At LuckyTamm Digital Marketing, we are a completely remote team, which means we’ve been working from home (WFH) since our founding in 2013. With so many folks entering the WFH fold in the past week due to COVID-19 quarantine and attempts to flatten the curve, we thought we’d share our best tips for success when there’s no office to go to (and no coffee shop, either). After sharing all of these in our Instagram stories this week, we thought we’d compile them in an easy-to-read blog, too.
Set the stage for success when working from home
The first thing you should do when trying to work from home is find a place in your home that you can dedicate to working. If you have housemates, a spouse, or children, it’s best if you can all have separate work spaces with the ability to close doors so that you can take part in conference calls without interruption, and so you won’t be tempted to interrupt each other. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of setting up a home office, but the dining room table or the desk in your bedroom can serve the role of “office”.
You may be tempted to work from your bed or the couch, but it’s best if you can separate your “relaxation” spaces from your “work” spaces. Not only will you be more productive, you’ll also have an easier time falling asleep when you do get the chance to go to bed. If you have good Wi-Fi and can work from outside, it’s a wonderful way to keep cabin fever from creeping up on you, while enjoying a little sunlight and nature.
You should set up your “office” space with the tools you need to succeed. All of us at LuckyTamm use a notebook to track our tasks for the day; we like to cross them off one at a time. We also like having a second monitor to increase productivity, as well as all the chargers you may need for your phone or other devices. Noise canceling headphones can be very helpful if you have housemates, children, or pets that might distract you from your work. If they have the proper Bluetooth settings and a microphone, they can also be helpful during conference calls, to keep background noise at bay for both you and other participants. It’s also a good idea to make your office space comfortable and soothing, with a comfortable chair, the music you like, and ambient touches like candles or good lighting.
Take frequent breaks — and schedule them like meetings
Working in an office often comes with built-in breaks: lunch time, a chat with coworker, that 2pm coffee run. When you’re working from home, you may forget to stand up and stretch. It’s important to give yourself frequent breaks, especially if you’re experiencing any sort of anxiety from recent news. Scheduling the breaks in your calendar with a set reminder to stand up and do something else every 30-90 minutes is a great way to ensure you give yourself a much needed breather.
Some of us love to use the Pomodoro Technique, which was developed in the 1980s by an Italian businessman named Francesco Cirillo. The technique involves using a timer (Francesco used a tomato-shaped one, which is why it’s called “pomodoro”, Italian for “tomato”) to go off every 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, you’re supposed to stand up and do something else for a few minutes to reset your mind.
Another good reminder to take a break is your pet or children. Dogs will usually be happy to go on a 15-minute jaunt throughout the neighborhood with you, and children who are stuck inside will need to take their recess breaks, too. If you set a schedule with your children or your pet, they’ll be sure to remind you when it’s time to go have some exercise.
Put your physical health first
When you’re not able to do your regular routine, including your gym workout, it can be easy to let your health fall by the wayside. But in emotionally turbulent times, having stable physical health is even more important. Enforcing good health routines can help you stay productive and help you through anxiety and depression.
One thing about working from home is that you have your entire kitchen accessible to you at all times. If you work in an office that provides snacks and drinks, the availability of food may not be new to you. Still, for the first week or two, it can be easy to eat your way through your cabinets, especially if you’re feeling emotionally taxed or bored. Don’t ever judge yourself for wanting to eat; it’s a very common way to self-soothe. Give yourself permission to eat what you’d like to eat, keeping in mind that you’ll feel better if you eat a bigger balance of nutritious food and have sweet or salty treats as just that — treats.
If you stock your kitchen with a range of good food, including fruits and veggies as well as chips and cookies, you’ll have a better time finding that balance. Exercise can also mitigate this need, by providing a healthy way to get some dopamine flowing without eating. Going outside for a walk is not just a way to get some exercise; it’s generally allowed by the rules of self-distancing, too.
It’s also good to remember that, when anxiety is high, you may be more tired than usual. If one of your breaks needs to be a 15 minute nap, by all means, crawl into bed and get a nap in. Pro-tip: Drink a cup of coffee or tea before you lie down. When the caffeine actually kicks in 20 minutes later, you’ll be ready to get up and head back to work.
Keep drinking (water, that is)
Hydration can help immensely in keeping you from wanting to eat everything in sight, and water plays an important role in almost every function of your body. Everyone at LuckyTamm has a different way of remembering to drink water, whether it’s in a fun reusable bottle or flavored with fruit or juice. Coffee and tea can help, too, although you should keep the caffeine to a dull roar if you’re experiencing any anxiety. Herbal teas are a great way to feel like you’re drinking something fancy without amping up the energy too much. Just like with taking breaks, you can set a timer to remind you to drink water. There are even water bottles that will beep to remind you it’s time to take a swig.
One other possible trap of the WFH set is that you may feel free to drink alcohol more than normal, especially if you have a stocked bar at home. A lot of people turn to alcohol when they need to unwind, which can be disastrous if taken too far. Alcohol actually increases the symptoms of anxiety over time, and it’s no secret that heavy drinking is really, really bad for you. So while a happy hour with your friends over Skype or Zoom can be good to lift your spirits, try to keep the imbibing of spirits to a dull roar. We know you’re not driving anywhere, and it won’t cost you $15 a cocktail, but those aren’t great reasons to ruin your health or strain your relationships at home.
Special tips for WFH during a quarantine
One major difference between remote work during regular times and remote work during a quarantine is that we don’t have as many options as we normally would. Social distancing is very difficult to maintain, and the effects of isolation can be downright dangerous. There are several ways to make remote work during a quarantine work for you:
- Get outside and go for a walk anytime you can
- Call your friends and family members often (maybe while you’re on a walk)
- Limit your time on social media and reading the news
- Do something creative, like gardening, painting, or baking