July 9

Experts: The Real Truth About Productivity In The Home Office

Working from home has a really bad reputation. In the past, most managers and companies wouldn’t allow their staff to work from home for fear of them slacking off and not getting their work done. They fear that if they’re not there to jump up and down on peoples’ heads that they won’t get stuff done.

The fear of staff not getting work done is irrational, and – quite frankly – it’s their problem, not yours.

In this new COVID-19 world that we’re living in, they’re being forced to confront their fears and find out the truth for themselves.

I’ve been working from home exclusively for over 8 years now and run a number of companies from my home office – from the desk that I’m writing this from right now – and I can tell you, if you treat people like adults and trust them, then they behave like adults and work hard to prove to you that they can be trusted.

Not all of them. Some people are slackers, and whether they’re working in the home office or the office office, they’ll still slack off. It’s part of who they are.

You’ll find out who they are and deal with them accordingly, but the majority will be conscientious, hard-working and trust-worthy.

That’s not to say that working from home is easy, though. It isn’t, and if you don’t get yourself prepared and plan for it, then it can be a bumpy ride.

So I thought I’d reach out to seasoned experts in desk-jockeying to see what advice they have for anyone working from home. This blog post is the result.

The contributors to this post are stay-at-home-moms, world travellers, authors, and other expert work-from-homers, and I asked each of them the same question:

What Is The One Thing You Wished You Knew Before About Working From Home?

The answers were really insightful and help you to create something of a roadmap of how to work from home successfully, even if you’ve never done it before.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them.

Let’s jump right in…

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Set Up a Dedicated Workspace

When you mention to someone that you’re working from home, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis, they usually think that you spend all day couch-surfing with a laptop on your knee.

Most have done this occasionally, but it’s not sustainable.

Take this contribution from Abi King of Inside the Travel Lab (Twitter: @insidetravellab), who told me that:

“I wish I’d known that a laptop wouldn’t cut it for prolonged use. If I’d bought a larger monitor, separate keyboard and standing desk at the outset, I’d have saved money in physiotherapy fees!”

And she’s absolutely correct – setting up a dedicated workspace is not just good for productivity, but also crucial for your long-term health!

This sentiment is echoed by Annette White of Bucket List Journey (Twitter: @BucketListJrny), who insists that:

"

"A dedicated workspace is vital for productivity. When I’d bring my laptop to the comfy couch, it was hard to stay focused on work. But once my office space was set up the amount of work completed was double or triple!"

Annette White

Annette White

author & travel blogger

See what I mean about productivity going up? We’ll hear more from Annette later, and Ric Gazarian of Global Gaz (Twitter: @Global_Gaz) certainly agrees with her and dreams of a better, dedicated workspace in a quiet space:

“Right now I am in the living area next to the kitchen which makes it a busy place.”

And Maria Stoyanova of Travelling Buzz (Twitter: @Travelling_Buzz) agrees with setting up your workspace properly. She tells me she wished she’d known how important the tech part is:

“Having a good computer to work with, a laptop stand, and a good chair are as important as anything else. For months I've stayed with my old, barely running laptop before I switched to my new MacBook that I absolutely love!”

I appreciate that all of these are global travellers and are used to doing their work in a coffee shop or in the back of a tuk-tuk, but if they are giving you the advice to set up a dedicated workspace, then it really is worth doing.

Hot Tip

Invest in a second monitor.

Your increase in productivity will be HUGE!

For me, I have converted a spare bedroom into an office. I have a proper desk, an office chair, a PC and a pair of monitors (more than one monitor makes a HUGE difference in the amount of work you get through in a day). I have filing cabinets, the phone is 2 feet away, and I have everything I need within arm’s reach.

I can guarantee you that if I hadn’t set things up properly, then I wouldn’t have achieved the things that I have otherwise. Getting your space set up makes you feel like you’re doing work, so you get in the right frame of mind to get stuff done!

Best Productivity Advice for Working from Home

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Make Sure You Have Access To Backup Equipment – And Repair Services!

Hands up if you know how to fix Windows when it won’t boot. Do you know what to do when you start your laptop and get the Blue Screen of Death?

