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Tips - How to work from home effectively?

This global virus situation is bringing us a lot of changes. We start to rethink and reflect 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 that we are facing now is to manage to work from home. We are basically talking about behavioural change. It is 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 break with your social routine, and dressing up properly. Now you don't need to worry about any of them, 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, and you may need to take care of them too. It's not easy and you need a lot of changes on the way you manage your life, and remember they may need to change too. BUT it is 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, and so how do people work from home successfully? Here I compile a list of tips and ideas from different people and myself, hoping that can help you build your own successful WORK-FROM-HOME practice.

1. Plan for the day
  • Structure your day with 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 involved in the planning process, 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 in the early 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 that by when you need to complete a step before moving to the next important one. That could give you a sense of urgency to be efficient. Alarms can be very meaningful, it turns your distractions into your focuses, say your kids' napping time, a laundry/dishwasher cycle time or even your favourite TV show time or use your song playlist to set breaks in your routine. So that you will need to focus and get your work done before watching your next 10 episodes TV show marathon, or keep you active by doing some laundry between works instead of sitting on a chair the whole morning.

  • Set goals. Set your top 3 priorities that you want/need to accomplish that day. Then break 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 - visualise your accomplishment.

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 is a big part in work from home. It is basically the main tool to keep you connected to the outside world. Get yourself ready to different conference call platforms, nowadays Skype, Webex and Zoom are very popular tools. Here are some tips for you to prepare for video calls. Keep yourself connected or even set up an online coffee break with friends when you need one, so it's not too lonely.

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

  • Get hot water ready and nearby. Keep your fluids intake. Always have hot water ready and nearby so you can have hot tea or coffee the whole day to keep yourself refreshed and hydrated.

  • Add a little green to your home office. Studies tell us that plants can improve our mental health and increase our work productivity! Why not? It's always lovely to have some greens around, find out what plants for a productive home office here.

  • Let the kids involved. Invite your kids to contribute a part in your workspace like building an iPad stand or choosing a stuffed toy or a plant for you. Share with them you value their contribution to build this workspace together and how to behave when you are in the working zone to support you.

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

  • Dress properly. Get changed, no PJs! Keep your normal morning routine. "Dress" for work at least smart casual or even put on light make-up for ladies. Again, nothing fancy but that can totally change your mindset by not wearing track pants or pyjama pants!

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

  • Set up your background. I'm not a big fan of background music, but if that could help you relax or concentrate, music it is! Try Relaxing Jazz for work, Pop music for work, or Chill mix for work. Some people even turn the TV on at a low volume. If that works for you, TV it is! Aromatherapy is an effective way to keep you focused and energetic too. Make sure you use 100% pure essential oil and use our DIY worksheet to make your own Room Spray, or 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 lunch time. Take breaks, drink lots of water, get up and move (e.g. at work you are up and down to the printer, now you are up and down to the toilet and kitchen). You need to stay active to keep yourself focused and energetic, you can feel the difference immediately. Working from home doesn't mean you sit in front of a computer for 10 hours, or in front of the TV and do nothing the whole day. You can manage your work and life effectively with a practical routine. Some ideas to share with you on simple exercise, 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, have a check-out process (e.g. turn off the computer, clean up your desk, or just walk away). Spend quality time with your family, you are at home the whole day, but you are 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.

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