Best Practices For Working From Home (From 5 Women Who Already Do It!)

It’s a little crazy out there, wouldn’t you agree? But also, what a time to be alive.

As I write this, the U.K. is on day one of many employees first “homeworking” shift, with the majority of jobs being made accessible for WFH, following from the ongoing global spread of COVID-19. It’s a time of worry, discomfort and readjustment to the rapidly changing times, but it’s also a time of opportunity, adaptability and creativity.

That said, I understand that there are plenty of people out there who have either never worked from home before or have worked from home for a while but are still struggling to find a system in which they can work productively and effectively.

Enter: Five fierce females who have been doing this WFH malarky for a while, and are eager to share their productive processes with you! Ladies, I’ll now hand over to you...

Rachael Cox, Creative Designer, The Apple Yard - Create A Routine

“...[one] that will work for you and your family and make it clearly different from your weekend. Set your alarm at the same time every workday, get up, shower, dress, eat breakfast and start work; it sounds obvious, but you will move into a new headspace if you mentally prepare to “go to work”. Days I’ve worked in my pyjamas are days I tend to be unproductive. This works both ways - at the end of the day, I like to relax into some joggers and take out my contact lenses.

Plan a start time, take regular breaks, a lunch break away from your desk and decide an end time. Going for a walk around the block or going into the garden are good ways to get some fresh air in your breaks too. I don’t do errands during my workday as it gets too interrupted, I make sure if I need to do these that I do that at the very start or end of the day.

When our children are around, my workday tends to look different, I carve up my day into 4 'shifts' 7am-10am, 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm, 7pm-9pm. My husband and I take it in turns to be fully present for the children, or at our desks working. Working where family life happens or where you gather as a family can be quite disruptive.

It can be a challenge to work home so make a plan. I have a plan on the wall and I write up daily jobs that I want to achieve and goals I want to hit at different points in the week. This helps keep me on track and gives me forward momentum and drive, which is so important when you don’t have others around to motivate you. Be prepared for the plan or routine to adapt and change and review regularly whether your routine is working, adjust it if it's not."

How you can do it: Whether you’ve been resistant to the idea of using a planner or calendar to lead you through your days, now is the time to welcome the tool into your life. Personally, I love to have a physical diary (my 2020 planner is from KitLife) to mark out my daily tasks, my Google Calendar works for general meetings and appointments and I use Asana for project planning with clients. I weave all three planning tools together so that they make sense to me. My recommendation would be to find something that you will look at each morning and use throughout your week - with so many options out there, there’s no doubt you will find a way to organise that will work for you.

Cat Gatto, Branding & Web Designer, GattoWeb - Make Your Own Workspace

“My one biggest tip for working from home would be to create yourself a space to work which helps you feel productive and creative.

When I first started working at home, I set up a spare room as a little "office" and soon realised that even though I had everything I needed, being in a small room, facing a wall was zapping my creativity. Instead, I now work at my dining room table where I have lots of light, more space and very quick access to a coffee machine - all things which really help me work productively instead of feeling stuck.

You don't need a full office space or desk, just somewhere you feel comfortable and puts you in a good headspace to get things done!”

How you can do it: Find a space in your home (preferably not your bedroom!) that has a view of the outdoors and enough room to fit your laptop, a glass of water or a mug of coffee and other essentials needed to get your work done. You want to aim to create something that doesn’t feel too much like you’re at home, but comfortable enough that you can settle in for the day.

Abi Wastie, Sustainable Maker, Thread of Life - Mix Up Digital With Creative

Photo: Chantelle Gribbon

“I feel miserable after spending two to three hours on social media and admin so I plan my day out to involve both. Once I have done my admin jobs, I reward myself with sewing something I’m excited about!”

How you can do it: It's so important to allow ourselves the time to break up our day with a mix of both creative and digital. At the start of my week, I will plan my days according to priority, then when it comes to the day, I adjust it so that the admin tasks are carried out first. This is because I feel most productive when I start my day and would rather use that to drive me through my least-loved tasks (reporting, arranging invoices, doing my books). Then, after a snack and a break I can get into the creative i.e. designing digital assets, creative copywriting, testing out a new email marketing template...