Like taxes, trouble with your PC is one of life’s inevitabilities. Just ask Doug Cooper, author of the Crystal Series sci fi books (Twitter: @crystalseries):

“I have been working from home part time for many years, but one thing I wasn’t prepared for is when everyone else is working from home at the same time and my computer crashes. I’m an engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, and pre-Coronavirus when my laptop had issues, I’d drop it off with the techs in the morning the next time I was on campus and pick it up when I left for home”

So what does he do now that we’re all in lockdown?

Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper

Sci Fi author

"In the new world, a computer repair involves planning, time, and patience. Thank goodness I have a backup to use while I wait!"

It doesn’t matter whether we’re in normal times or COVID-19 times, it’s really important to make sure you can still do your work if your main computer is out of commission. Do you have a tablet you can work on? Typing with one finger might not be ideal, but if it’s what you have to do, then it’s what you have to do! 

A couple of years ago my internet connection stopped working at the beginning of my work day, then came back on about the time I was due to finish work for the day. The same would happen the next day, then the next, and every day after.

This was hell on earth – I had a business to run and employees to contact, and I couldn’t get anything done – and it continued for 5 months!

So what did I do about it?

How to Work At Home - a dedicated workspace is vital for productivity - and access to a backup PC #homeoffice #workfromhome #workfromhomelife

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I did whatever work I could do offline – writing documents, emails and whatever I could, then I would drive to the local library where I could log on and send whatever materials I’d just created.

I would go to the library twice a day, once in the morning to check what responses I had from the previous day, then later in the day when I’d done the work that I needed to.

The result? By focusing on what I could do rather than on what I wanted to do, I managed to get everything done and my business didn’t suffer at all.

Better still, I successfully persuaded my Internet Service Provider to give me a free upgrade from normal to Superfast Broadband. It was obvious that a workman was unplugging me at the beginning of the work day and then plugging me back in at the end when he went home, so they had no choice but to move me to a different – better – system at no extra cost.

I also got compensation. Bonus!

Keep a Work-Life Balance

One of the big problems when working from home is all the distractions.

The phone rings and your mother asks you if you’ve done that thing for her yet. Ah, no – I’ll go and do it now.

Your spouse engages you in conversation about yesterday’s episode of Judge Judy. So funny! And another half-hour has gone by.

Oh, I forgot to hang the washing out on the line – I’ll do it now…

You get the idea. When you’re at home, how do you distinguish between work and life?

Sandy & Vyjay of Voyager (Twitter: @IMVoyager) know only too well what a problem this can be:

“The diminishing of the boundaries between the personal and work spheres when you start working at home is a challenge that everyone faces. This can take its toll on work productivity as well as personal relations”.

So what do you need to do to overcome this challenge?

"

"You need to draw strict but unseen boundaries between home life and work life with clear demarcation so that there is no overlap"

SandynVyjay

Sandy & Vyvay

Travel bloggers

Whilst I agree with this in principle, it can be much harder than that in practice – drawing that line in the sand is important, but being flexible enough to dip a toe over the other side occasionally can be useful. Sometimes a task is time-sensitive and needs to be prioritised. You can always ‘borrow’ a bit of time from one side of the line and then pay it back later.

Just don’t let it become a habit, otherwise you end up with the problem that Meg Jerrard of Mapping Megan (Twitter: @mappingmegan) describes:

“You end up working more than you otherwise would in a normal office environment. Why? Because your laptop is right there! Run to answer an email in a TV ad break? Emergency over dinner? It’s very easy for the line between work and home to blur when you’re working from home”.

And her advice on what to do about it?

“You have to set very clear boundaries for where your work life starts and stops, and allow yourself to log off for the day, like you would if you were leaving an office to come home”

How to Work At Home - set clear boundaries between work life and home life - know when to log on and off #homeoffice #workfromhome #workfromhomelife

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Kim of the Love, Mrs Mommy blog (Twitter: @Love_MrsMommy) told me:

“I wish I knew how hard it was going to be to separate home-life from work-life. When you are at home and it’s also your work environment, you have the opportunity to keep working – even after your workday is over. Be conscious of the time you spend at your job when you are at home, as everyone needs a break. It’s good for our mind and body so we can be recharged for the next day”.

