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  • Writer's pictureDeane Lam

Tips - 3 Proven Strategies for Working From Home Effectively

This global virus situation is bringing about a lot of changes. We start to rethink and reflect on how we live together on this planet and how we are going to survive in the future. That's the big picture: one of the biggest challenges we are facing now is managing to work from home. It's really challenging for those who used to drive or take transportation to a proper office, work at a proper workstation, with a proper schedule including lunch breaks and their social routine, and dressing up properly. Now, you don't need to worry about any of that. You just need to get your work done alone, like a one-man band working at home full-time, with kids, pets, or even grandparents, whom you may need to take care of too. It's not easy, and you need to make a lot of changes in the way you manage your life. Also, remember that they may need to change too. But it's also a great opportunity for us to live together once again.

I love working from home. I've been doing it since 2007, and I can have my work done efficiently and productively. But that does not make me an expert. We all have very different distractions and preferences, so how do people work from home successfully? Here, I compile a list of tips and ideas from different people and myself, hoping that they can help you build your own successful work-from-home practice.

1. Plan for the day
  • Structure your day with a routine. It's all about your mental readiness. Keep your routine similar to your usual day: your morning ritual, breakfast and workout time, running errands, working time, lunch and tea breaks (give yourself plenty of small breaks - you can use them to do some housework too). Don't forget to add a routine for your family as well so that you can focus on your work when they are engaged in their own activities. Let them be involved in the planning process and make them aware of the changes.

  • Find "your" time. Start early in the morning. I can jump into working mode right after I wake up early in the morning, get a lot of work done, manage my housework for the day, and then start communicating with colleagues/clients. That's 'my' time. I usually set conference calls around noon so that I can finish all my tasks and preparation before the call and still have time to get some work done after the call.

  • Set alarms and breaks effectively. The purpose of setting alarms is to remind you when you need to complete a step before moving to the next important one. This can give you a sense of urgency to be efficient. Alarms can be very meaningful; they can turn your distractions into focuses, such as your kids' napping time, a laundry/dishwasher cycle, or even your favorite TV show time. You can also use your song playlist to set breaks in your routine. This way, you'll need to focus and get your work done before watching your next 10-episode TV show marathon or keep yourself active by doing some laundry between tasks instead of sitting in a chair the whole morning.

  • Set goals. Set your top 3 priorities that you want/need to accomplish that day. Then, break them down into a to-do task list. Write them down so that you can see them. Tick or cross out each item when you get it done to visualize your accomplishments.

2. Create a productive workspace
  • Set up a proper workspace. Set up your own workspace at home similar to the way you work at your office, nothing fancy though! Keep your workspace (at least from where you can see) away from the kitchen, bedroom or entertainment room to keep your mental self in a working mode/zone. Clean up your workspace and take away distractions from your desk. Get your mobile device stand and headphone ready. You may need a comfortable chair, external keyboard or level up your computer screen to support a comfortable and proper posture for your body.

  • Prepare for calls. Technology plays a significant role in working from home as it's the main tool to keep you connected to the outside world. Familiarize yourself with various conference call platforms; nowadays, Skype, Webex, Team and Zoom are popular choices. Here are some tips to  prepare for video calls: Ensure your equipment is functioning properly, set up a professional background, dress appropriately, and test your audio and video beforehand. Additionally, stay connected with others by setting up online coffee breaks with friends when needed to avoid feeling isolated.

  • Use stationery. Now it's time to take out the beautiful stationery you bought many years ago and that's still sitting in your storeroom. Place it nicely on your desk in the home office and treat yourself :)

  • Keep hot water ready and nearby. Stay hydrated throughout the day by having hot water ready nearby. This way, you can enjoy hot tea or coffee whenever you need a refreshing break.

  • Add a little green to your home office. Studies tell us that plants can improve our mental health and increase work productivity! Why not incorporate some greenery? It's always lovely to have plants around. Discover which plants are ideal for a productive home office here.

  • Let the kids get involved. Invite your kids to contribute to your workspace, whether it's building an iPad stand, selecting a stuffed toy, or choosing a plant for you. Share with them how much you value their contribution to building this workspace together, and explain the importance of respecting your working zone when you're focused on work.

3. On the day
  • Keep your normal morning routine. Wake up early, brush teeth, shower, meditate, exercise/yoga, have breakfast, and/or read newspapers; maintain your morning ritual to awaken your mind and empower your day.

  • Dress appropriately. Get changed, no PJs! Stick to your normal morning routine. Dress for work, at least smart casual, or even apply light makeup for ladies. Nothing fancy, but this can significantly change your mindset by not wearing track pants or pajama pants!

  • Stick to your routine, but be flexible. If you need a break, take one. One of my collaborators, Rebecca Clark, always said, 'Let's sleep on it and talk about it tomorrow,' as she was in the USA and I was in Macau at the time. My working morning was her nighttime. When you find yourself not working effectively or getting stuck at a point, walk away. Give yourself some time to do something hands-on - activities like cooking, brewing a nice coffee, or gardening (it's a good time to do some housework). Moving your hands and fingers stimulates your brain - a secret trick to help you problem-solve.

  • Set up your background. While I'm not a big fan of background music, if it helps you relax or concentrate, music it is! Try Relaxing Jazz for work, Pop music for work, or Chill mix for work. Some people even find low-volume TV helpful. If that works for you, go for it! Aromatherapy is another effective way to stay focused and energetic. Make sure you use 100% pure essential oil and try our DIY worksheet to create your own Room Spray. Alternatively, simply add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to a diffuser.

  • Stay active and take good care of yourself. Go out for a walk at lunchtime. Take breaks, drink lots of water, and move around (e.g., at work, you're up and down to the printer, now you're up and down to the toilet and kitchen). Staying active helps keep you focused and energetic; you can feel the difference immediately. Working from home doesn't mean sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours or in front of the TV doing nothing all day. You can manage your work and life effectively with a practical routine. Here are some ideas to share with you on simple exercises, meditation, and yoga for your Mind-body balance.

  • Keep your evening routine. Don't forget your 'off-office-hour' time. Set a time to finish your work and have a check-out process (e.g., turn off the computer, clean up your desk, or simply walk away). Spend quality time with your family; although you're at home the whole day, you're not with them. They are important in your work-from-home routine, or I should say work is just part of your life routine. Reflect on what is important to you.

Incorporating these tips into your work-from-home routine can significantly improve your productivity, well-being, and work-life balance. Remember to stay active, take breaks, and prioritize self-care throughout the day. By maintaining a practical routine and setting boundaries between work and personal time, you can create a fulfilling and effective work-from-home experience. Here's to a productive and balanced workday ahead!


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