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How to thrive when working from home

How to thrive when working from home

With Coronavirus in full swing, many businesses in Australia have been encouraged to have their employees work from home as part of the social distancing approach to slowing the rise of cases.

As a business which has operated as a “work from home” model since the start, we here at Birdcage Marketing want to share what we know about working collaboratively and efficiently whilst not having a centralised office for the team.

Have a designated workspace

If you’re lucky enough to have a home office or spare bedroom, ensure the space is setup for distraction-free work time. This means:

  • it has everything you need for your work (i.e. laptop, printer, pens, notebook, and any tools-of-the-trade)
  • well lit
  • the right temperature (a cooler space will increase alertness)
  • comfortable and supportive seating
  • music that helps keep you motivated and focused (a Spotify subscription will allow you to choose playlists to match your mood)
  • the ability to have phone/video conference calls uninterrupted
  • all chargers

If you’re restricted to using the dining table or lounge room, at least ensure you’ve got supportive seating and the area is otherwise clean and tidy. I’ve spent too many hours sitting hunched over my laptop on the couch, only to finish a workday almost paralysed from my ultra-soft couch (which is great for Netflix but terrible for a workday).

I also always make sure I have everything I need so I don’t need to keep walking back into the main part of the house (especially if other family members are home). For me this includes:

  • My laptop and charger which I connect to a bigger monitor
  • My phone and Airpods for hands-free phone calls
  • 2 x 1L water bottles
  • Notebook
  • Glasses
  • Diabetic supplies (I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, so having medication on hand is always a winner)
  • My wallet (there’s always something to pay)

Routine and structure is half the battle

Those who routinely work from home will tell you the importance of waking at the same time, making your bed, getting “dressed” (even if this means trackies and a T-shirt – but definitely get out of your PJ’s) and sitting down for work.

Many freelancers I know also have a dedicated routine which they follow to help get them set up for a productive day ahead.

If you’re like me and have children, mornings are inevitably chaotic. But what’s important is that we get up at around the same time each morning, eat our breakfast (for me it’s just an almond latte and a bit of milk for the baby), do a quick tidy of the kitchen, put some laundry on and then head out the door for daycare dropoff. I like to make sure the house is as tidy as possible before I leave with the kids so I come home to a clean space and there aren’t any distractions to keep me from heading into my home office. Otherwise, I’m tempted to spend an hour+ on tidying up (believe it or not, this is one of the most popular forms of procrastination when working from home).

When I do return home, I get everything I need and head into my home office. I then try to dive into projects straight away rather than check emails.

I also always aim to finish at the same time everyday. Sometimes if my husband is picking up the kids I’m able to work longer, but we have a designed “stop work” time which both he and I need so there is a definite end to my workday and we both know when family life can resume.

Use the right online tools

Email isn’t your only option when it comes to online collaboration. In fact, it’s one of our less-used platforms at Birdcage Marketing. For more information on the online tools we use to collaborate and be productive, check out this article.

Have your to-do list ready

I write my to-do list the day before. When I don’t, I feel so reactive (rather than proactive) and that I don’t actually achieve anything in the day. It also helps me prioritise jobs so I’m not left scrambling before I have to leave to pickup kids. It also means that when I have a light-on day I can either spend my time working on the business, or treat myself to a little bit of time away from the computer and not feel guilty about it because I know I’ve covered everything I need to do.

Remember, go outside

When you work from home it’s easy to forget a world exists outside your four walls. Even if you’ve got nowhere to go (and with self-isolation being a thing you probably shouldn’t be going anywhere) it’s still important to get outside into the sunlight.

Whether that’s a quick stroll around the block, or a barefoot walk into the garden, you’ll benefit in all ways by getting outside into some fresh air.

Whilst I’m 100% guilty of smashing lunch at my desk (if I eat lunch at all), I will at least get up in the middle of the day and water the plants or check on our backyard chickens. It makes me feel refreshed and ready to finish off the workday.