This is a sentiment that is echoed by Melissa Chapman of The Staten Island Family (Twitter: @MelissaSChapman):

“I wish I knew that I would be putting in more hours than if I were travelling to an office/job place. The best way to counter this shift to being expected to work 24/7 from home is to be very strict with your time and give yourself off the clock hours”.

So how does this work in practice?

“That means do not even look at your work and really separate from your job so that it doesn’t completely bleed into your personal life and you become a non-stop workaholic. I think this is my biggest piece of advice for those who find themselves working from home – make clear delineations between your job/work and your time off the clock!”.

Home Office Tip

Working from home isn't a licence to be a lazy bones.

Nor does it mean being a workaholic.

Make sure you know when your work life ends and your home life begins!

When it comes to working from home, I cheated – I had a few years to get used to it first. I found that when I was in the office office I struggled to get work done with all the distractions – I always had a long queue of people knocking on my door asking me to do work for them. My solution for getting stuff done was to start working one day from home, so I got used to really getting my head down for a good day of work. Over time, one day a week became two, then three. When I eventually gave up my job to set up my own business, I was completely used to working from home and I had everything set up, so the transition was an easy one.

To be honest, I still struggle with working too many hours, but hey – nobody said that running your own business was going to be easy!

Crocodile wrestling is simpler!

Ric Gazarian of Global Gaz gave me some great advice on that exact point, telling me that you need to limit the time you spend online:

“Since you are home all day, it is easy to feel drawn to the computer and continue working. It is beneficial to set some constraints and limit your hours”

And Maria Stoyanova makes exactly the same point:

“I also wish I’d spent more time off-screen after work – switching off social media and relaxing without the online buzz is very crucial for a good nights sleep and peace of mind”

Amen to that!

Set a Schedule

If there really was just one thing you could do to make working from home successful, it would be setting a schedule. I can’t stress just how important it is.

Annette White of Bucket List Journey told me that:

“Maintaining a regular work schedule not only helped to maintain a better work-life balance, but it also helped to set boundaries for family and friends which made it easier to not be disturbed during working hours”

Alesha Bradford of Nomadasaurus (Twitter: @NOMADasaurus) couldn’t stress enough just how important it is to design a routine and stick to it:

“Don’t become complacent and start sleeping in or doing household tasks during work hours. Draw up a schedule before you get into any bad habits”

And this was echoed by Kathryn Gignac, who loves hot coffee, organic chocolate & sleeping in (don’t we all!), of the Mommy Kat and Kids blog (Twitter: @mommykatandkids) tells me that:

Kathryn Gignac

Kathryn Gignac

Freelance writer & Mom blogger

"

"I wish I’d known how important setting a schedule was! Just like an out-of-home job, having set work hours is crucial to ensuring overall health and family happiness. That’s why I always ensure that when 4pm arrives, I put my work away and focus on spending time with my husband and children"

And Dianna Ranere of FSM Media (Twitter: @FSMMedia), who blogs about the entertainment industry, wishes someone had told her to set a schedule “because otherwise you will find yourself working 12 hour days and not even realizing it!”

She gave me some advice to counter this:

“Working from home makes you feel like everything is urgent and has to be done immediately. Decide which hours you will be working and stick to it, once work is over, leave it for the next day”

Travel writer and foodie Hannah Henderson of The Useful Human (Twitter: @HHLifestyleTrav) emailed me and told me to put some clothes on! To be fair, it’s been a long time coming, and someone had to say it…

She told me that:

“The thing that I found most important when working from home, that I was surprised by, is the importance of getting dressed in the morning. It’s a combination of self-care, the routine and self-discipline that is needed for working from home. I might just change from my PJs into leggings, but it’s the act of having a shower and grooming as if you are about to go to work that’s the important thing”

Hot Tip

Decide which hours you will be working and stick to it.

Once work is over, leave it for the next day!

And she’s right – if you feel like you’re going to work, then you’re in the right frame of mind to get stuff done.

