How to Work From Home (and actually be productive)

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As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, albeit seemingly much slower than a lot of very frantic people would have you believe, more and more companies are beginning to implement a “work from home” policy. Which sounds really nice in theory, until you find out how vastly different it is from working in an office. Don’t worry though, we’ll help you through these confusing times with a very handy guide on how to work from home and still be productive!

Have an office

Sounds counterproductive, sure. Isn’t the whole point of working from home to not go into an office? Well, sure, but the reason offices are still used to fuel the capitalistic society we live in is because they work. Humans like a clear division between work and relaxation, that’s why your work office doesn’t have a communal bed for naps unless you’re one of those quirky Silicon Valley executives.

Your home office doesn’t need much. It doesn’t even need its own room! Could be that you designate a specific zone at your dining room table, or a certain segment of your kitchen’s breakfast nook. Just a space where you can set up a computer, have space for documents and keep away from any distractions. Pro Tip: Maybe don’t set up in front of a TV, that’s a recipe for procrastination.

Set boundaries

One of the absolute worst parts about working from home is all your friends and family assuming you have all the free time in the world. “You’re not too busy, are you?”, “You have all kinds of spare time, could you pick up the groceries?”, “Could you help fix my internet? You work from home, right?” they all say, confident that just because you’re at home you have nothing more urgent to tick off your to-do list.

If that’s a reality for you, it’s totally okay to tell those folks to get in the sea. We give you permission, it’s fine.  Just because you’re at home all day doesn’t mean you’re not working and unfortunately, people who’ve worked in offices their whole lives often don’t understand that. Set boundaries with your friends and family, make sure they know that you’re still a working professional and can’t run around for them. If you need to be a little stricter, only respond to work-related messages or calls. If that doesn’t rub the concept into their heads then you’re gonna need to find some more respectful friends.

45 Minute schedule

The cool thing about working in an office is that your concentration is usually briefly interrupted at some point. That might sound bad, but it’s pretty beneficial to our productivity. Human beings have an average concentration span of roughly 45 minutes, meaning we aren’t fantastic at intensely focusing on one thing longer than that. Why do you think university lectures are always 45 minutes long?

Those little distractions are often great for resetting your concentration to ensure you don’t burn out over one task that’s consuming your attention. Try and take 5 minutes for every 45 minutes you end up working and do something unrelated to your current busy work. Take a quick stroll around the house, brew a cup of coffee, maybe pet your dog who’s no doubt overjoyed to have you home all day. Don’t get carried away though, remember the above tip. Dogs also need boundaries.

Be presentable, you slob

Plenty of people think it would be fun to just sit at their laptop and send emails while never leaving their bed, leaving an odious smell in the sheets as your unbathed body leaks fluids into those cushions and cotton fibres. It’s disgusting. Unprofessional. And exceptionally fun for the first couple of hours until you realise that maybe you’d get more done if you actually treated your current position as a job.

One of the toughest parts about working from home is the lack of routine. It’s important to maintain your usual schedule because if you don’t you’ll get lost in the chaos. This isn’t a holiday, you still have deadlines to meet so you better treat those pressing issues with the professionalism they deserve. Also, maybe just have a little self-respect? What would your grandparents think of you, working in PJs? Just throw on some old jeans, a t-shirt, brush your teeth and have a shower. You’ll feel so much better, we promise.

Stock up on toilet paper

Less of a “How to Work from Home” tip and more of a general “How to Survive the Impending Apocalypse” tip. Look, we don’t want to be crude about this but you’ll be at home far more than usual. Which means you’ll be using your toilet more, right? So you see where we’re going with this train of thought, don’t you? Please say yes…

Odds are you’ll be…wiping a lot more because now going to the loo on company time has become a far more personal endeavour. Look, the extra privacy is a bonus but you’ll also be charging through far more bog roll than normal. The excess supply also helps if some kind of nationwide quarantine is implemented. “Always prepare for the worst,” is our motto.

Gather important gadgets

To get through the cabin fever and just general lack of direction that often comes with working from home, you’re gonna need a team. A team of equipment to help you manage your productivity and prevent you from slipping down a hole or procrastination. So, before you sit down in your nifty little nook of a home office, maybe think about investing in some of these essential products:

  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
  • Back-up hard drive
  • Internet Dongle
  • Coffee Machine
  • SweepSouth

While some of these are self-explanatory (the coffee machine is so you can at least have a little luxury while you’re sending emails) some of them might require an explanation. The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is essential for keeping your machines on if the electricity dies (as it’s prone to do these days). The higher-end ones also allow you to store power and charge devices off of them. For more information on what kind of UPS you should invest in, check out our guide on how to keep the WiFi on during load shedding.

The back-up hard drive is largely to ensure you don’t lose hours and hours of work to load shedding, although through the assistance of autosaving on most documents that shouldn’t be as big a problem. Still, for those of us who often work in the cloud, not having access to the Internet can be detrimental to our workflow. Saving everything to physical hard drives solves that problem, or you could invest in a cheap Internet dongle and load it up with data. Just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean your emails shouldn’t.

The last essential piece of your home working puzzle is a magic little app called SweepSouth. You don’t want your home slowly degrading into a wasteland of filth, right? We’re not saying you’re dirty, but we are definitely saying that spending far more time at home will cause some level of grime to accumulate. You could clean it, but you’ve got a work schedule to follow. SweepSouth will send out a cleaner to help you maintain the place so that you don’t have to worry about keeping everything polished.

Back to work

Okay, that should have been enough to fill the 5 minutes you’re likely taking to splice up the 45-minute sessions you’re working through. Honestly, working from home isn’t so bad. It can be lonely at time, sure. Yet being surrounded by your own environment is always more comfortable than sitting in an office. Just don’t forget that you still have work to do. This isn’t a vacation, so best not treat it like one.

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I completed a Masters Degree just so someone might take my opinions seriously one day. Also writes about video games over at Critical Hit.

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  1. Pingback: What you should and shouldn’t do during lockdown

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