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One of the unique advantages that working for Client Collective has afforded me is the ability to work from home. With no HQ to speak of, our staff are entirely remote-based all over Australia. There are HUGE benefits this work from home environment affords, but it also comes with its challenges. Making the transition from daily commutes and working within arms reach of other people has been rewarding but has required a level of discipline and some creative bonding that I had not needed to think of in previous office environments.
To aid in combatting these obstacles, I’ve implemented a few key ideas that have really optimised my experience in this new normal.
I have cultivated a workspace that I use specifically for work, implemented a clear work-from-home schedule and have set practices for making sure I can work uninterrupted, but don’t get lonely. Together, taking inspiration from things that have assisted our team to thrive, we give you this fantastic insight on how to work from home effectively.
The WFH Mindset
Get ready to work
Before you start your day, complete your morning routine as you normally would. Make breakfast, and have that desperately needed cup of joe. Make sure you shower and wear clothes suitable to work in. You don’t need to wear full business attire, but clothes that a client would expect to see you in encourages you to embody and immerse yourself into your work as if you were at the office.
The luxury of working in your pyjamas is enticing but has been observed to actually reduce your overall mental health. Also, shoes help.
"Commute" to work
Go for a walk around the block to get your head in a work mindset, which we often do subconsciously on our drive or commute to work. The fresh air and short exercise will stimulate your brain and get you prepared to start the day. Completing a walk at the end of your day will help you to remove yourself from that mindset so you can…
Separate work from home
One of the most consistent hurdles you might face is making sure to separate home and work-life from each other. It is important for your mental health and productivity to be able to transition from working and relaxing. Set clear boundaries with family or housemates that they cannot approach your office while you work and just because you are “home all day” does not mean that you can be expected to increase domestic duty contributions. Set a start and a clock-off time and stick to it – leave work for work time.
“I walk around the block before and after work, which works as ‘transit time’ to start and end the day. At the end of my day I close emails and Slack, and set my phone to Do Not Disturb.”
Take explicit breaks
At the beginning of WFH, I found that I was personally struggling to self-manage my time to take breaks, but I have discovered that stopping for 5 minutes after every 45-minute block is an effective way to break up the day and remain consistently productive. Look away from the computer and eat a snack, go for a walk around the block, or meditate for 5mins. Do whatever you need to do to keep your eyes and mind fresh from turning to mush!
It is also important that just because you are at home, you are not skipping out on having a lunch break. Remove yourself from your office for 30-60 minutes and relax!
“I find that going outside on my break really helps! I normally play fetch with my dog to keep him happy and to switch off for a tiny bit.”
“I include ‘standing time’ as part of my day so I’m not sitting all day.”
Maximise your Workplace
Your workspace is where you are going to spend a lot of your work time so it deserves to be both practical and accomodating.
1. Designate a space that you can use for your work (even better if this space can be dedicated exclusively for work to help with separating work from home). If possible, pick a spot with lots of natural light and airflow, appropriate heating and cooling, and minimal noise and distractions. Have only essentials on your desk and store excess stationery in cabinets or drawers.
2. Make sure your internet performs consistently to get you through long video meetings (you’ll need pants for these).
3. Get a comfortable, ergonomic chair that you can comfortably sit on for long periods of time. If possible, a standing desk is a great way to break up the day too. There are lots of safe ways to create this without forking out for a whole new desk.
Once you’ve incorporated these basics, adjust your space accordingly to meet your needs. For instance, I found that I need to change seating positions regularly. I use my regular desk chair for most of the day, supplemented with a Hokki balance stool to help engage my core and encourage good posture.
I have a rule; if I open a bag of Maltesers, I have to do it amongst company to stop myself from over-indulging in the entire bag! I’ve had to implement similar strategies for work to keep from getting distracted.
First of all, I put my phone as far away from me as possible and then, all of my social media apps are in a folder on a page far away from the home screen. A lot of my co-workers and myself have created Google Chrome profiles that we use explicitly for work so personal bookmarks do not catch our eyes.
If you find your notifications ringing too often while you’re trying to focus, setting Do Not Disturb schedules on your phone will help to create more meaningful task times.
Making your workspace appealing to you will not only aid in encouraging you to be in the space but will help you enjoy your time in the space while you’re there. This may look like candles and incense, bright open windows, potted plants, or perhaps Star Wars figurines, a loaded bookshelf and a comfy armchair. Aim to create a space that makes your senses rejoice, is easy on the eyes, smells good and feels welcoming. Spending time ensuring your space is clean and decluttered helps a lot too!
“I have incense going in the morning/before work; helps me be calm before calls”
For me personally, my work soundscape is really important. With my noise-cancelling headphones, I use ambient noise machines to create a more nurturing work environment. Specifically, I use a soft murmur for its rain and thunder noise generators and this café noise generator in tandem to sequester me away to the back corner of a cafe usually with some light low-fi or acoustic covers playing on low-volume.
Each person’s space is going to look different, and that’s another of the benefits of working from home – you can make your space work for you and feel just how you want it. Much better than grey office cubicles and stark walls if you ask me!
Work Alone, not Lonely
For a lot of people, one of the hardest parts about working from home is how isolating it can feel. When we’re not in an office environment, we’re missing out on our colleagues’ home baking or lunchtime chats. There are a lot of creative ways we can combat this, and it is so important to make sure that you’re not missing out on the social benefits that work offers and find ways to incorporate that culture into your home office.
Keep in touch with colleagues
At Client Collective we have utilised the messaging platform Slack, not only to remain connected for work but by creating different themed chats to engage in. We have unique channels for “Water-cooler” chats, memes, and positive mental health and well-being posts. One for our furry friends and a general “what we’re up to” channel which includes anything from a great hike to sharing our artistic creations. And food! We always love a good food share and recipes for inspiration.
Slack and other platforms are great tools to remain in contact and collaborate with colleagues. Staff are also encouraged to organise lunch dates with one another virtually as a great opportunity to have the face-to-face chats that WFH lacks.
Organise games and other social activities
Another great way to feel connected amongst the team is by organising games and other social activities. Our team regularly share games of skribbl.io (a free web-based Pictionary-like game) or scattergories, and weekly trivia where staff can win a coffee delivered to their doors. These ten-minute exercises are a fun way to encourage team-building and reduce the isolating effect that working from home can sometimes cultivate.
Organise to get together in the real world
Although we are spread nationwide, this doesn’t stop us from organising in-person events. At least once a quarter, we catch up with our colleagues in our home states where we organise picnics or grab a couple of drinks altogether. It’s a great way to reconnect with everyone, strengthens our team’s bonds and helps to reinforce our work culture.
Working from home comes with many many benefits including reduced commuting costs, access to your home’s creature comforts and time flexibility, but it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot about WFH that is awesome and these tips can make it better and more sustainable. Think about how you can optimise your environment and engage with your colleagues in your WFH role.