For lifestyle blogger Tiffany Noth of Bloggy Moms (Twitter: @BloggyMoms), her biggest learning curve has been scheduling:

“If I had known then what I know now, I would have worked harder at crafting a schedule that kept me on task but allowed enough flexibility that I didn’t allow myself to burn out so many times. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn repeatedly!”

And I think she’s absolutely right when it comes to flexibility – when you’re working from home there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A schedule that works for one person might not work for another, and there could be all sorts of reasons for this – as we shall discover…

Recommended Planners

Be Flexible

When it comes to creating a schedule you can either be rigid or flexible, and there is no wrong answer. It all depends on circumstances and the individual.

Johnny Ward of One Step 4 Ward (Twitter: @onestep4ward), advises:

“It sounds like a dream, and it is amazing but it requires so much more discipline than people realise. For me, I have Alexa reminding me to go to bed at 9pm, so I can be asleep by 10pm. Not ‘having’ to wake up is an easy excuse to stay up late, call yourself a night owl and waste your day. Successful people don’t do that”

He went on:

"

"Go to bed, wake up early and attack the day, working from home shouldn’t change that mindset"

Johnny Ward

Johnny Ward

Travel blogger extraordinaire!

Well, I think that strategy works for some people, and it certainly works for Johnny – an Irishman who has travelled to every country on the planet and earned more than 2 million dollars from blogging whilst doing it – but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

Like author and freelance writer Linsey Knerl of Knerl Family Media (Twitter: @LKnerl), who says:

“My advice isn’t very fancy, but I would say this – working at home gives you incredible flexibility, and if your industry allows it, working in the ‘off hours’ can have incredible benefits”

What does she mean by this?

“I recommend you take time to figure out when your energy levels are highest, when you are best able to concentrate, and when you are most creative. These times are rarely at the same time. Try to structure your working day so that you’re doing the work that matches your peak performance in each of the areas”

Home Office Tip

Working at home gives you incredible flexibility.

Figure out when your energy levels are highest, and structure your working day so that you’re doing the work that matches your peak performance.

And the benefits?

“You’ll find that you can get more done in less time, have less overall frustration, and will enjoy your job more. If this means sending invoices at 10am because that’s when you can crunch numbers, do it. Creative writing may take place at night. I’ve been known to crank out a white paper at 7pm, when I am too physically exhausted to fidget and distract. There’s nothing left but my mind, and I can work with incredible focus at this time”

And I couldn’t agree more. On my blog I highly recommend figuring out which times of day you are most productive and schedule your most important work accordingly.

Clearly, Johnny’s strategy of getting up early and attacking the day is right for him, and Linsey’s strategy of figuring out when is the best time to get stuff done works for her.

You see what I mean about there being no one-size-fits-all solution now?

Batch Your Tasks

Being flexible is all about maximising efficiency, and while we’re on that task one of the best ways to be efficient is to batch your tasks.

This is what Janel of the mom blog A Mom’s Take (Twitter: @amomstake) has to say on the subject:

Janel

Janel

Work-at-home Mom blogger

"

"Working in batch mode helps keep me more efficient. For example, close your inbox and focus on one specific task like social media or finances, then work on your emails all at once. It helps you to stay focused on one task and not become sidetracked by the latest email, social media message, or to-do list task"

It’s actually not at all obvious that batching is good for efficiency. While I was an undergrad, one of my lecturers, a wily old Professor, used to tell us to ‘learn how to multi-task’. This was in response to our questions on how to balance several simultaneous deadlines in different subjects. It took years for me to realise that this was perhaps the worst bit of advice I’ve ever had!

You can’t write an essay on Quantum Chromodynamics at the same time as writing another essay on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity (yes, you’ve guessed it – my first degree was in Physics). If you do, you think about one concept, write a bit, then switch to start thinking about something entirely different in the other topic.

How long does it take you to switch from one train of thought to another?

Actually, it takes quite a long time – especially if the topics are very difficult – and it is this ‘concept switching’ that takes up an incredible amount of time.

Repeat the concept switching several times throughout the duration of the 2 tasks, and it will probably take you twice as long – or more – to complete the tasks in parallel compared to if you’d done them one after the other.

