Tips on working from home from Team BALANCE
As a large proportion of the country begin to work remotely, the BALANCE team share their top hacks to staying sane, productive and happy when you’re working from home.
The BALANCE office is much like any other: full of discussion, bustling energy and good vibes, interspersed with some good-natured debate and the ad department pumping out Todrick Hall’s Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels on the speakers. However, that’s all changed and now, as we attempt to still bring hope to these anxious times, the staff at Balance would like to share their working from home tips with you. Sign up to the BALANCE newsletter (at the bottom of this article) for more positive and purposeful content delivered straight to your inbox.
ROXANNE PEDERSEN, EVENTS & MARKETING COORDINATOR
“Whenever I work from home, I start the day by having a shower so I can feel fresh in order to feel good, and therefore increase productivity. Then I start by writing out my to-do lists: they’re a lifesaver, and help me achieve clarity and focus.
Then I pick a place with comfortable surroundings where I can work effectively. Somewhere with good lighting that’s clean, which usually ends up being my desk space. Try to make a difference to it on some days, like adding flowers to brighten things up.
I always try to sit upright when I’m working, it’s important to remember your posture and protect your back, especially if you’re not using office furniture.
Remember to take a break whatever shape that comes in: Tea breaks, snack breaks or even a tiny workout break can help make a difference to your day.
Use the fact you are in your comfort zone to your advantage by thinking of it as a disruption to your regular routine and set up your work environment as you best please. This is an opportunity to use and increase your adaptability, so embrace it! If you live close to a coworker, you could create a work-buddy situation – this keeps you motivated and sane in case you prefer the company of others. Finally, end the day with positivity and have an upbeat attitude – the situation could be worse, we are lucky to be safe and healthy, so count your blessings and have gratitude. Have fun working from home.”
RASHAD BRAIMAH, HEAD OF CREATIVE PARTNERSHIPS
“Set a daily routine. Get up at the same time, exercise, meditate, or if possible, get some fresh air and take a walk around the block. This all helps set your mind up for the day ahead.
Create an inviting workspace, with natural light, by a window. It doesn’t have to be a desk, it could be something as simple as some cushions on the floor. Work with whatever makes you comfortable.
Set a timeline for the day. Including your breaks for lunch, time away from your screen, etc. I find compiling a to-do list always helps to ensure you get the right things done over the day.”
LIBBY WILLIAMS, CONTENT EDITOR
“Get up and treat the day as if you were going to work. Make sure you shower, wash your face, brush your teeth, follow your normal morning routine. I find it important to make sure I put on fresh clothes too. This doesn’t have to mean ‘proper’ clothes, but make sure you’re in a clean pair of tracksuit bottoms, and a comfy jumper or t-shirt. After breakfast, make your usual office cup of tea or coffee and set up a designated work station with everything you need.
I live in a small flat so cabin fever can set in quickly. I try to stick to one spot for working so that the rest of my space remains as relaxation space, not work space. I also avoid working in my bedroom at all costs as I find it important to keep the separation spaces clear and defined.
I also find it useful to set regular alarms for either an hour, or an hour and a half, to remind me to get up, walk around, make a drink, have a screen break. It’s also important for me to define my boundaries by keeping my routine consistent marking out when I start working, have lunch, and put my laptop away at the end of the work day.”
BROOKS LIVERMORE, HEAD OF EVENTS
“I think structure is really important when you WFH, so I treat it like a normal day, shower, change, good breakfast, exercise, try not to drink too much coffee.
Get started by setting up your workspace at home – I’m lucky to have an office where I live, but wherever your workspace is or wherever you feel comfortable, make it that. It’s easy to get distracted if you are not in a working environment, so I find creating one useful.
Check in with your team, they are all out there working hard too, so it feels good to communicate and keep each other sane! Also, take time to make a plan and write a good list. There are so many things to do, so it’s really beneficial if you can really focus and prioritise. This can be easier working from home than in the office. It goes without saying, but schedule your working hours and breaks. Make sure they’re even, regular and you spend enough time at your desk, as well as away from it. Remember to eat well, too, and at the proper times.
