5 Work-From-Home Tips from a Freelance Writer

Chanoa Tarle

Senior Contributor

While working remotely has seen a surge over the last five years, never was working from home more ubiquitous than after the world’s introduction to COVID-19. As non-essential businesses close their doors, our economies must continue, causing businesses with the ability to work online to return to business as usual with speed. However, working from home can be a lot more complicated than it may appear. Home can be a place of many distractions, while some professionals are hit hard by the absence of their colleagues. Whether you’ll work from home for weeks, months or after the international health crisis comes to an end, these five tips from an eight-year freelance writer will help you see better results.

Create a Dedicated Office Space

If you don’t have a home office, devote an area of your home to all things business. This is the space where you’ll take business calls and work on projects so it should be quiet and organised. Outfit your space with everything you may need to minimise interruptions and distractions.

Incorporate natural lighting whenever possible to enhance your mood and boost productivity; natural lighting also improves the appearance of video calls on networks such as Slack, Skype and Whatsapp.

For video conferencing, make a test run with your computer camera to understand how to position yourself for virtual meetings and to ensure the lighting and background are appropriate in advance. A bare wall as a background is better than a messy room, but the ideal set-up would include some kind of wall hangings, plants or other decor that speak to your personality and career. Many work-from-home colleagues in the tech and creative sectors have fun with creative virtual backgrounds offered by some video conferencing apps. If you choose to use a virtual background, try to face natural sunlight to improve the quality of your image. Also, ensure your real background is appropriate as revealing glitches do occur.

Take Advantage of the Best Tools and Apps

Your work-from-home experience can be dramatically improved through the use of apps and tools. Slack is an excellent digital workspace that allows you to send direct messages to colleagues or communicate in custom channels to discuss specific projects, brainstorm ideas or upload deliverables. Slack also has video conferencing capabilities, and it may be connected to several tools including Google Drive and Dropbox.

Asana is an effective tool for keeping track of complex projects and small project deliverables alike. You can organise your project, or simply list tasks according to due dates. It’s great for working with teams too, with the ability to create reports, assign tasks to team members, comment on tasks and more.

Trello is a great alternative for project management, however, using Trello for project management and Asana for to-do list organisation can be a powerful combination.

Embrace Time Blocking

Shaping your schedule on your own can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to stay efficient and productive when you hop around to answer messages in real-time, check emails around the clock or take countless snack breaks to the kitchen… then there are all of the chores that will suddenly enter your headspace. Resist. Get organised to get more things done and you may even end up freeing up more of your time at the end of the day.

One of the most tried-and-true methods for maintaining tight focus is to time block every hour of your workday. Schedule it at least one day in advance and in a way that makes sense to you. For example, you may want to devote the first hour to emails, the next two hours to a specific project, have a one-hour coffee and exercise break afterwards, and so forth.

Have a system in mind for using up any extra time that frees up within any block. You’ll be able to focus better, get more work done and reduce stress throughout your workday. A little work-from-home structure goes a long way. 

Take Real Breaks

It may be tempting to continue using electronic devices during pauses or mealtimes. However, the hours add up and you may start to burn out in record time. Dedicate a time in the evening for personal computer time and take true offline breaks during work hours. You should leave your office space for the duration of every break to return to work with a greater sense of clarity and calm. In the same vein, set aside one or two times per day to check in with current events.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming news from trusted sources and only once or twice per day

Maintain Virtual Communication

Self-isolation doesn’t have to mean isolation in every sense of the word. You’ll work better and feel better if you maintain a connection with the outside world. Organise virtual productivity sessions with interested colleagues, working during the same session over a shared video call, and use the camera feature for all video conferencing sessions. 

Some work-from-home companies are even organising virtual conferences and weekly digital happy hours. However, your personal life makes an impact on your job performance as well. Whether you’re quarantined home alone or with your family, keep up a practice of contacting distant family and friends via video calls. Virtual communication in the age of social distancing can be a boon for your mental health.

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