Fluffy colleagues are a thing

Sure, it can get lonely working from home. I’m personally an introvert though, so being alone recharges me and is something I need to do when I have a full day of calls booked in. But I love having my dog Murphy sit under my feet and perhaps a visit from one of the feline varieties who apparently live in the house.

With studies showing how pets alleviate stress, how they provide a positive diversion and how they relieve feelings of loneliness, remember to include your furry friend in your daily business affairs.

Murphy – Director of Delivery Person Alerts

If you’re opting or have no other option than to work from home due to new COVID-19 precautions, welcome to a whole new way of working.

At Birdcage Marketing we’re doing our bit to support clients moving to a work-from-home model by setting up online tools and systems. If you’re looking for assistance with taking your business more online (whether that’s through eCommerce or online services) get in touch via the website or email me via maddy@birdcagemarketing.com.au to see how we can assist with the transition.

The best online tools for working from home

The best online tools for working from home

As a virtual team, our clients benefit from us not having expensive overheads in the form of offices, insurances, and maintenance. What it does mean, however, is that we need to invest carefully in the online tools we use to ensure our collaborations with each other and our clients are smooth and productive.

Working from home the way we do is only made possible because of the online tools we use (thank you, world wide web). Sure there’s email, but if that’s your main form of communication and collaboration then you’re not fully experiencing everything the internet has to offer.

Take a look at the online tools we use here at Birdcage Marketing:

Slack

Online chat platform you set up for your team specifically. Use channels to segment conversations based on projects, clients, events, departments or whatever else you’d like to use.

We use Slack to communicate internally to avoid the crazy amount of emails we would otherwise be sending and receiving (and then having to file away). It keeps conversations organised and recorded for any future reference.

There are free plans available but we’re using a premium plan now that we’re a bigger team.

Trello

Trello is what we use for Project Management. Each client’s project has its own card and we input all info associated with the project into this card. This includes things like hours quoted, expenses incurred, invoicing requirements, status updates and we even track our time against these cards using Timecamp. They are arranged into columns based on their status and each team member also has their own “To Do” list within the board. It’s very visual and very handy when you’ve got a million and one things to do.

Again there are free plans, but we enjoy more benefits with our premium plan.

Zoom

Sometimes you really need a face-to-face and the best way is through video conferencing platform Zoom. Here you can do anything from one-on-one chats, to regular staff meetings, to client training sessions and even one-to-many conferences. It also allows for screensharing for more technical collaborations which require a visual.

Once again, the free option available should suffice unless you’re running longer meetings or conferences.

Dropbox

Once upon a time, to share your files you needed to setup expensive file servers and have an IT guru setup access for all those involved. Now, you just signup to Dropbox.

For a while I was just using Dropbox free account and allowing my team access to the files, but as the business grew we upgraded to a Business package which gives us even more flexibility around file sharing.

Essentially, absolutely every file we use is saved to Dropbox direct from our computer. That means there’s no chasing documents when someone is on leave or away; it’s all right there in the client folder.

Bonus: I have my own personal Dropbox folders where I save everything so if my laptop ever suddenly dies or I’m somewhere without it, I haven’t lost any of my files and can access them from anywhere.

Apple Reminders

I’m an Apple girl through-and-through, which is why I love using the Reminders app on my phone which syncs to iCloud and therefore, my laptop, iPad and Apple Watch. Whilst I refer to Trello for client projects, as a business owner I also have many other projects I’m working on for the business. And sometimes inspiration hits in the most random places and it’s amazing to have a list which I can update and check from anywhere.

Whatever I input in my phone comes across to the Reminders App on my laptop. I can even add to it from my Apple Watch using Siri. Having this available means I can free up my brain and not have to remember all-the-things.

Need help setting these up?

As a marketing agency for small business, our services go beyond just digital marketing. We know from experience that seamless business processes mean better business in general. And we’ll do anything we can to have our clients move forward towards their goals.

If you’re looking for assistance in setting up online tools and processes, email maddy@birdcagemarketing.com.au and let me know what you’re looking for assistance with.