Put on some music! Silence isn’t always golden! I find some good music really helps keep me going.
Stroke the dog, (mine is currently sitting on my feet as I write this) and feed the fish if you have some. Take them out for a walk at lunchtime (the dog, not the fish). You don’t always get to do this so enjoy it.
Don’t let yourself go into the social-media wormhole. With so many voices, theories and scary thoughts out there, it’s time to choose what you believe and what you listen to. Yes, of course, stay abreast of the news, but don’t let it consume you. Do what you need to do, social distancing, hand washing, exercising, but above all be kind to yourself.
I usually spend about two-and-a-half hours a day commuting, so really notice and make use of the extra time. These are extra moments you wouldn’t normally share with others, or fix some breakfast for your loved one or kids – there is brightness in some of this! Let’s try to find it.”
SOPHIE SCOTT, FOUNDER AND EDITOR
“Ensure you build structure into your day – that means a morning routine to replace your commute if possible (some yoga perhaps, or a leisurely breakfast). Take a lunch break and go for a walk/jog to get some fresh air. Ensure you have at least 1-2 calls (ideally video calls) planned each day to check in with your team, line manager or just a friend at work. Set yourself up on a messaging system such as Slack and really utilise project management tools. Embrace online learning. Set yourself time to work each day and stick to that.”
JAMES GILL, DEPUTY EDITOR
“If you have a significant other or a housemate, my advice is simple: work in different rooms. And, if it’s an option, on different floors. My wife and I attempted to work in the same room upon both going freelance a few years ago. Within minutes, it was doomed. I burst into a rendition of Ooh, Baby I Love Your Way and she very nearly burst into tears. That was, as they say, that. Still, nothing inspires you to productivity and inspiration quite like convincing yourself that you’re working harder than they are. We also have a new-found respect for Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan – how they worked and stayed together is testament to true love.”
JEREMY SAUNDERS, ACCOUNT DIRECTOR
“I always make sure I set my alarm and get up at a decent time. Something that doesn’t mean I’m tired for the whole day, but early enough so I feel like I have some energy for the day. Also, it gives me time to jump in the shower, and get out of the house for a bit before I start work to clear my head and be ready to start by 9am. Having a set schedule is really important. Listening to music or having Radio 4 on in the background is a good way to create some ambience, and stop me being distracted. I make sure I regularly stretch my legs, even if it’s just to stand up and make a cup of tea. I always keep my lunch break at the same time, and try to eat something healthy and nutritious. Then I’ll go out for another short walk so I can come back invigorated and ready for the afternoon. We’re all in uncharted waters at the minute, so stay positive, stay healthy and look out for any elderly or vulnerable neighbours.”
JULIAN THOMAS, SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT
“If you get bored easily ( like I do), work in a different room each day you work from home. This change of scenery and environment will help keep things fresh and avoid the sense of repetition that can dull your creativity and focus. Make sure it’s also comfortable wherever you are. Be strict with timings as if you were at work – make your day 9:30-5:30 (or 8-4, 10-6… whichever suits) and 1-2 for lunch with no exceptions – basically, keep to the same schedule every day. Try and use your lunch break effectively by doing what you can’t usually do at work. That might be going to your favourite coffee shop near your house or spending time cooking your favourite meal for lunch.”
ANDA VLASAKU, TRADING MANAGER
“A messy desk is a messy mind. Clear your workstation, and I guarantee it will clear your head. I normally wake up early and have some warming lemon water to detoxify and cleanse my body, take some Vitamin C for immunity, and have a coffee to wake up and be alert! Take the time working from home to appreciate time alone and a chance to really get your head down with no distractions! Try and manage your time correctly and stay focused. Attempt video calls with friends and colleagues in the day, and remember: smile when you dial! At lunchtime, move somewhere else to eat lunch; take a complete hour away from your workstation.”
