What to do when your living room becomes your office.
If recent circumstances have forced you to work from home, you probably feel a bit displaced. Trying to work in the midst of this new normal can feel a bit like navigating new territory without a map.
Knak has been at least partially remote since it’s inception, so we wanted to share some helpful tips from our team if working from home has you feeling out of sorts.
I’ve worked remotely for Knak for the last two years. It’s the first fully remote position I’ve had, and it was a huge adjustment. Within the span of a week or so, I moved from in-person meetings and onsite visits to conducting much of my business via video conferencing. The learning curve was significant – so many new software programs to learn!
At first, I tried to work my job into my daily life, but I quickly realized that if I was going to maintain a high level of productivity, I needed to start “going to work” even if I wasn’t actually going anywhere.
Whether you’re at home for a few weeks or for much longer, here are my tips for being productive while you’re there.
- Separate your workspace from your daily life if possible, especially your rest environment. It could be a corner in the basement, a separate room, or even a big closet, but it’s important to give your brain and body permission to disconnect from work. If your workstation is the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning, disconnecting becomes difficult.
- Invest in an ergonomically sound workstation. It’s so tempting to try to save money by working from your couch or recliner, but your body will pay the price for doing this. Get a desk and chair that allow you to reach your keyboard without straining your neck and back and type easily without bending your wrists.
- Get a second computer screen. I can’t live without two screens. I use my laptop for video and Slack communication and my second monitor for documents, emails, etc. It also helps me make comparisons and manage data entry quickly since I can reference several things at once.
- Over-communicate. It’s more important than ever to communicate with your team, especially when you’re not in the same office. Schedule weekly project syncs with co-workers, and touch base daily with your team via Slack or Zoom.
- Video, video, video. Get up, shower, and dress properly. It’s hard to maintain a professional mindset if you’re wearing sweatpants day after day, so make an effort to look presentable. It will help your work and keep you focused.
- “Leave” when the day is over. I have a calendar notification set for 5 PM, and when I hear it, I shut down my whole system. No notifications, everything closed so I’m not tempted to check in during the evening. You may think, “I’m just going to check on this quickly,” but if you’re constantly checking in, your work and your home lives bleed together, and it leads to burnout.
I have amazing co-workers who have been working remotely for years and could teach master classes on productivity, so I’m going to share some of their insight as well.
From Jack Steele, Lead Email Developer:
- Schedule time to work on specific tasks. I use my calendar to set aside time to focus on one specific task. If the task requires a lot of focus, I mute all notifications during that time slot to help prevent distractions.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out. If I’m struggling with something or need some input, I see who is available and jump on a call with them. Working remotely removes some of the natural collaboration that comes in co-located office environments, so I try to talk to people in person as much as possible rather than using email for problem solving. A quick Zoom call keeps me in touch with my colleagues and allows me to get some insight while the problem is still fresh in my mind. Plus, it’s nice to interact with people throughout the day!
From Patrick Proulx, Chief Technical Officer:
- Plan out your day. Working from home can make it hard to focus, so having a plan for when you’ll work on certain tasks and when you’ll take a break can help keep you on track.
- Minimize virtual distractions. If you have sites that distract you (Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, etc) and you find yourself going to them regularly, get an app that will block them for a period of time. For Mac users, I sometimes use one called SelfControl when I’m finding it difficult to focus.
- Take more breaks. Working from home eliminates commuting and the other distractions that come from working in an office. Use some of that time to recharge throughout the day by stepping away and taking a quick walk, doing a load of laundry, etc without feeling guilty about it.
- Prioritize facetime. It can be hard to maintain good working relationships with others when you don’t see them regularly. I’ve found it’s really good to set up a quick 15-minute meeting to touch base daily with my team. It’s much easier to build connections when people turn on their cameras and you can see them face to face.
From Fernando Benavides, Full Stack Developer:
- Start your day early. Morning is the most productive time of day, and your mind is fresh and ready to complete your work.
- Organize and respect your personal time. When working from home, people tend to overwork when there is no clear limit between personal and work life.
From Felix Higgs, Customer Success Manager:
- Take a shower. Make it feel like you’re “going to work” before you start. Take a shower, eat breakfast, do what you normally do before you leave for work.
- Take a break. Take some real breaks in which you’re not looking at your screen. I like to go outside and get some fresh air a few times a day.
- Have a quiet workspace. Invest in some good headphones. No matter where you’re working from, you need to be able to mitigate noise when you have a meeting.
From Asra Sarfraz, Senior Visual Designer:
- Make your workspace nice. Find somewhere with sunlight and a plant or two. It’ll brighten up your space, and having plants around means cleaner air.
- Don’t hit the wall. Take a break whenever you feel stuck. The five minutes you’re away from your screen will help you find a fresh perspective.
- Memes and water. Stay hydrated, and find something funny to smile about.
From Pierce Ujjainwalla, Founder & CEO
- Dress like you’re going to work. It might sound nice to work in pajamas all day long, but if you’re dressed like you’re going to work, it’ll put you in the right mindset and you won’t be hesitant to connect with others.
- Turn your camera on. At home, it’s easy to hide behind your webcam cover or just not turn it on, but having a camera on makes it that much closer to meeting in person. Plus, it helps you establish a stronger virtual connection with co-workers and clients.
- Enjoy the proximity with kids/animals. Sure, they can be loud. They can be distracting. But we’re all in this together, and now more than ever, everyone can relate to having their kids and pets around as well. Bring them into the video and show your human side. Try to enjoy and see the positive side of all of this 🙂
If you’re new to working remotely, don’t be discouraged. It’s a big change at first – I was right there with you when I started this – but before long, you’ll settle into a rhythm that works for you. Be intentional with your schedule, and do what you can to maintain a separation between your work life and your home life.
Ask for help when you need it, and don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues to brainstorm, problem solve, or just check in. You’ve got this!
Want to see our workstations (and some of our pets!)? Check out How Knak Works from Home.