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Working from home

Working from home? Think it will be freedom from interruptions, unlimited pyjama time and easy access to biscuits? Plying your trade from your des-res can be hard work. Here are our top tips.

Find your space

The old advice of creating a special space to work is spot-on for your sanity. Don’t work where you relax (and never in the bedroom) and if you have to work in a social space, tidy it away at the end of the day.

We know of one friend with a desk in her lounge who put up a pole so she could literally draw a curtain over her work when she was relaxing. And good light is important too. Maybe move furniture around to create a space you feel happy in for long periods.

Top tips:

  • See if you can create zones for all of the people who need to share your space so everyone has somewhere quiet to use. This may mean sharing a workspace whilst the other looks after the kids, turn and turn about.
  • Dig out your headphones to create quiet.
  • Watch your back, chances are your new workspace won’t be nearly as ergonomic as your old one.
  • If you need to make important on-camera calls, make sure you have somewhere where you can shut the door (and remind the others in your space not to come in – we’ve all seen the clip of the BBC interview which went, shall we say, a little off-piste. Hilarious for the ones watching, mind you).

Get set, get dressed, go!

You might fancy working in your PJs but TBH it doesn’t make for a professional, productive ethos which is what we’re after here, right? *no chewing at the back please* what about following the lead of Lisa, the Muddy Devon editor, which is a 9am cut-off, it means she can utilise those early morning hours when no-one is around asking for attention, but no fear of scaring the postman. 

Top tips:

  • This is the time to go through your wardrobe and dig out all those more comfortable outfits – if you’re dialling in for calls you’ll need to be at least presentable from the waist up.
  • Muddy Cornwall editor Rachel’s go-to work outfit is a nice jumper with jeans, but jogging bottoms will also work well. Just remember not to stand up while the camera is on!
  • Rachel also works wearing slippers, but others suggest that wearing shoes puts you in the right frame of mind for working. If you usually work in an office, keeping some things the same can really help – we know of one man who would put on a full suit, shirt and tie just to walk to the spare room.

Stay motivated

Food calls louder at home so if you don’t trust yourself not to give into temptation, keep treats/biscuits/Easter eggs on a high shelf or maybe limit them in for the weekend. When the cries of anguish get too loud from the kids, buy kid-pleasers you can do without. Custard cream, anyone?

Family and non-working friends can find it tricky to understand just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re not free for coffee or long phone calls, and if you’re naturally a people-pleaser you have to learn to be firm and just say no. While being nice, obvs.

Top tips:

  • Make lists your new best friend, along with lists of lists, and definitely a wipeable white board. If nothing else, you can point to it (because your mouth is full of biscuits) when the other half is trying to fob you off with the kids.
  • Rachel swears by the Pomodoro Technique for keeping motivated – she uses the Focus Keeper app but others are available, as is a regular timer. You work for 25 mins, then break for 5 mins, repeat x 4 cycles then have a longer break.
  • Create a schedule of household chores and limit them to specific times of the day. E.g. put a wash on in the morning, hang it out when you break mid-morning, clear the kitchen up when you prepare lunch etc. (& make sure everyone in the space that can pulls their weight).

Working with your partner

Working out the boundaries can be a total marriage-wrecker, especially when it comes to sharing the responsibilities of young kids. Whose work is more important, who is (not) doing their fair share etc, etc. It’s a work in progress but having tried everything Rachel’s fall-back is plan well ahead, have regular diary meetings and be prepared to be flexible when urgent things happen. And family first always.

Top tips:

  • Be considerate. Phone calls and chatter is less noticeable in an office but somehow one person on the phone at home is a total ear-magnet.
  • Use your call as a chance to get up and move out of a shared room or go outside and give bored, self-isolating neighbours something to ear-wag. 
  • Schedule working hours for each of you, and they probably won’t be the same time. Get used to the idea you probably won’t both be able to work ‘office’ hours especially if you’ve also got kids in the same space.
  • Work out who can do tasks early in the morning or late into the evening. You’ll probably need a shared diary/whiteboard and make sure there is time for both of your non-negotiable workday calls/deadlines.
  • Challenge if necessary – we all think our work is more important and we aren’t always aware of each other’s deadlines. Share the information, and don’t be afraid to gently point out when you think the other should have priority.

Working with kids

There is NO stress like the stress of trying to work with a small person and the electronic babysitter can only do so much before the guilt and worry about a knock at the door from social services arrives. In these more unprecedented times, you’re going to have to work out a way of keeping everyone occupied.

Top tips:

  • If you really have to get something done, like a call or meeting, try setting the kids small projects with achievable outcomes – see if you can build this lego/draw this flower in 10 minutes to give you at least some small chunks of time. Bribes, threats, and a promise of wine later (for you obvs) helps too.
  • Schedule working time and kid time and try and keep the two separate (so if it’s your turn to spend an hour doing a kid-focused activity, try and put down your emails).
  • Look out for our post with ideas of things to keep the kids occupied

Work out your non-negotiables

We might all be in our own spaces for a long time, so think strategically from the off to create a good family rhythm. Make sure everyone has some input and decide what things you’re going to commit to doing.

Top tips:

  • If you can, getting some fresh air every day is obviously going to help. That’s not going to be possible for everyone, particularly if people are ill or you are in self-isolation but in the social distancing phase a daily walk might work (particularly if you’ve a pooch, who is not going to understand lack of walkies)
  • Keep fit – there are online classes, or you could dig out that ancient exercise DVD, get the Wii hooked up or use whatever resources you have to hand (try the kids!) to help with some weights and stretches.
  • Think about how you will cook (presuming you are not ill) and prioritise eating meals together – particularly if you have teens this is a great time to get back into a habit as they’ve literally nowhere else to be!
  • Face-to-face contact might now be limited but writing letters and making FaceTime/Skype calls isn’t – what about a daily call with family members in turn.

Apps & tech

Embrace some of the apps that can make your working day easier/more social. No better time than to try and make yourself more tech-savvy. We’re no means experts, but here are a few of the things that we use:

  • Zoom – we use this for our weekly team meetings. You can share your screen, talk (obvs) and it’s almost as if you’re in the same room (just remember to mute your mic when you’re not talking!)
  • Trello – this is for planning, big or small. Sync with your computer and your phone. Keep to-do-lists, workflows etc. Share boards with your team and create your own personal ones too.
  • Google Drive – these are great for shared information.
  • Dropbox – keep images and documents here so you can access from any device.
  • Facebook Content Creator – manage several social media accounts? Do it from all one place.
  • The aforementioned Focus Keeper app (others are available) to keep on top of motivation.
  • Toggl – this is great for recording time spent on multiple clients or projects.

Any other top tips? Let us know in the comments!

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