If only someone had told me this years ago, I’m sure I’d be much younger than I am now…

Eat The Ugly Frog First

In the business world there is a saying that if you want to be productive you should eat the frog first.

What?!??

What does that even mean?

There is a quote that started with Mark Twain, who said:

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”

The self-help guru Brian Tracy picked up on that in his book Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

The idea is a simple one – you should tackle the hardest and most important thing on your to-do list every morning.

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day - learn how eating frogs can help you be more productive #homeoffice #workfromhome #workfromhomelife

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Well, Lee Baker (yes, that’s me!) of the eelrekab.com blog (Twitter: @eelrekab2020) says that we should eat the ugly frog first:

“Brian Tracy’s concept of eating the frog first is not just about identifying the task that you’re likely to avoid, but also one that’s going to have the biggest impact on your life. It’s great, but what happens when you have a whole basket of frogs to eat?”

I’m not liking where this is going, it’s starting to sound disgusting…

“No, wait, stay with me here – it gets better, honest!”

Hmm, well, I’ll give you one more minute.

“OK, well, if you’ve got lots of ugly frogs to eat, you should eat the ugliest one first. The thing about eating the ugliest frog – tackling the worst task – is that once you’ve completed it you will get a rush of endorphins, a little boost of ‘happy drug’ as a reward for completing the difficult task”

And how does that help?

“Well, while you’re still basking in the endorphin glow you can tackle the second ugliest frog on your list. Then you get another shot and you gain momentum. In that way you can get a whole to-do list of unpleasant tasks completed for the price of one frog – you won’t even notice the other frogs once you’ve eaten the first one!”

So, in essence, by scheduling tasks in a worst-to-best order you can be more productive because of what I call ‘endorphin momentum’ – building one endorphin rush on top of another to ride the wave and get more done.

It can be a really good place to be, especially when you look at your to-do list – not a frog in sight!

Do The One Thing That Makes The Biggest Difference

The problem with the Eat The Ugly Frog method is that it’s easy to misunderstand what it’s all about. If you think that it means that you should tackle the most annoying, nagging thing on your to-do list first, then you might end up doing tasks that are mostly irrelevant – which would be no good at all!

Instead, you could try identifying the one thing on your task list that would make the biggest difference to whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.

Lee Baker (yes, that’s still me!) told me (that’s also me) that:

“It’s not about being busy, because not all productivity is equal – some tasks are more important than others”

OK, I get that. Can you give me an example?

“Sure! Unless you’re a secretary or an accountant, checking emails or finances won’t move you forward in your work, but reaching out to potential new clients will, as will arranging that new loan with the bank”

Home Office Tip

Not all productivity is equal - some tasks are more important than others.

Doing the difference-making tasks first every day ensures you're always moving forwards!

He went on:

“Depending on your point-of-view, any of these tasks could be the ugliest frog, but some of the tasks can make a big difference to the future of your business, while others might make none at all. Doing the difference-making tasks first every day means that your business will always be moving forwards and improving on a daily basis”

Ah, I get it – so you should put the more mundane, every-day tasks like emails and letters to the back of the queue and do the more important stuff first…

“Exactly. You need to distinguish between ‘good productivity’ and ‘bad productivity’. The former moves your business forward, while the latter is just being busy without really getting anything worthwhile done”

You see, most people can get quite skilled at procrastinating, but at least they recognise it. Being busy doing nothing meaningful is just as destructive.

It doesn’t matter whether you fiddle while Rome burns (busy doing nothing) or after Rome has burnt down (procrastination), neither of these will stop Rome burning to the ground. Maybe if you’d built a fire station and set up an early-warning system to detect the fires you wouldn’t have to go around trying to put out so many fires!

Focus, Focus, Focus…

Whether you’re following the Eat The Ugly Frog or Do The Important Thing First method, how you tackle your tasks is just as important as what to tackle.

