Congratulations! You are now a home-worker! Perhaps your company is trying to minimise the spread of coronavirus with a Google-style remote working policy. Or maybe you’ve made the personal decision to hide out indoors until the worst is over, with a laptop and pizza menu.
Either way, welcome, friends, to my world.
I spent 10 years trying and failing to concentrate and relax in various office environments – from sleek, open-plan creativity farms to the poky, haunted backrooms of stately homes. But I only found my productivity stride when I began working from home five years ago.
And, while there are few upsides to a global pandemic threat, I’m eager to share my tips with you. So here are my WFH dos and don’t for being productive while remaining firmly in your comfort zone.
Anyone who’s worked from home and says they haven’t pranced around their kitchen, resplendent in fluffy unicorn slippers, declaring themselves UNSHACKLED FROM THE RULES OF SOCIETY because they are the QUEEN OF PYJAMAS (or king/nonbinary monarch thereof) is lying.
Royal prancing in nightwear is one of the major perks of working from home. But! Seasoned WFHers also know when to call a halt to this sort of thing, and have a damned shower, because otherwise you’ll be rocking furry unbrushed teeth and overripe armpits for your 3pm client call.
Personally, I stay in my PJs to plan my day, but once I’ve sunk my third coffee, it’s time to shower and change into some smart joggers. Or, as I like to call them, “work pyjamas”.
All manner of callers, from salespeople to missionaries, come to your door when you’re normally in the office – but if they come when you’re home, you don’t have to answer the door just because they decide to knock on it.
I didn’t realise this when I began working from home, and now I’m an unwilling member of several niche religions, and very nearly got a loft extension I couldn’t afford because I answered the door to a salesman, and felt too awkward to say no.
Spend enough time at home and you’ll start spotting a wall that needs repainting, or a corner of the room that could do with a nice occasional chair to really make it pop.
STOP. WORK-TIME. DO NOT allow yourself to get sucked into a Pinterest spiral, or you’ll end up with a perfectly Marie Kondo-ed home, but no job.
That said, you could do a load of laundry at least, you filthy animal.
Take breaks and get some physical activity in between any disparate projects you’re working on, and try using different locations (living room, garden, cafe – assuming you’re not on full zombie-apocalypse lockdown) for each one to spark your creativity.
WFH best practise states the opposite, but if you normally update your spreadsheets while Melissa with the photographic memory from content marketing tells you all about Love Is Blind, you might as well do it while watching Love Is Blind.
I sometimes do this when working on big projects I find daunting. I go to bed; work on them in an email window – just employ little tricks to make the task at hand feel more manageable.
Plus, of course…
Post a list of the things you’ll be working on today – for how long, and whether you can be interrupted – in some communal space, to prevent your housemates from wandering in with long, meandering questions.
Offer to cover additional household costs – all those cups of coffee, and thermostat-twiddling costs money, after all.
If too much noise – or too much silence – is an issue, employ headphones and a white noise/background noise generator, like this free site.
Work from a cafe if you feel lonely
Let friends and loved ones know where you are today
Host WFH sessions for local coworkers
Set up a Slack channel for the ones who aren’t local
Split your day down the middle by having lunch with a friend
‘Don’t answer the front door’ goes double if you’re in the house alone.`
Pair up with your co-parent – or another parent you work with – and take turns working and babysitting for a couple of hours throughout the day
Set up older kids with movies, blankets, tablets and snacks while you and your parent colleagues work in another room
Get childcare. While I’ve occasionally filed emergency copy while my two small sons race around me distracted by far too much chocolate, getting childcare is the only way you’re realistically going to get a big chunk of work done. That is, unless Coronavirus prevents that, too.
If you are ill
If your child is ill
If technology fails you
If you have to care for someone
If there’s an emergency.
If any of these are conditions you wouldn’t work under while in the office, they shouldn’t – outside of the bare minimum for handovers, etc. – suddenly, magically become applicable just because you’re at home. Tell your manager and coworkers what’s going on, and then close your emails and switch off from work-mode.
