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Working from Home? Here are some tips from a freelancer…

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I know for sure that I don’t need to go into the details of why so many of us are currently working from home right now. Businesses across the country have adapted to remote-working relatively quickly and as a result, so many people who are usually surrounded by others all day long might feel a little… isolated.

Totally normal, of course, and not all personalities can cope well with the feeling of being alone. As a freelancer who has worked thousands and thousands of hours at home, I wanted to share my two cents on working remotely, staying healthy and how to be most effective when you’re at home a lot.

I know there are tonnes of these out there right now but – more than ever – sharing is caring, so let’s dive right in:

Get up and get ’em, tiger. 

The key to successful homeworking, however basic it may seem, is getting up and getting ready, as if it were a normal day. I know, I know… the alarm goes off and you’re all “cool, I can slide straight from my bed to my laptop” but honestly? Resist. As Admiral William McRaven, in his bestseller “Make Your Bed”, says: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.” Starting on the right foot each morning will make one hell of a difference to your mood and motivation.

Commute. 

Yep, you read that right, but I don’t mean commuting in the usual sense. Getting up and getting out, taking a little walk around the block and “commuting” to your desk can break the cycle of “working from home”, even if you’re actually working from home. One of the game-changing things for me in my routine has been going to the gym before I do anything else, and whilst I certainly don’t encourage attending the gym in the current climate, getting out and being active is a sure-fire way to give you that much-needed boost when things can get a little samey. Give it a try tomorrow and see how you feel.

Don’t hide behind a screen.

As social beings, face time with colleagues, clients, friends and peers is super important and in the digital age we live in, it’s easier now more than ever to connect with people, even if you’re unable to do that in person. You can video call on Slack, which is very useful for regular touchpoints, or for more formal meeting settings, try things like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Whilst it feels like everything has jolted to a stop right now, we mustn’t get complacent and revert to email/online messaging.

As Bob Hoskins said in those age-old BT adverts, “it’s good to talk”, so do it in as much of an “in-person” way as you can.

Think like a freelancer and treat your employer like they’re your client. 

This will help you stay on top of your hours and ensure you’re accountable for your responsibilities during a time where some may find it tempting to be a little lax.

Whether this goes on for weeks or months (or longer, but let’s not think like that!), it’s crucial to treat your work like you would do if you were right in front of your employer in the office and be on time, courteous and great at communication.

I recommend the free tool, Toggl, if you’re not already using it, to help you understand where you’re spending your time, as working from home can often feel like the minutes escape you a little bit.

Make good lunches. 

One thing I’ve learned from almost two years working for myself is to have a good lunch planned and have something to look forward to that breaks up the day a little. I realise, what with the current state of things, that purchasing food is a bit of a struggle right now (what with all the hoarding) but by shopping local, I think you’d be surprised as to what you can get.

I run the food blog, Scran on the Tyne, and have shared a “COVID19” story on the Instagram account to help followers identify the independent retailers, cafés and restaurants who can provide you with brilliant produce and food to keep you fuelled. I’ll be keeping this updated, so do take a look if you’re based in the North East and are seeking good scran.

Learn about how you prefer to work and well, make it work. 

I think we’re going to see a shift in what’s viewed as the “traditional” working style once this is all over, with many people discovering that actually, they’re more effective in the evening or starting earlier, given the freedom to find it out beyond the realms of the 9-5 office.

Naturally, there are online meetings and calls to attend to for most of us, but identifying when you find yourself most effective will help you plan accordingly. For me, I do my boring admin on a Monday morning because I’m not ready to speak to a human yet, then it’s all systems go from the afternoon, and I feel accomplished because I’ve already sorted out accounting, or whatever it is that needed to be sorted.

I can only hope that businesses, after now discovering how easy it is to have their workers at home, can adopt more of a flexible approach going forward.

Invest some time into self-development. 

One of the main reasons why people find it difficult to learn new skills, take in a webinar or do a course, is time. But since most people are gaining time saved from a proper commute to work, why not use this wisely and look into measures that could help you expand your skills and knowledge? 

Skillshare is a particularly useful resource (and there is currently an offer for two months of Premium for free!), with loads of mini-courses from experts around the globe. There are also LinkedIn courses for Premium members and a range of free courses via the Open University.

If you’re a member of any Chartered Institutes, now is also the time to complete some of your CPD. While it can feel a little like you’re standing still, that needn’t mean that you’re not learning and developing.

Keep tabs on your mental health. 

These are unprecedented times and there is a lot of information out there – wildly ranging in accuracy and trustworthiness – that can get you down.

There are some fantastic resources out there, but I found this article on Mashable particularly enlightening in helping to deal with the anxiety around COVID19. There are also some great resources on the BBC website, which could help. Whilst we, of course, need to stay home as much as possible, getting out once a day to take a walk or run and speaking with family and friends via video call as much as possible might just help things feel a little better.

Remember, this too shall pass, and when it does, you want to be in the best possible state mentally and physically to take on the challenges of rebuilding life after a pandemic. It sounds dramatic and cliché, sure, but this is an opportunity to take stock of what you do day-to-day and make changes wherever you can.

Part of the word ’emergency’ is ’emerge’ and I like to think that once this is all over, many thousands of people will emerge from it stronger, more thoughtful of others and determined to succeed than before.

Stay safe, everyone.

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