The Homeworker's Survival Guide

You think the darkness is your ally? But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it. Moulded by it…

Tom Hardy as Bane – The Dark Knight Rises

Melodramatic film quotes aside, recent events mean that suddenly loads of people are now working from home. And it’s hard. Even when you’re doing it to save the world.

I’ve been working from my home office since I founded 603 Copywriting. My business was born in my old spare room. My methods and habits have been moulded by remote working.

What I’m saying is, I know how you can get through this. Here’s my advice. My survival guide to home working.

5 Tips for Working From Home

One: Routine

The easiest trap to fall into is starting late and working late. Especially when you’re not allowed out to the pub, the cinema or to walk the dog for longer than your government-mandated exercise period.

Whether it’s boredom or poor timekeeping, it’s far too easy to work late into the night, get up a little later the next day, only to work even later – and so on.

This might sound productive. It’s not. It’s a shortcut to burnout.

Set a time to start every day, a time to finish, and a few spots during the day for breaks and lunch. Keeping regular office hours will keep you sane and happy.

Two: Dress

There’s a long-standing joke about working from home, that it’s all sitting on the couch in your pyjamas/boxer shorts/birthday suit.

If you can be productive and professional wearing a ratty old t-shirt and some stained joggers, all power to you. But most people can’t. If you’re dressed like you’re spending the day on the couch with Netflix, well, you’re priming your mind to spend the day on the couch with Netflix.

Shower, shave, and throw on a clean shirt. It’ll trick your brain into thinking you’re doing a proper working day, not some weird quarantine-induced homeworking shift.

Three: Connect

You’re going to need human connection to get through this. Not just to make work easier, but to stay healthy and happy while you’re looking at the same four walls all day, every day.

There’s a reason solitary confinement is the worst punishment imaginable. We’re social creatures. We need to connect.

From a working standpoint, I’ve found that a 30-60 minute video conference call with my Hampson Nattan Williams partners at 9am on a Monday is good for setting the week’s targets and reviewing the previous week’s successes. It’s good for workflow and good for morale.

… and Chat

You can easily do this with your colleagues via Skype or Zoom – for free – either through your laptop, your tablet, or your smartphone.

You’ll also want to use Skype or another text-based chat such as WhatsApp to keep connected with your co-workers throughout the day. This isn’t just for working conversations. Having a chat group to natter, joke and banter with throughout the day will help you replace that office chatter that you’ll be missing already.

And remember – you can use these tools with your friends to set up a virtual night out over Zoom video chat, or a WhatsApp group to share awful COVID-19 memes on.

Four: Track

I don’t believe that people can’t work without a manager tracking their productivity constantly. But it’s important to keep track of what needs doing and what’s been done.

The second bit is especially important to keep morale up, and feel like things are being accomplished.

If you can’t use your existing CRM (or you don’t use one at all), something as simple as a to-do list on a piece of paper is a good way of seeing where you’re up to. Microsoft To-Do moves that to your desktop and lets you assign events to different team members.

Just having a list of things you’ve accomplished today is a surprisingly powerful way of staying motivated and engaged, and being sure that you’re on the right track.

Five: Relax

Here’s the most important thing.

If you’ve been forced into working from home because of the Coronavirus lockdown, you’re not going to be an expert remote worker overnight. It takes weeks – even months – to adjust.

Some days you’ll get loads done. Some days you’ll be lonely. And some days you’ll be worried sick.

So relax. Be kind to yourself. If you finish early, don’t beat yourself up. Just pull on your PJs, settle on the couch, and get deep into that Mad Men rewatch you’ve promised yourself.

And who knows? Maybe once this is over, you’ll be happy to avoid the commute and the stress, and work from home more often?

Now go and wash your hands.

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