Whether you’ve always dreamed of working from your couch or you’re really missing the comfort of your cubicle right now, there’s no doubt that working from home poses some unique challenges.
But it also presents some new opportunities.
In fact, studies show that remote work can increase both productivity and employee wellness.
So how can you adjust to working at home while still making the most of your workday?
The okwrite team are old pros at this.
Company founder, Jesse Locke, started okwrite in 2016 from a tiny home workspace of his own (in Peru!), and now hosts a full-time staff and a team of over 75 remote contractors and full-time employees.
Working from homes around the globe, okwrite staff and writers have been perfecting the art of home office setups for years.
Our team has compiled useful tips and shared photos of their workspaces to help you stay productive, healthy, and inspired while working from home.
Keep your morning routine
Nearly every working-from-home-how-to tells you that it’s best to get ready for the day as though you were heading to the office. That means following a consistent morning routine.
If you would normally hit a spin class before heading to the office, keep exercise in your morning routine, even when you can’t make it to the gym. If you’d rather ease into your day more slowly, make sure you get up early enough to enjoy a slow coffee before opening your laptop.
okwrite’s Erin Foley, who works out of her home in Ontario, Canada, admits:
“Some days, it’s a struggle. But, because I am generally a morning person, I try to get up early so I can have time to relax before heading to my desk.”
She makes a coffee, catches up on the late-night TV monologues, chats with her housemate, and still makes an 8 am start time.
Cory Davis dedicates an hour each morning to “brain dumping,” a free-writing process that clears the mind. “This does two things for me,” Cory explains.
“It allows me to purge negative energy so I don’t carry it with me throughout the day, and it also kick starts creativity and gets me motivated to take on the to-do list.”
The point is to create space between waking up and starting work. If you don’t have a required start time, set a start time for yourself. This differentiates your work time from your personal life, even if your desk is only a few paces from your coffee pot.
Get dressed for the day
It’s tempting to stay in your pjs or adopt a half yoga pants/half blazer wardrobe, but experts say that dressing the part for your workday cues your brain into a more functional and productive mode. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s been a matter of hot debate (and some pretty funny tweets) these days.
You don’t need to don a three-piece suit everyday, but you should dress as close to your regular workplace attire as you can. Amy White, an okwrite(er) from Canada, agrees that getting “ready for the day by getting dressed and presentable” helps her switch out the rest and relaxation mode of her pyjamas into “get things done” mode for the day.
Define a workspace
Put literal parameters around where and when you work. Erin defines exact daily working hours and has a dedicated workspace. “My desk has cabinet doors so when I’m done, I close up and work “disappears”” she says.
If you can’t physically close off your workspace at the end of the day like Erin can, at least try to create a symbolic barrier between your work and home space.
For example, my desk is in my living room, but it faces an outward wall and a window. When I sit down to work, the rest of my home is out of my view, and when I finish work, my desk is off to the side instead of in the center of my life.
Fuel your focus
Don’t let the proximity of your desk to the fridge or your secret snack stash derail your nutrition. Experts say that meal planning, keeping a regular eating schedule, and choosing nutrient-rich foods improves your mood and maintains focus while working.
Jesse recommends eating a high-protein, low-carb lunch and staying hydrated to beat the afternoon slump and keep your energy up all day.
If you would normally leave the office to meet some co-workers in the break room or stroll to your favorite local coffee shop for a post-lunch pick-me-up, make a cup of joe at home and arrange a virtual coffee meetup with your work pals instead.
Even when you’re working from the comfort of home, breaks are still important. Regular breaks are built into the Pomodoro Technique, one of the most famous productivity methodologies out there, which I’ve used for my daily writing practice for years.
The basic idea is that you focus for a defined period of 25 minutes at a time with short breaks in between. After a few intervals of this, you take a more substantial break. After some practice, you get skilled at both the focused times and the downtimes and wind up getting more done in short, highly-focused bursts.
The best kind of break is one that also includes movement. Erin likes to hit the pavement for a short walk in the afternoon or at least make time to step outside for fresh air.
Jo Mhari Mendoza, working out of his home office in the Philippines, swears by a quick power nap. But he also says that putting on some tunes can do the trick too, and I agree with this whole-heartedly. I take an afternoon dance break pretty often and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Know your daily cycles
You can optimize your focused periods by organizing tasks around your natural daily cycles and attention span. Evernote even suggests recording your level of focus every hour for a few days to determine your peak productivity times.
But chances are you already have an instinct about this. I do technical and detailed work in the mornings when I’m laser-focused and save creative tasks for the afternoon when I tend to think more abstractly. Cory does this too, “shifting gears to less brain-powered tasks” in the afternoon.
Once you identify the best times of day to do each type of task, take your natural tendencies into consideration when planning the order of your tasks.
Use schedule blocking and task lists
Akhimi Xilca Zambales, an okwrite contractor in the Philippines, creates a schedule for her daily activities and calendarizes each of her tasks with deadlines to complete activities. This helps her maximize her working hours during the day and prevents her from losing track of upcoming deadlines or falling behind.
Jesse agrees that having your to-do list clearly set is key to staying on track all day. Cory takes tasks lists to the next level by using time blocking as well, defining not only what he needs to do each day, but exactly when and for how long he will work on each task.
Keep your Work/Life Balance
Just because you’re working from home, you don’t need to be “on” all the time. Akhimi says her family is her biggest motivator for working hard. But, as a mom of two little ones, it’s essential to balance her work life and family time. “Work time is work time, family time is family time. End of story!” Akhimi says.
Similarly, Jo says: “I always turn off notifications from work outside of work hours.” While regular communication with your teammates and managers is even more important in remote work than in traditional office work, both for feeling socially connected to your coworkers and for keeping collaborative projects ontrack, it’s also important to take time away from the chatter.
Mute your notifications during your break times and days off. And, as Jesse suggests, make sure to take some time completely off work to exercise outside or be with friends.
Working from Home Can Work for You
Amy says that working from home has given her “a better perspective on work/life balance.” While her previous position in the corporate world often took her away from her family, she now has more control over her time. She gets work done more efficiently and can spend more time with her friends and family.
Remote work can also create amazing opportunities where they may not have been accessible before. Check out our pal Felix’s story about how freelancing from Venezuela helped him succeed even under difficult circumstances.
If you’ve been working from home for a while, implement some of these tips to freshen up your focus. If remote work is a new game for you, establish your morning routine first, then add on more of our writers’ advice as you get comfortable. Mastering techniques for focus and productivity while working from home can improve your performance when you head back to the office too.
These tips have worked great for the okwrite team. We’re proof that you don’t need a corner office to be successful – you just need a little discipline, a good routine, and the occasional solo dance party.