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The best ways to work, not shirk, from home

by Aiden

This second wave, don’t be thrown into the deep end. 

By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales

Just when we’ve gotten used to our daily commute and communal office lunches, we’re back to trading the BTS for the hourly walk to the fridge and our heels and ties for pyjamas and fries. However, this time around, we’re veterans of the daily battle between our three-hour Zoom meeting and the open Netflix tab, and we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks so you can run the work-from-home marathon without burning out.

Have a designated workspace

Habits are hard to break and we are, in the end, creatures of habit – we associate dining tables with meals, beds with sleep, and the word ‘Zoom’ with the illicit thrill of muting that one colleague. But I digress.

While it’s tempting to never leave the warm embrace of our beds, studies show that our brains focus more when we can identify an area dedicated to work. Carve out a space at home – away from a TV and your brand-new PS5 – with a desk that you can sit at, an accessible charging port, and natural light. For those who are living the minimalist life and don’t have a desk, improvise with a folding table from IKEA and a back pillow, somewhere other than your bedroom. Clean and tidy this space regularly, and make sure it’s comfortable and ergonomic.

Tips:

  • Consider a laptop support stand which will help prevent office syndrome
  • Burn some sage to boost your brain function, mood, and energy

Dress up

We’ve all been there. Monday turns into Wednesday turns into the weekend, and soon you’ve convinced yourself that you’re really pulling off that moustache…especially if you’re a woman. But all-day PJs will just make the days blend together even more, so make sure you shower, shave, and change into something other than sleep clothes.

And hey, if, like me, you’d taken advantage of 11.11 and optimistically invested in new officewear, here’s your chance to show off that new outfit over Zoom – even if they’ll only see the top half.

Create a set schedule

If you’re a fellow night owl, it’s all too easy to take this opportunity to sleep till noon and work till the wee hours of the morning. But don’t turn off your weekday alarm just yet – studies have shown that our brains work best in the mornings, so try to get the day started early, even at home.

Write down a schedule, or better yet, use apps like Workflow or even trusty Excel to break the interminable days into easily-digestible chunks, and not just for work. Set aside time to eat, drink water, exercise, and spend time with your family. If you’re living with others, make sure to communicate your routine with them, and request that they respect it.

Take regular breaks

Studies have shown that regular breaks increase efficiency, help you make decisions, boost creativity, and restore motivation, so make sure you include them in your schedule. The Pomodoro method, which consists of a five-minute break every 25 minutes, has proven to be effective for many – just make sure five minutes doesn’t turn into five hours
of browsing Reddit. Consider meditation or exercise during your breaks, so you can avoid that #PandemicParanoia. One advantage of WFH? You can take naps with no one the wiser, so feel free to take a page out of your cat’s handbook – science says catnaps improve your brain’s efficiency.

Tips:

  • Apps like Engross help you stick to the Pomodoro method, while the Marinara Timer on the web will even help you and your colleagues keep on task together, if you want the accountability
  • Balance is an app with 5-10 minute meditation plans to help you boost energy, deepen focus, or calm anxiety, depending on the plan you pick
  • Workout apps like 5 Minute Yoga Workouts will help make sure you don’t grow into your sofa

Avoid distractions

Let’s face it, the best – and worst – part of working from home is that no one knows if you’ve got Netflix open to
Bridgerton in the background. However, recent studies have discovered that our brains aren’t designed to perform more
than one task at once; what we consider ‘multitasking’ is really your brain switching back and forth between tasks, impairing your focus and efficiency.

So say “in a while” to the Duke of Hastings’ smile and avoid distractions while you work. For those with strident companions at home, consider noise-cancelling headphones. Find out what works for you – some prefer Simon & Garfunkel (or a soothing lo-fi playlist) in the background, while others prefer the actual sound of silence.

Tips:

  • Put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode – which you can tailor to your needs – to avoid social media notifications or use the Self Control browser extension when on your computer
  • The app Flipd works as a time management, background music, and distraction-management app, where you can whitelist only the apps you need at the moment
  • Forest is an app that turns you into a lean, green, working machine – the more focused you are, the more you can help with planting trees in real life

Have regular human interaction

No matter how much we may try to channel Tom Hanks from Cast Away (2000), we humans are social creatures and talking to someone every day, especially for those who live alone, will help keep us sane. Schedule time to spend with your family, no matter how much your waistline is expanding because your mum magically appears with cold coffee and pakora every time you venture out of your home office. Call your friends over the Houseparty app, go for a (socially-distanced) coffee outside, or maybe even unmute your microphone during a Zoom meeting some time.

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