The 30 Minute Online Marketer Laura Ballester (Twitter: @LauraB30min) tells me:

“One thing I wish I’d known when I started working from home is how to stay focused. Working from home every now and then is OK and most people find that they can do a lot more than in the office, but when you’re at home all the time, it’s much easier to get distracted. And it’s even worse if the kids are home too. To make the most of your time when you’re working you need to focus or it will take you twice as long to accomplish things”.

I hear ya! So what can you do about it?

“One way you can increase your concentration is by using the Pomodoro Technique”.

The what?!??

“The Pomodoro Technique – it’s named after one of those old-style kitchen timers that looks like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian)”.

OK. And what do you do with it?

“To use the Pomodoro Technique, you choose your task, set your timer (Pomodoro) for 25 minutes and focus exclusively on the task. Find your Zen. Nothing else exists, just you and the task. When the 25 minutes are over, have a 5 minute break and go do something else – do some stretches, get a cup of coffee, anything that gives your brain a break”.

Pomodoro Sprints - learn how to be more productive when working from home #homeoffice #workfromhome #workfromhomelife @eelrekab

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Then move onto your next task, right?

“Exactly – each task should be small enough to fit into a short time period. A half hour is good, but definitely shorter than an hour. Then you do each task in its own little Pomodoro sprint”.

That sounds good, but isn’t it tiring to do all those little sprints?

“Yes, it can be, so after every 4 Pomodoro sprints you give yourself a longer break to get refreshed”.

I actually use the Pomodoro Technique myself, and it really does help you increase your focus when you’re working – it’s great for productivity.

It’s also useful in that it helps you gauge how long it takes you to complete your tasks, so over time it gets easier to plan your day and your schedule.

Take Regular Breaks

And that takes me right into the next bit, which is: while ever you’re working hard and focusing intently, you need to take regular breaks.

Ric Gazarian of Global Gaz says that you need to:

“Take time to meditate or at a minimum take breaks from sitting at the computer all day”

And Ashley & Carolyn of The Lazy Travelers (Twitter: @lazytravelers) tell me that:

“We’ve learned over the years that a change of scenery is key. It sounds great to hole up in a local cafe or sink into your couch and get some work done, but it’s not sustainable!”

So what can we do about it?

"

"We either need to change our workspace at some point during the day, or take a serious mid-day break and get up, go for a walk, and find a fresh perspective"

Ashley & Carolyn

Ashley & Carolyn

bloggers, travellers & professional pub crawlers!

While it’s not unusual to hear advice like this from travellers that get itchy feet, they are right – variety is the spice of life!

Whenever you get your 5 minute Pomodoro break, get up and walk away from your desk. At lunch time, go and eat on a nearby park bench. Have dinner with friends in the evening (appropriately socially distanced, of course).

Whatever you do, get away from your workspace as often as you can.

One of the best things about working from home is experiencing the little things that you can’t when you go to work. When my daughter was young, I’d sit in my office working all day, but on the odd occasion that the sun came out (we live in Scotland. It rains. A lot. It's raining right now...) I would suddenly jump up from my desk, yell “come on, we’re going out” and we’d go and play football in the garden. 15 minutes later it would cloud over and start raining, which was my cue to go back to work.

The point is that I took the chance whenever I could to take those 15 golden minutes – and they were wonderful!

I went back to my desk with a smile on my face, renewed energy, and I got a lot more done.

You might not be fortunate enough to live in a rainy country like I do, but you can still grab golden moments throughout your day. I guarantee you’ll make every day happier and more productive.

Isolation – Keep In Touch

Most of the advice given so far has been about productivity and getting stuff done, but you mustn’t neglect the mental health side of working from home.

Author and mom blogger Scarlet Paolicchi of the Family Focus Blog (Twitter: @familyfocusblog) told me:

“I will say that working from home can be a bit isolating. You feel a bit cut off from adult interaction so it is important to make time to visit with family and friends. Even during these times of social distancing, get out for a socially distant walk or do a Zoom call. It is important to keep the connection with friends and family going and share your feelings with others”

We live in very interesting times indeed. Only a few months ago we could have dinner with family, go out to the pub with friends and have a barbeque with neighbours. Now we can’t do any of these things. Well, not normally anyway. Depending on where we are in the world we might be able to socialise a little bit, but we have to do it at a distance, and society will be counting the mental health costs of this for years to come.

