The road to remote work can be bumpy. Between struggling with slow NBN-internet and missing your daily water-cooler gossip sessions, there are many gaps where physical presence used to be.
We want to help. We've been fully remote at Yarno for going on 12 months now, and in that time, we've learnt a fair bit about the work-from-home lifestyle. And part of that process has allowed us to develop a few few strategies which help fill in some of the potholes lining the remote work road. Below we've rounded up a few of our tips and tricks for keeping focused and resisting the call of the couch while working from home.
You are Pavlov and his dogs
Leaving for work, shutting the door, and entering a new space is a physical signal to our brains and bodies that home time is over, now it's time to work. Your body associates your workspace with work because, well, that's where you work. And over time, you condition yourself into being more productive while at work, because you associate that space with focus.
The opposite is also true: at home, our brain expects to relax, to unwind, because that's where we relax, and where we unwind.
The way to fix the motivation tap, then, is to recondition yourself. Stake out a workspace at home, and teach your brain that work isn’t cancelled, it's just moved locations. It can be a whole room or only a particular part of your bedroom or living room. You need a space that you can point to and say, "that's where I work".
That’s just the beginning. To really get this conditioning going, you can add a couple level ups to your routine to make remote working work for you.
Level Up #1: Add a little ambience
Light a candle, simple as that. Pick out your favourite fragrance, and when you sit down at your desk for the morning, light it. Over time, just as your brain used to associate the sights and smells of the office with productivity, it will associate productivity with that smell as well.
This technique has the bonus of working like a light switch: candle on: work time. Candle out: relax time. Let your work worries go out with the candle; you'll sleep a little better.
Level up #2: Commute, even though you don't have to
Commutes transition not just our bodies, but our brains, from home to work. When the walk to work is only ten steps, your brain doesn't have enough time to load. In the time it takes you to walk from the bed to the laptop, it's only loaded 5% of the work operating system.
To fix this, you've got to give your brain time to load. Bookend your workday with a ritual: it might be a 10-minute walk, some stretching, or meditation. This gives your brain time to transition in the morning from relaxation to work and back again in the evening. Setting aside a few minutes each side will save you time overall, and teach your brain that even though you're at home, you're still working.
Level up #3: Treat your back with care
You've got backbone, so you better support it. Staring, slumping at the screen all day will cause your spine to weaken. Before you know it, you're walking around hunched, and everyone's telling you to straighten up and grow a little backbone.
To avoid this, take five minutes out of your day to consider your ergonomics. Here's a quick checklist to consider:
- Your desk chair. Are you sitting in a chair that offers sufficient lumbar support? You can buy back supports online if yours isn't working for you, or a quick trick is to put a pillow on top of the seat, as it will force you to sit up a bit straighter.
- Stand up. If you can, why not set up a standing desk? If you're thinking of investing in a standing desk, you can create a temporary one by piling up any books, boxes, or what-have-you you have lying around and see if it's for you.
- The height of your desk. It's hard not to slump when your desk is way down there. Having your screen more directly in front of you, or even up a little bit, will force you to sit up a little straighter, and build that backbone a little more.
Level up #4: Set boundaries in the household
Working from home often means spending less time with your coworkers, and more time with your household. Which is lovely - kids, parents, housemates - more time for quality time. However, if we want to get any work done, we need to impose some limits.
You might want to set aside some time to talk to your household about:
- Your work-schedule: What hours you're working, what hours you're free for activities.
- Do Not Disturb signals: Work out some signals to let your household know when you really can't have them walking in for a little chat. The signal might be that you're wearing headphones, or maybe that you leave a scrunchie on the door to your office, so they know not to enter.
- Work-hours etiquette: Set some guidelines for your shared-spaced. Is it ok to take a call in the living room when another household member is working there? Will you watching TV at lunch distract another household member? It's important to have honest conversations with those you live with about what works for you and what doesn't. A conversation now saves a fight later.
The present and the future
Take the time, invest a few minutes, and think about how you can set up your home set -up. You'll be thanking yourself for it next week, next month, and next year. Sow now, reap later.