GEORGIA LOCKSTONE, EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
“If working from home is quite a struggle in terms of concentration, then be sure to have a few different workspaces set up if possible. Don’t expect you’re going to be able to stay in the same place all day. Also, get up and move around a lot to keep your body supple. Structure it so for every 50 mins you work, give yourself a 10-minute break to make a drink or move about. If things are overly quiet, and you’re missing the hubbub of the office, I find popping some instrumental tracks on, acoustic sounds, or some white noise really helps me concentrate. When you’re working on your own, managing time can also be tough, so use techniques like the Pomodoro to keep your schedule on track.”
ROB FREEMAN, HEAD OF TRADING
“I like to start early as it gives me satisfaction that I have already done a fair bit by the time “official” work hours start at 9am. I spend the first part of the day formulating a plan, that you try to stick to as best you can (knowing that there will be any number of variables thrown in as the day progresses).
For the rest of my day I time myself (this works better for study but can work for normal work too) and set myself small achievable goals that I then reward myself for – it might be time off for 5-10 minutes, it might be something as simple as a biscuit and not looking at a screen. Breaking down my day into segments helps me check off what I need to do and by when. I also use a segment of the day to walk and listen to audio podcasts (usually study stuff but sometimes music) just to give some variety to my day. I always, always make time for lunch – if I miss it, it ruins my afternoon and my concentration levels.
Understand that it usually gets harder to concentrate towards the end of the day so take a few more smaller sharp breaks to re-energise and see you through to ‘home time’.”
ALISTAIR MACQUEEN, PRODUCTION EDITOR
“I try to start work as early as possible and make sure I have a dedicated workspace. I’d like to say work in a clean environment, but the “work room” is also full of guitars and drying clothes. Regardless, try and make the most of where you work – make your space your own without it becoming too cluttered.
Get the tunes on too, whatever helps you work, even if it’s the radio, a bit of background noise can be really beneficial. I also like to make sure I work by a window so I can take a bit of time to look out and daydream every 10 minutes or so… it’s a good chance to let any bit of creativity and inspiration arise, before refocusing on the task in hand.
Regularly get up and make a drink, have a stretch and try to keep to a set time for lunch – make sure you take an hour and try to exercise or go for a run for a part of it. Sitting down is the new smoking right, so get up and get out! This helps me return to work with a bit more focus and helps avoid the afternoon slump. Also, try to treat yourself at the end of each “shift”– it might be a nice coffee and cake, warming bath or glass of wine, even… just give yourself something to look forward to at the end of your day, and stay positive!”
So how do we stay productive and at our peak when working from home? Abigail Ireland is a performance specialist, qualified nutritionist and certified mind gym coach. She shares her tips on what to do when your personal space also becomes your office.
“At its core, ‘working from home” doesn’t impact a person’s productivity. Instead, it’s the person’s mindset and approach that really matters. I believe that everything starts with the mind, including our ability to focus in different environments and set ourselves up for success. We each have preferred working styles. For example, working on admin could be well-suited to an open plan office if you enjoy some background noise. Alternatively, working from home is ideal when involved in tasks requiring deep concentration or strategic thinking. You can get into the zone without the typical office distractions.
Working from home can impact work-life balance, as people struggle to draw the line at the end of the “workday”. This can affect physical and mental wellbeing, as well as relationships. It takes intentional practise to plan ahead, use tools to support you, set your environment up around you, and establish a routine that promotes success.
To create effective boundaries, designate a physical location within your home for “work”. This could be a particular area of the home, dedicated room, or even a specific seat at the table. Helping your brain to quickly shift into work mode when in this location enables you to focus and get in the zone. It also means the rest of your home stays associated with rest and relaxation, rather than being a reminder of work.
Spend the first hour each day doing the one task that you keep avoiding but that is going to make a big impact. This usually falls into the “important but not urgent” bucket. Use the time you would otherwise spend commuting to make solid progress on this task.
Finally, schedule your day and use a timer to stay focused on just one task for a set period of time, before giving yourself a short break to recharge. Then get back to your next focused sprint. This enables you to keep your energy up over a sustained period of time (goodbye afternoon slump!).”