Another way I do this is by having two different playlists that serve as the soundtrack to whatever I'm up to at that moment. So for admin, I tend to listen to music with little to no lyrics to keep my focus locked in, whereas creative entails an upbeat backing to enhance new work I produce. Recently, however, this gorgeous Hypnotic African Chill playlist I stumbled across on Spotify is easily suiting both types of tasks.

Gabriella Sofia Buxton, Yoga Studio Owner & Empowerment Coach, GabriellaYoga - Use Time-Blocking To Breakup Your Day

"For me, time-blocking has been such a game-changer when it comes to working from home. I used to find that I would get overwhelmed when I didn't have a clear time or goal boundary. Now, I like to sit for five minutes in meditation before getting started...

A bit of mindfulness gives me the clarity I need to prioritize what needs doing first. Once I know this, I dedicate the amount of time I think it will take to that task, to a maximum of 90 minutes. I set my alarm for when I think that task will be completed, then crucially, I take a break when the alarm goes off (even if I am not finished!) I like to stretch, grab a cup of tea, have a quick social media catch up, then get into my next task and time block.

It helps me to be able to see what I have accomplished by the end of the day and feel proud of the work that has been done and the time that has been saved."

How you can do it: When I first started out in the world of freelance, I wanted to dedicate every waking hour to working on my business, finding clients, preparing my website and all the rest. I don't believe that that's a bad thing, but if you turn that amount of work into a habit, it can be pretty taxing on your energy, productivity and overall effort. Whether you are working for yourself or out of the office, the responsibility you have to manage your own time is all the same. Take your first few days to figure out how long typical tasks take and then factor these into your daily schedule; condense your big jobs into a few little ones so that you aren't too easily distracted in the middle of work time; put your phone on airplane mode and don't tempt yourself! Ultimately, it's on you to show up and do the work, so don't let yourself down and instead, truly rise to the occasion.

And me! - Have A Miracle Morning

“Inspired by The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, I made a commitment last year to ensure that each weekday morning was shaped for a day of productivity. I wanted to get into the habit so that my body and mindset knew that my day wouldn’t truly start without carrying out essential practices beforehand. These consisted of; taking out my Daily Greatness Yoga Journal (click here for 10% off your purchase!) to set intentions and mini-goals for the week so I knew where my focus should be for the day; coming to the mat for at least a 15-minute yoga flow each morning to wake up my body; grounding down with a short visualisation to motivate my day and remind myself of the long-term “why” about everything I do.

It’s definitely not been easy. I initially intended to wake up at 6am every weekday, which worked for a while, but with the change in seasons, it became harder to do this during the dark winter mornings so my energy began to slip. Once I launched Conscious Communications in the summer of 2019, however, I became more accountable for my schedule and overall effort that I was going to invest and so, the early mornings began to creep back (and were welcomed with open arms)! Today, the standard time I wake up with an alarm is about 6:45am and between 7:30-8am without, but I really do want to get my weekdays as close to 6am as possible.

The reason I do this is that being able to spend an hour gearing up for the day puts me in the perfect mindset to start work early, meaning that by the afternoon, I can settle for the day. Also, there have been many instances where I’ve said the classic phrase, “there aren’t enough hours in the day!” and the majority reason for that is because I’ve held off from starting work until later in the day, leaving my evenings messy and agitated. I believe that a key to success is an empowering morning, and so, it shall be done!

Except for weekends. Weekends are for winding down.”

How you can do it: Download the Sleep Cycles app. It measures your sleep based on movement or sound and has you schedule a half-hour time scale that you want to be woken up in. According to that, it will wake you up when it senses you’re at your lightest sleep and ultimately, will find the alarm easier to react to. I seriously recommend reading The Miracle Morning. It’s such an easy book to get through and has fired up everyone’s day who I’ve spoken to about it. You’ll be waking up at 5am in no time… Lastly, have your clothes set up next to your bed the night before for your mini-morning workout too.

So, feeling inspired? A little overwhelmed? That’s understandable, but just remember: do what works for you, not what is working for someone else. All of the tips above are worth trying for yourself, but they’re also completely customisable. Let me know if you have any best practices of your own for working from home that we’ve not covered above and be sure to check out each wonder woman that’s invested her time and words into guest blogging today! I am so appreciative to each and every one of them and would love to connect with more of you out there.

If you’re hoping to gently power up your mornings, next week I am running a 5-day FREE Rise & Shine Club, within The Conscious Collective. Check it out here.

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Currently based: Stoke-on-Trent, U.K.