resources and advice from digital nomads out there. Pin this post for later by hovering on the images below.