I've been working at home for three days a week for over a year now. Not so long ago, I could not imagine myself working from home. I started my career as a journalist, a profession that involves a lot of field reporting. As a journalist, I was spending a maximum of two hours per a day in the office. The rest of my time was spent following up on presses, events, conferences and researches. But as I evolved in my career, I transferred to a government institution, which was quite the change for me. I was working as an advisor which meant that having set working hours is not a regular thing. You must organize your time based on the schedule and needs of the person (the government official) you are giving advice to. So, it was long office hours, official trips and a lot of politics on the table.
During all of this I did not have time to organize my personal life, so I decided that it was time for change and joined ITSM Zone as their marketing executive. Being a member of ITSM Zone team changed my life. Even though we all live in different countries, I still have the feeling that we are one family.
The ITSM Zone team is virtual and has been working from home since the company started in 2007. So, this concept was new to me, but I decided that I wanted to try it. I must admit, the first week was confusing to me. But from today’s perspective I can say that I have found it gives me higher productivity, creativity and workplace satisfaction.
In the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic, many companies are implementing voluntary or mandatory work from home policies. For lot of my friends and family members this means dealing with an unusual challenge: working from home for the first time, full time. Plus, it might be for an extended period of time rather than a day here and there, and you are not at all sure how long it will last.
That is why I decided to share my experience and write this blog, hoping that these Tips will help you to be successful, both at getting your work done and at maintaining your mental well-being.
Get started early
I am a morning person, but not a breakfast one. I wake up, put on a pot of coffee and start working immediately. So usually I am in front of my computer much earlier than normal working hours. While I am drinking my morning coffee, I am finishing all the of the “morning tasks” written down on my work plan. Even when I was working office hours, I find that I can get a ton done in the early morning hours, so this works really well for me.
Have a separate workspace
Having a separate workspace, especially in a full house, helps create mental boundaries. If you designate a space to “go to work” where only work happens and no other activities, it will help give your day some structure. Even if you only have a table or a corner of a room to spare, entering that space acts as a mental trigger that it is time to focus.
I live alone so having a separate quiet workspace was not a problem from me. I must admit I have two “offices” in my home. One is on the kitchen table and one on the couch. Usually I use the kitchen table, but there are days when I need a more comfortable “chair”.
As time passed by, I found the couch more productive for research and creative work, and the kitchen table office for meetings, plans, writing etc. But the comfortable one is not always free for use. Who can say NO to this cute face? Certainly, not me ?
A working plan or a schedule is critical to home working. Spending time figuring out what you'll do today can take away from actually doing those things There are lots of tools to help you organize your work and keep on track with the team schedule, goals and tasks for the following day or week. Our favourite ones at ITSM Zone are Google Calendar and Trello. Meetings, conferences, webinars, course production deadlines, deadlines in general, clever/not so much clever ideas etc. – everything is written down so everyone can see it. Besides that, each of us has a personal calendar. For this purpose, I am using Google Calendar.
But I must admit – the old school approach is working better for me. On Sundays, when I am drinking my morning coffee, I am writing down my weekly tasks on a piece of paper. So, whether I choose to sit on the couch or use the kitchen table I have that piece of paper with me.
Sometimes remote work has its own challenges. Family, pets, TV and other distractions are just a step away. From my experience, it is possible to forget something and move to some other task. But as well, there are lots of tools that can help you remind yourself and collaborate with your colleagues. Our favourite one at ITSM Zone is Slack. We have different channels where we can talk about different work situations, suggestions, operations, wins and so on, so it is a good way to organize thoughts, share ideas and keep track of operations.
Work when you are at your most productive
Either is at home, or at office, my motivation naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day. As I mentioned before I found myself most productive in the morning while I am drinking my first coffee. Usually I am trying to finish the creative part of the job before my lunch break. I can definitely say that is my most productive period. After lunch I do the easier, technical and logistical tasks.
I must say that for me, personally, nights hours are also creative. It goes like this: a clever idea will come to my mind, I pour myself a glass of wine, sit on the couch and work on it. That’s why it is important to always have the tools you need when you are homeworking. Laptop, headphones, notebooks….
Make lunch into an event
As I said I am not a breakfast person. I never was. Before the lockdown order, I was using my lunch break to leave home for 30/40 minutes. I have found that this break (outside the home) is the boost that I need to be more productive. But nowadays, working from home because of coronavirus felt like a whole new world, only because it was sudden.
It can be helpful to spend time preparing a really nice lunch for yourself or for your loved ones, chopping and cooking included. When the quarantine began, I started plan my meals the night before, sometimes I even prepared them. I have never had this kind of habit, but the quarantine mood has woken up the “MasterChef wannabe” in me. Cooking became an important creative outlet for me. The only “judge” of my food is my boyfriend. He says that he likes the food, but does he have another option? ?
Okay, plus the dog.
Another thing that I am not – a gym person. I prefer long walks with my dog or a quick climb to the medium-sized mountain located in the southern part of my city, Skopje. It is a max. 40 minutes climb which I usually do before or after work hours.
Staying active when working from home may seem easy, but we may quickly fall into routines that do not prioritize healthy activity and lose the boundaries between work and personal life. Whilst you can make promises to yourself that you will exercise every day, the chances are you will find excises to miss it out.
So, here we are back at number 2. Schedule your workout and put it in your plan – treat it with the same priority as a phone call with a client.
If you prefer indoor exercises download an app and give yourself a goal. If you prefer outdoors and most importantly, if you are able to get outside, going for a walk or run in the fresh air could be exactly what you need to clear your head.
While I am finishing this blog, I just remembered. I have one more phone meeting with a “client” tomorrow. From 07am till 08am…
P.S None of this will work if you do not have clear communication with your boss. Coronavirus or not, the key to homeworking is knowing exactly what is expected of you.
Good luck everyone,
Stay safe and stay home
About the author
Ivana is a passionate marketing professional with a flair for design and online/offline platforms.
As a marketing executive her role is to oversee many aspects of a campaign throughout the entire lifespan of a product, service or idea. Her goal is to make sure that our customers are kept up to date with new products and the latest industry news.