Working From Home — Tips, Tricks and Motivation

Jeff Uren
Jeff Uren
Mar 16, 2020 · 13 min read
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Tips, tricks, positive reinforcement and other things to help you cope with working from home.

Note This article was edited to remove some Wellcome-specific content which is still visible on the originally published article on Wellcomes intranet.

Just to give you some background, I’ve worked from home / remotely for the last 10+ years, in that time I’ve moved from Canada to England and currently live and work from a remote farm out in the “boonies” in Gloucestershire.

There’s no silver bullet to being a productive worker at home, for a lot of people it’s going to be an intensely personal configuration of things that leads you to being able to work from home and ultimately becoming productive from home. I can’t stress enough that for some people it’s going to be hard, it’s a large adjustment, but remember that everyone will be going through it at the same time, make sure that you have friends, family and co-workers that you can lean on during this period to help you keep yourself sane and healthy during what is going to be a trying period for everyone.

Working from is going to take a level of self-awareness that you may not have had to deal with in the past, learning to read yourself and picking apart what’s causing you to feel lethargic, out of it, unproductive is going to be a large part of your life for the first little while, and you’re going to need to adjust how you do things as time goes by and your working environment changes.

Nothing below is a silver bullet, and if you have your own tips or tricks, it would be really good to see them in the comments below. Multiple team members in Wellcomes Digital and Data Labs teams contributed to the list below, thank you to everyone for your contributions!

Don’t Overinflate Expectations

Lower your expectations for yourself, working from home is like learning any other skill and it’s rare that someone can jump into it and even be remotely as productive as they previously were working from an office. Give yourself room to breathe and observe and understand the things that distract you, the things that are getting in the way of you feeling productive and focus on mitigating or limiting (or embracing!) those things to start so that you can feel comfortable at home, on your own, working by yourself.

Track Things

https://bulletjournal.com/pages/learn
https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique
https://taskwarrior.org/

Structure

Get dressed as if you were going to work, it helps you to separate your work time and home time mentally.

Early / Night Birds

Stop When You Need to Stop

Don’t Eat Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner at Your Desk

Exercise

https://www.lesmills.com/ondemand/

Celebrate Your Achievements

Nominate a Rubber Duck

Don’t Blame the Toaster

Do Things You Couldn’t Do in An Office (Within reason)

Background Noise

What I do on occasion (usually when I get sick of music) is stick on a TV series in the background that I have watched before, it’s less distracting but also comforting because you know what’s going to happen next, so it doesn’t draw your your focus. Over the years I reckon I’ve played through all the seasons of Futurama about 40 times doing this and I’ve been sat at my desk and realized a season has ended and I didn’t tune into a single part of it.

LoFi Hip Hop Music — https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0vvXsWCC9xrXsKd4FyS8kM?si=NZF5SnErTXei...

See if there already is a chat group, slack channel or otherwise dedicated to work music at your org, if there isn’t, create one and start sharing your WFH playlists.

Avoid Podcasts if They Distract You

Try Pairing A Few Times

https://discordapp.com/

Schedule All-Hands Meetings

Buy Healthy Snacks

Shut off the World

If you have trouble with self-discipline when it comes to certain sites like Facebook or Twitter, try an app like Cold Turkey https://getcoldturkey.com/ to block those sites on your computer until out of office hours times.

Communicate with Partners / Roommates

Be Patient

Kids

If your kids are old enough, spend the next couple weeks communicating to them that you are now entering work time and that you need them to let you get on and that you will come and play with them at your break/lunch/after work. And go play with them at your break. It’s not going to magically make them leave you alone right away, but if you keep at it, they’ll start to get accustomed to it.

Make a sign with your kids that you can hang on the door saying “Shop Open” on one side and “Shop closed” on the other, so your kids understand when they can and can’t come in to see you.

If you have to do things like collect children from school at the same time every day consider blocking that out in your diary otherwise someone will book an important meeting at 3pm which you can’t make.

Don’t make your desk/space too important

The point being, don’t rely on a space and things to make you magically productive. There’s no difference fundamentally between a giant mahogany desk with a £500 Herman Miller desk chair and your kitchen table other than the former creates an unrealistic expectation that magic is going to happen the moment you sit down at it.

Accept Low Productivity and Adjust Accordingly

People Are Visual

https://www.sketchbook.com/
https://witeboard.com/
MS OneNote also has some collaborative features
https://www.cockos.com/licecap/ — a gif recording screen capture tool

Use Video on Calls

Set an Alarm for Lunch and End of Day

Break The Thousand Mile Stare

Other Bits

  1. Put a big jug of water on your desk in the morning, you WILL forget to hydrate.
  2. Ping your co-workers regularly, share funny links, tell jokes, just interact, it will help others adjust as well.
  3. Not everything needs to be a video chat / call, share a document and collab via chat, don’t drag others into a meeting unless there’s an absolute necessity for it.
  4. It can help to leave the house once you’ve finished for the day, even for just a few minutes to mark the end and disconnect yourself from work.
  5. Write and speak more in-depth than you normally would, there won’t be visual cues during conversation for people to pick up on, so overcommunicating in some situations might be key to getting a point across.
  6. If you have a mac and an iPad, you can set up your iPad as an extra external monitor.
  7. If you have a smart TV kicking around, or even an old TV kicking around, you can configure that as a secondary monitor.
  8. If you have a Samsung Fridge, I guess you might be able to configure it as a secondary monitor…
  9. Your food bill is probably going to go up, watch your intake, eat light meals to avoid the mid-afternoon slump you get from carb-heavy recipes.
  10. Try not to listen to new music (with lyrics), it will inevitably draw your attention away, build a playlist of songs you know and try to stick to those during work hours.
  11. Check to see if your organisation has any rebates, perks for internet or 3g/4g dongles so you can work from more than home, places like the park, etc… to get some fresh air.

Wellcome Digital

News and ideas about digital at the Wellcome Trust.

Wellcome Digital

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research, and we’re taking on 3 health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases. Here you’ll find news and ideas about digital things we’re working on.

Jeff Uren

Written by

Jeff Uren

Senior Backend Engineer at Wellcome Trust, with experience in Disease Surveillance, Outbreak reporting and management and global health management systems.

Wellcome Digital

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research, and we’re taking on 3 health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases. Here you’ll find news and ideas about digital things we’re working on.

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