Scarlet Paolicchi

Scarlet Paolicchi

Author and mom blogger

"

"Working from home can be a bit isolating. Even during these times of social distancing, get out for a walk or do a Zoom call. It is important to keep the connection with friends and family going and share your feelings with others"

It’s interesting that the rest of the world is now starting to taste the kind of isolation that work-from-homers have every day – and they don’t like it!

Well of course they don’t – it’s not nice.

When you’re working from home – or socially isolated because of the Coronavirus – it is important to make sure you keep in touch with people. You can go days without talking to anyone and some find it can be difficult to cope with.

My family, who live 300 miles away, only see me a couple of times a year and they keep telling me that they’re worried about me because I’m quiet. I’ve become a much quieter person, and that’s what working from home can do to you. It’s not a bad thing, I’m perfectly happy and healthy, but I am different and it can take time for people to adjust to that.

Take Scarlet’s advice and keep in touch with people. Skype, Zoom, email – heck, even write, but keep in touch.

A smile a day keeps the doctor away!

Working From Home is Not Real Work

And now here’s a tip from author and columnist Samantha Feuss of the award winning travel blog Have Sippy Will Travel (Twitter: @HaveSippy) for all those people that are not forced to work from home, but work there because they choose to (lifestyle bloggers, travel writers, etc.):

"

"The one thing I wished I knew before working at home was how many people would dismiss that as not working, and always expecting me to be available to them, and not actually having to really ‘work’"

Samantha Feuss

Samantha Feuss

author, columnist & travel blogger

Yup, been there, done that, got a truck-load full of T-shirts. Family and friends like to hear about your successes, but whenever you go through a difficult patch you often hear them say ‘so when are you going to give it up and get a real job?’

Are you kidding me? I’m juggling 3 different businesses, have loads of employees that I have to pay, I have a payroll of $$$ and you don’t think it’s a real job?!?? Give me a break – this is about as real as it gets!

I’m sure they’d think differently if I had rented office space for everyone, they might have thought that was real. But because we made the choice that everyone would work from home, suddenly it’s not a ‘real’ job. I guess it must be a plastic one then!

Relax and breathe, relax and breathe…

OK, back to Samantha:

“Now that so many people have been working at home during this pandemic, I’m hoping this viewpoint will change a bit, and working at home will get the same respect as working in an office – especially since it’s the same work”

No Samantha, it’s not the same work – it’s waayyyy harder! Most people working from home during the pandemic don’t have to worry about employees, contracts, keeping the cash flowing and putting food on all their employees’ tables. We do! The work we do when we set up work-from-home businesses is way harder than a typical office job. We are managers & CEOs, we have responsibilities and the prospect of failure is very real – and failure is not an option!

Samantha had one last piece of advice to give:

“With daily home life occurrences, distractions and annoyances tossed in, like kids and dogs and everything home brings, juggling all these while trying to get real work done is incredibly difficult. It’s definitely not for the disorganized!”

Spot on, and I hope that this blog post is helping people to find better ways to manage their work and lives while working from home.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up…

In all the talk about productivity, eating frogs and getting more done, it would be easy to give yourself a good kicking whenever you get waylaid and don’t get as much done as you had planned.

Jennifer Campbell of the travel blog Just Chasing Rabbits (Twitter: @JustChasingRabb) has this to say on the subject:

“When you work from home, it’s quite easy to become overloaded. While my daily plan may be to write for my travel blog, it often happens that I’m spending time making site changes, updates, and reading up on best practices (that seem to change every day). The writing gets pushed back.”

Yup, we’ve all been there (on a daily basis).

“Also, it’s easy to lose focus on the business side of things and move into the domestic side of things. I am a cleaner; an organizer. So, when at home, it’s easy to get pulled into housework, yard maintenance, and DIY/home improvement projects”

Distractions galore, got ya…

Jennifer Campbell

Jennifer Campbell

the journey is as important as the destination

"

"When you work from home, it’s quite easy to become overloaded, and it’s easy to lose focus on the business side of things and move into the domestic side of things.

