How I survived a year of Working From Home!

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Many of us have a variation on the story now, but in March of 2020 I found myself working from home as a full-time employee for the first time. I make the full-time distinction as I had worked for myself and on my own terms for a few years, but this was different.

Or was it?

In actuality it turned out that the lessons and good habits I had developed prior to re-joining full-time about 6 years ago, were very much still applicable.

When we decamped to our home workspaces in March of 2020 “for a few weeks” we weren’t to know what a paradigm shift it would be. At Fuzion, we had to hit the ground running as some of our clients became extra-busy, especially our design clients, so there wasn’t a lot of time to adapt. Luckily there were some quick hacks that could be applied to make for a productive and positive work from home situation. Here are some of my favourite tips that allowed me to survive and thrive in a year of WFH.

Segregate your work and home life, even if just in your head.

After all, how do you avoid bringing work home, when you work from home? Little mind-hacks can be a great help. For example, you can create a home mood or a work mood, through use of light and sound. I’ve back-lit my Mac, which is only on during work hours and I have taken our Fuzion Design favourite radio station BBC Six Music with me, which I only play during work hours.

After all, Techno Tuesday is great for focus and it just may save your life. When it’s time to stop, the Mac goes off, the lights change and I swap the radio for a playlist or TV.

A Good Workspace is Key.

Many of us kicked off last March on sofas or at kitchen tables. Try and avoid this, get a desk that you can keep just for work. Use a comfortable chair, that you can roll away at end of day. Pay attention to ergonomics as you’ll be sitting there 8 hours a day. Keep your workspace minimalist and uncluttered, distraction free. Apply the same to anything in your peripheral vision, if you can.

Remember to Stand.

Your back will thank you and your focus will thank you. Heck, if you have to, do as Haruki Murakami said and Dance, Dance, Dance. Especially if it’s techno Tuesday. Who’s to stop you? (Magic Carpet Ride by the Mighty Dub Katz is on the radio as I type, be right back).

Choose to Commute.

Take a walk in the morning or the evening straight after work. As much as you might think you don’t miss a commute, the post-work exercise helps reset your brain. Take a camera with you so that you’re always watching out for a good photo and engaged with and interested in your environment, even if you walk it every day. That’ll also help you stretch your eyes after a day of staring at a screen. Some days do the route in reverse! Every bit helps.

Keep good work practices.

Filing, admin, communication. Manage and track your time, keep notes to mitigate the COVID brain fog. Use tools that suit your new work environment. Whether for note taking, collaboration or file transfer. Don’t have a NAS server? Use Google or Dropbox or other collaborative file sharing tools to ensure that your shared files remain in a central location and are always up to date.

Have a department chat group or Slack (we use Google Chat). It’s great for quick questions or a bit of idle chit chat (not to be underestimated).

Get up, get dressed!

Get dressed for work every day, even if you’re only going to be seen on Zoom. If you have to plan what to wear the night before, you’ll instantly feel organised the next morning. Pride in your appearance is great for instilling some positivity and good for your mental health. The ritual of getting ready is familiar and helps you get in a work frame of mind. Don’t worry too much about dress code, but dress in a way that makes you feel good and ready to have a good day.

Watch your breaks

Have a good breakfast and stick to your lunch breaks. Taking breaks is important, even if to stand up and step out of the room. Don’t overdo the breaks either, remember you are at work and if you’re a designer too, you’ll know it ruins that sense of flow we so often need.

Don’t be a hermit

Network, stay in touch with peers, whether via social media or otherwise. Use organised feeds to ensure you’re getting enough good news and inspiration. Avoid doom-scrolling on social media by making lists that you can check in on. If you’ve to catch up with a colleague, take a few minutes extra and do it by video, studies have shown the positive effects of that level of human engagement (see wired article TBC). Even a short DM chat to touch base with a colleague can help your team grow.

Make time for the team. At Fuzion we have a semi-formal Monday morning catch up and briefing. At week’s end it’s Fuzion Friday – which is as informal as you get and a nice way to finish your week. When you’re out for a walk, arrange to meet a friend for a coffee or a chat, even just to feel normal. Especially if you live alone. Just because you’re WFH doesn’t mean you have to be be a hermit.

Be flexible.

For some people. Standard office hours won’t always work when you’re at home. Small people (children) and home life can interrupt. Plan your work when it’s practical, even if that’s earlier in the morning or later into the evening. Enjoy the flexibility, rather than fighting against it.

Take pride in achieving that balance.

Sh!t Happens

Remember, sh!t happens and it’s rarely the end of the world. If the server goes down, your Zoom will only show you as a cat, or a colleague can’t find files at the last second, don’t sweat it. You’re all doing brilliantly. We ARE all in it together. Stay positive. Positivity is contagious.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk!

Mark

Mark Kenny is a Senior Graphic Designer, part of the Graphic Design team with Fuzion Communications who provide a full print and digital design from offices in Dublin and Cork.

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