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Work-from-home recommendations from seasoned remote workers

Given the current situation, a lot of people are new to navigating the work-from-home life. Since most of us working at Red Dot Digital are seasoned remote workers, we thought we’d help you out! Yes, you can have a productive and (relatively) sane day rather than stressing out on social media while eating all the snacks. 

Most important: there is no ONE perfect way of doing this. Here, we each suggest our personal favourite ways to be comfortable, efficient and balanced while working from home.

Joe Duarte, Content Lead

I gave up the corporate tedium to have more control over my everyday life, and working from home to me meant also giving up the nine-to-five mindset. Some people advise sticking to a professional routine—have your coffee, shower, dress up, and then head to your workstation to put in a solid eight hours of work. But I prefer to break up my day into two-hour chunks:

  • work two hours, ride the bike or go for a walk for an hour

  • work two hours, have lunch and watch TV or have a nap for two hours.

  • work two hours, do household chores like laundry, vacuuming and food prep for an hour.

  • work two hours, then have dinner and relax for the evening.

It’s all about budgeting your time. I’m still putting in my eight hours over the course of 12 hours, and I’m also getting some exercise in (which I never seemed to find time for before), doing household chores (which I didn’t feel like doing after I got home from work), and making a dent into my Netflix watch list.

Islam Nader, Programmer

I keep things interesting by setting up my environment with all I need to keep me productive, such as a cup of coffee, water and some nuts to snack on. I listen to music when I feel bored. When I take breaks, I switch off my laptop and either catch up with a friend for an hour or two or hit the gym to release the stress of work. Since nowadays the gym is closed, I work out at home and move around. Then I feel refreshed and I can get back to work. I used to meet up with friends and play sports after work, but these days, I usually watch a movie before going to bed.

Andrea Zanin, Writer, Editor and Content Strategist

I’ve been working from home for 15 years. Perhaps the biggest difference between working from home and going into an office is that the point is to do the work, not to be seen working. And that really changes things! You may do fewer hours but be way more effective or productive in them because you’re not distracted by your colleagues. You may do more hours from end to end because you give yourself a lot more slack to do things enjoyably and at a pace that respects your attention span, comfort, body, family obligations and so on. I’ve done both depending on what else is going on in my life at a given time. There’s no right way, as long as your work gets done and your process is functional for you.

For me, it’s important to attend to creature comforts. That means making my workspace clean and beautiful, being near natural light, minimizing clutter, and setting myself up in a way that means when I look up, I see art, vintage typewriters and books. I sit in a comfortable chair with all my work supplies in reach. I listen to music, snack on veggies, fruits, cheese, nuts and dark chocolate, and drink water and tea. Hydration is important! I take regular breaks and respect what my body needs—that’s always better for my mind and, by extension, my work.

Martha Muzychka, Strategy Planner

When I’m working, I use an approach called the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks work into 20-minute segments using a tomato-shaped timer. I take a five-minute break after each tomato-timed chunk to read email, make a cup of tea, stretch, or walk up and down my two flights of stairs.

My son is in university and home, so we plan our meals and activities, including alone time, plus family time. I’m generally curious about all sorts of things, so in my alone time, I have taken to reading “did you know...”-type articles to keep myself occupied. Recently, I learned all about petrichor, the scent you smell just before and after a rainfall. I am also a quilter, so I work on a quilting project two hours a day so I can do something with my hands besides type and eat.

To de-stress I like to clean, check in on friends and plan on deliveries of supplies for elderly family members. Depending on the situation, I will likely start work on a vegetable garden for the summer.

Martin Dessureaux, Creative Director

For me, working from home is not new, I’m used to it. But what’s new is that now everyone else is working from home too, which means all the meetings are online or over the phone. It’s great to stay connected with others. But the big change is that all my family is also at home, so it’s much louder here! Especially with two teenage boys who’ve had to stop playing hockey almost every day!

What I like to do, to de-stress from all that’s happening, is have a virtual 5-à-7! (That’s what we call cocktail hour in Québec.) This way, we don’t end up feeling all alone; we can keep on socializing, but at a distance!

Allison Little, Project Coordinator

As a part-time remote worker, what works best for me is scheduling my remote work after other activities. I typically decide I’m going to do X number of hours of remote work when I get home from a job I travel to, or after I get a personal task done. This helps me with motivation and time management; typically when I’m already on track with getting other things done, remote work is an easy extension.