If this means climbing back into your pyjamas before 3pm, of course, you have my complete permission to do so.
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A super short walk from Shoreditch High Street station, the Ace hotel has an uber comfy lobby with sofas, cafes and a huge long table in the middle complete with free Wi-Fi and ample charging room. If there are too many people upfront to suit your needs (I find it a bit daunting tbh), the Hoi Polloi restaurant at the back is way quieter and has loads of booths – each with a plug socket! – for you to make yourself at home for the day. Not to mention their food and cold pressed juices are amazing, too and actually not too expensive. They’re also open 24/7, which is perfect for those unsociable hours you’re likely working.
Ace Hotel London, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ.
Opening hours are 24/7
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Soho House and The Hoxton hotel recently joined forces to open eggy-themed restaurant Egg Break. Why am I telling you this? Because other than the fact that Soho House and the Hoxton both ooze ions of cool, they’re also well known for providing some kick ass working space, which would suggest, you see, that Egg Break would too. And it does! With a menu (and Wi-Fi) that is just as impressive as Soho House’s, the Notting Hill based eatery has all the perks and none of the people, which makes it perfection. Only danger is their food truly is delish so you may end up accidently having breakfast, lunch and dinner while you’re sat there. Oops.
Egg Break, 30 Uxbridge St, London W8 7TA.
Opening hours are 8am-10pm
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Just off Great Titchfield Street near Oxford Circus, The Riding House Café is an awesome place to work from if you’re in central. Serving up some seriously delicious eggs with a side of free Wi-Fi, the place itself is also quite nice and bright because there are so many windows. This definitely helps with the cabin fever. There’s also a private meeting room should things get really serious.
The Riding House Cafe, 43-51 Great Titchfield St, London W1W 7PQ
Opening hours are 7.30am – 11.30pm
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Based in East London, you can register for free to use Google’s Campus, which has an entire floor dedicated to free working space. Open every day until 6pm, the facilities offer up plenty of room and free Wi-Fi, plus it’s filled with like-minded people – always good to have people on the same page as you to talk you down when you want to stab yourself with a bread knife. It’s great for networking, too, as you never know who you’ll meet. They also host a mind-boggling number of events each week on everything from the future of the retail industry to help for startups.
Google Campus, 5 Bonhill St, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 4BX
Opening hours are 8am – 6pm.
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There are a whole bunch of these around London, with cozy seating, free Wi-Fi and a delicious menu of coffees, juices and sandwiches. This is unfortunately one of those aforementioned places that plays the music fuuuucking loud, but their selections are great so it’s not so much annoying, more distracting as phuck when you find yourself singing / typing out the lyrics for the millionth time.
Joe & The Juice, Various locations around London
Opening hours are 7.30am – 8.30pm
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This must be said for working from a hotel: no one will ever give you a dirty look when you feel like you must surely have overstayed your welcome. The Hoxton has super cool interiors with a multitude of rooms for you to tuck yourself away into. The trick though, is to get one of the sofa / chairs next to the main window as that’s where most of the power sockets are. There’s nothing worse than an ailing Macbook battery and no sockets in sight mid-deadline.
Hoxton Hotel, 81 Great Eastern St, London EC2A 3HU
Opening hours are 24/7
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And if none of these are quite enough to make you feel like you’re really, really working, The British Library in Kings Cross is great, provided you can get there early enough to bag one of the winning armchair seats which come complete with its own mini-table and plug socket. If you don’t manage, there are obviously other places to work from in the vicinity too, although those are by far the best. You can sign up for free to use the reading rooms should you have loads of research to do, plus there’s an awesome Peyton and Byrne café and restaurant with some delish food.
The British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 6DB
Opening hours are 9.30am – 8pm
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If you want a space for a long standing project, or somewhere guaranteed you’ll have a quiet desk for the day, Wrinkley Studios is your place. Located in Bethnal Green, the bright and spacious studio has very affordable rates at £25 per day or £265 per month, and most importantly – FREE COFFEE.
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