These also count as work, and I feel just as fulfilled and proud of these accomplishments."

“These things DEFINITELY also count as work, and I feel just as fulfilled and proud of these accomplishments as well, but it could be an issue for someone who doesn’t work on their own schedule”

Jenni is right about other tasks being valid – as long as you don’t use them as an excuse not to do your ‘real’ work!

A good approach might be (for some, maybe not for others) to intersperse home tasks through your work day. If you feel that you are accomplishing things on the home front it might give you the boost you need to be productive on the work front.

The bed linen needs changing, do that then do a Pomodoro sprint.

Put the dirty clothes in the washing machine – go and do another sprint.

The clothes have been washed. Hang them on the line then do another Pomodoro sprint, and so on.

This approach can definitely work, but you really do need to be strict about it otherwise it can fall apart and you lose your work-life balance!

Regulate Your Diet For Good Physical & Mental Health

And the last piece of advice comes from Charles McCool of McCool Travel (Twitter: @CharlesMcCool):

"

"First thing that comes to mind will be a fun one, I think. Constant access to snacks is the work at home aspect I most have to control.

So dangerous!"

Charles McCool

Charles McCool

travel blogger

Thanks for this Charles – I’m guessing a few will have the same problem…

Summary

Well, what a journey this has turned out to be!

When I reached out to my work-at-home friends, neighbours and countrymen for a small quotation on what they would do if they were to hit the reset button on working from home, I never expected I’d get such great comments – and so many of them too!

I thought it might end up as a long list of random snippets for newbies to work through, but no, there’s an entire road-map to productivity for anyone just starting out!

To recap, we had Abi King and Annette White advising us to invest in setting up your workspace properly. If you don’t do this, you’ll pay for it in lost productivity and physiotherapy fees!

Then Doug Cooper told us to make sure we have access to backup equipment and repair services to make sure that whatever the world throws at us we can still stay productive.

After this, Sandy & Vyjay urged us to draw strict boundaries between work and life so one doesn’t negatively impact on the other.

And then we had a whole bunch of seasoned desk jockeys espousing the virtues of setting a schedule – and sticking to it. Tiffany Noth taught us that creating a schedule that works isn’t a one-shot deal, it’s a craft that you have to perfect if you don’t want to keep burning out.

Then Hannah Henderson told me to put some clothes on!

Well, somebody had to say it…

Following on, we had Johnny Ward and Linsey Knerl, who had differing views on flexibility. Johnny prefers to get up early and attack the day, whereas Linsey prefers a schedule that maximises productivity based on peak performance hours. Bottom line - there is no one-size-fits-all solution and you have to figure out what works for you.

And then came a great suggestion from Janel when she suggested that to increase productivity you should batch your tasks. Constantly switching from one thing to another is one of the biggest productivity killers you’ll find, so batching tasks helps you focus on one thing and not get distracted by all the other things you have to do.

And then your host, Lee Baker (yes, that’s me) chipped in with a couple of different ways of scheduling tasks. You can either eat the ugliest frog first - do the most unappealing task - or do the one task that will make the most difference.

Once we decided which tasks to tackle, Laura Ballester showed us a really neat way to get them done. She told us to use the Pomodoro Technique in short sprints to focus on the task, the whole task and nothing but the task.

Then take regular breaks. Ashley & Carolyn suggest that we should have regular changes of scenery to get refreshed in-between tasks.

And if you want to keep productivity high over the long-term, you need to make sure that you’re mentally in a good place. It’s really easy to get socially isolated when working from home, and Scarlet Paolicchi suggested that we need to counter this by staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues using Zoom and other such tools.

Finally, if you don’t manage to stay productive all the time, then don’t beat yourself up. Jennifer Campbell taught us that you can intersperse work tasks with home tasks to stay refreshed, positive and still get lots done without feeling guilty about it.

Ah yes, and Charles McCool told us to try not to snack too much

I’ll drink to that!

With a few peanuts, and maybe some of those little triangular-shaped things with the sprinkles on top…


And now it's your turn.

What's your favourite tip for working from home? Tell me in the comments!


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