Susana Cardenas | Programmer

Since I am not a morning person, I start work between 9:30 and 10:30 every morning. I start by checking on Slack and emails in case anything important has been mentioned while I’ve been asleep. I normally tackle the biggest challenge first thing in the morning and then move on to lower-priority tasks.

I definitely take more breaks working from home than when I work in an office. When work becomes too much or I’ve been stuck on a problem for too long, normally I go out and walk my dog so I can clear my mind. To de-stress from the workday I normally exercise, but with gyms closed I now resort to watching Netflix or building a puzzle.

It is important to note that these are not normal times, and even people who have experience working from home are having a hard time concentrating and being productive. For new people who have never worked from home, just know that you would probably be more productive under normal circumstances, so don’t be discouraged if your productivity decreases now. Try WFH again in the future once the world returns to “normal” and it will be a different story!

Smaranda Tolosano, Project Coordinator

I have been working remotely for over eight months now, writing and coordinating

projects for B2Bee alongside reporting on women’s rights and political issues in

Morocco. Until recent confinement measures came into effect, the appeal of working “from home” was that I didn’t actually have to be home at all to do it!

What I’ve found helpful now that I can’t rely on the melody of espresso machines and clatter of dishes from my favourite coffee shop is to listen to loops of lo-fi music on YouTube or instrumental jazz covers. Now, every morning, I brew a cup of my favourite Earl Grey and settle my laptop by the window, where I can get the most sunlight (my foster dog can attest), then I start. The idea is to recreate the conditions that get me into the best workflow. Instrumental music does just that for me. You have to find what does the trick for you!

The two essential things I’ve come to rely on since I started working remotely are

respecting my natural sleep cycles and giving myself deadlines. I set those up each day so that every finished task feels like an accomplishment. I still rely on

handwritten lists to get through my daily tasks, so I don’t lose track of what’s left to do. Fortunately, most of my work is done online, which allows me to keep a digital schedule of ongoing projects and due dates.

Muhammed Haris, Designer and Developer

When it comes to WFH, I have a rather conscientious way of doing things that is focused, inventive and proactive. Being a designer and a developer at the same time, I have to constantly keep my skills notched up for today’s work requirements.

My typical WFH day starts with my Trello dashboard, highlighting deadlines and updating my to-do lists. I am an avid believer that your work environment has drastic impacts on your work efficiency. And if you’re someone who works from home as a full-time job, keeping things steady and organized has a direct effect on how productive your day will be.

Because of my work style, I take very short breaks, which revolve around playing rapid chess with random players online alongside playing some online classic Tetris. At times, if my work is not as intensive, I chat with my friends or play table tennis.

I always set rewards for completing certain tasks as a way to keep myself motivated. The rewards range from watching an episode on Netflix to calling distant friends.

To sum it up, you have to think of ways to maximize your WFH efficiencies that work for you. You have to set clear goals and rewards for each one in order to keep going.

Cristina Barnola, Graphic Designer

As a mom of a toddler, working from home can be challenging. It’s guaranteed that I will be interrupted while working, so planning my day around my kid’s schedule is a life-saver.

The first thing I do is write down a to-do list, and start working on simple and short tasks while my blessing plays around on my office floor. When he takes his nap after lunch, I get one to two hours of uninterrupted work and that’s when I tackle the things on my list that require me to be focused.

Most of the afternoon is for playing and learning with my little one. After we finish with the night-time routine and the house gets quiet again, I head back to my desk and finish what’s pending on my to-do list.

Supriya Shrivastava, Business Engagement Manager

I have been working from home for over four years. On a typical day, I start my day by sipping a cup of tea while I make my to-do list for the day or week. I admit, snack breaks and social media browsing breaks do happen in between work times.

Lunchtime is my sacred time. That’s when I take a step away from work and refuel before I get back at it. I always have chillhop or relaxing café music in my YouTube playlists that help create the vibe I need in order to focus. I try to ensure I get proper sleep during the week and leave any Netflix binge-watching for the weekends.

Working from home allows me to enjoy flexible timing. I am able to plan my day based on the urgency and importance of the tasks I need to complete on a given day. This flexibility also allows me to get in my daily workouts, which is a huge part of my lifestyle.

Going to a café or working out at the gym gave me the opportunity to socialize with other people. Since we need to stay at home these days, I make sure I video-call a friendly face every other day. This helps me stay connected with my friends and family.

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