As the world continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, many organisations have found themselves making complex decisions to keep their working environments and communities safe whilst still operating at full capacity.
As a result, some of you might be reading this from the comfort of your own home - the place you're now expected to work from indefinitely.
For those uninitiated to a home office, this can be a substantial transition that impacts almost every aspect of daily life.
At Paperform, we are both grateful and privileged to have been a remote organisation since our inception.
With plenty of remote-working experience under our belts, our team has banded together to share some of our favourite tips and tools to help you feel connected, productive and mentally sound whilst working from home for an extended period of time.
While working from home means that you can’t follow your usual daily routine, it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice all structure in your life.
In fact, structuring your workday can help you overcome the initial strangeness of missing your commute, walking breaks and office conversations.
“Creating dedicated blocks of time for every activity within your day—whether it’s work-related, exercise, eating or watching a movie—can help you focus on one thing at a time," says Vlad Shvets, our Growth Manager.
You won't always be able to work at optimal productivity, so it's important to find when you work best.
"If you’re a morning person, use that extra time in the mornings to get a chunk of work out of the way," says Dean McPherson, our Co-founder. "This gives you some extra time in the afternoon to take a longer break."
"Ultimately, figure out which hours of your day are the most productive and make sure that you’re planning for those to be utilised to their best ability."
Focusing on individual tasks, rather than constantly checking the time, can help you work smarter too.
"I work to get one task done at a time or to achieve a digestible chunk of work and achieve a milestone, then take a break," says our Co-founder, Diony McPherson.
That means shorter bursts of work and more frequent breaks, but I don't time them. That's what works for me—you've got to figure out what works for you.
"It’s best to not punch in and out and measure your success by hours worked. Instead, try to work smarter and recognise when you're not being productive. The 4-Hour Work Week is a great read that nails this concept."
Do you always start your day with a shower and a change of clothes? Ease yourself into your home office by sticking to exactly that.
As it turns out, getting dressed in the morning can lead to a spike in productivity, impact your job performance and give you the boost of confidence you need to conquer your tasks.
"It's a good idea to change from your PJs to work clothes so you don't feel like laying down on your couch," says Roxy. "Getting dressed for the day will help you mentally separate your work hours from your leisure ones."
Now that you’re no longer commuting from your home to the office, it’s likely that you’re spending more of your day sitting down than you’re used to.
Understandably, excessive sitting down has a negative impact on your metabolism, blood pressure, cholesterol and posture.
One of the best ways to combat the inherent inactivity that can accompany working from home is to schedule dedicated breaks for physical activity.
“If you have kids, take them to the park for an hour," says Diony. "Otherwise, use YouTube to your advantage to plan 30-minute workout sessions. YouTube is a treasure chest of free workout videos—my personal favourite is Windsor Pilates."
Josh prefers getting outside. "Doing gardening and yard work during breaks is a great way to get moving and get some sun."
Whether it's your kitchen table, a corner of your couch, or your own home office, it's important to define your workspace. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles. Rather, it's about helping you get in the mental space to do work.
"It has to be a place specifically designed for work," says Roxy. "Where you don't do anything else. By separating your workstation, your body will get programmed to work at that particular spot.
Dean works all around the house but uses his desk as his dedicated deep work zone. "Throughout the day, I'll naturally drift to different places around the house, but having a dedicated "deep work" space helps to keep me focused."
As you continue working from home, you might find yourself missing regular interactions with your colleagues at the office or over lunch.
Take every opportunity to interact with your team members and dedicate some time during the day to catch up on non-work-related things. The time before or after your scheduled meetings is a great opportunity to do this.
“Using a messaging app is great for communicating asynchronously," says Dean. "But talking over video chat is way more personal, and taking time to nurture those relationships will stop everyone from going crazy."
Times like these make us appreciate our remote-first culture even more. While working from home can initially be a daunting concept, it’s reassuring to know that it doesn’t have to be an impediment to your productivity.
In fact, multiple studies have found that employees who work from home generally tend to be more productive than their office-going counterparts.
“Remote work is an extreme privilege," says Diony, "but I hope it becomes the norm. I hope more people get to enjoy their loved ones and find fulfilment in work in a healthier way."
Almost half our team members are parents. While your first instinct might be to completely separate your home life from your work life, working from home can often make that a challenge.
In reality, leaning into the flexibility of remote work can help you make the most of spending your workday around your loved ones.
Diony's work life is completely integrated with family life. "A break for me is hanging out with our kids or making lunch. I'm often working with a toddler playing next to me, and a 9-month-old rolling around on the rug"
"My routine is spread-out. I start at around 8am, and usually finish on a task around 10pm, but there are loads of breaks and other life stuff that happen in between that."
"I love that; I love that I'm reminded of why we work hard (family!) and can enjoy time with each other throughout the day.”
And if all else fails, Josh has a tip: "invest in a good pair of noise (AKA child) cancelling headphones."
A task management app that allows you to create to-do lists and collaborative project boards with your team members. The basic version of the app is free, which makes it a good starting point. Similar tools include monday.com, or ClickUp.
An instant messaging app for teams. You can organise conversations by topics, projects or teams. The app has an in-built video calling feature as well as hundreds of integrations with other apps (like Google Drive and Salesforce), allowing you to automate your workflows. Plans start at $6.67/month.
A time-tracking software for remote teams. It has everything you need to manage your teams while they're at home including online timesheets, productivity monitoring, simple payrolls and team scheduling.
Youtube workout videos: Gym who? Thanks to YouTube, it’s easy to stay active from the comfort of your own home. Check out this comprehensive list of the best workout videos.
If you’re someone who’s easily distracted by nearby sounds, noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to focus with the sweet sound of nothing. Here’s a list of the best ones on the market.
Using a calendar app is an easy way to schedule and manage those aforementioned time blocks. You can even share your calendar with the rest of your team so they know not to bother you or schedule meetings over your dedicated focus hours.
Spotify (or any music streaming app): To keep you sane and entertained during the day. Not to mention, music can even enhance your productivity.
Pomodoro Chrome Extension: Some of our team members swear by this handy Chrome Extension. It’s essentially a timer with 25-minute sets with 5-minute breaks in between, adding some structure to your working day.
A good cup of coffee: Not only will it keep you alert during the day, it's also a great way to support your local coffee shop during these difficult times. Look into your local shop's delivery options or order some bags from a local roaster.
We do just about everything through Paperform. Leave requests, content and design approvals, scheduling. Of course, we're going to say it's great, but it really fills so many roles for us as a team that it's become integral to us functioning as a business—it makes working here even easier!
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