Here’s something you might not know: when ohne first launched, we had no offices. At first it was Nikki and Leah working together, hunched over laptops on their living room floor or ploughing on into the early hours of the morning at the kitchen table. One by one, the team grew, and we’ve maintained a relatively unconventional working style ever since, with some team members working together at ‘ohne hq’ and some continuing to work from home (or cafes, coworking spaces, trains, planes… you get the idea).
At least, that’s how it was. Since we’ve entered into a twilight zone storyline and the global pandemic has made going out and working or socialising in public spaces not only dangerous but morally questionable, we’re all where I imagine many of you are, working from home and missing irl meetings and chats over the coffee machine. Working from home isn’t always easy, but we consider ourselves pretty lucky. We’ve learnt a lot from working remotely – particularly what not to do! Hopefully now you can learn from our mistakes.
Don’t be disappointed if it’s not the vacation you imagined…
There’s a common misconception that working from home isn’t even really ‘working’. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had friends assume I’m free to meet on their days off, make comments about me not ‘really’ having to go to work (I guess because I don’t have a commute?) or expressing envy at what they imagine is a life of pyjamas and daytime TV. And I have to admit, I thought working from home would be a breeze, too. But it’s not all pyjamas and blankets and endless cups of tea with daytime TV playing in the background. It can be bloody hard to self-motivate, to feel that ever-important team spirit, and sometimes getting ahold of an answer or a document you really need can involve several hours of waiting for someone to see your email rather than simply strolling across the office to ask for it. You’ll make mistakes and experience disappointments and frustrations. But you’ll also learn to adapt and to see the joy of working from home.
Find a routine that works for you
For ohne co-founder Leah, finding rhythm and productivity in working from home depends a lot on finding a routine. “Here at ohne we’ve started doing a 9am daily standup via video, kicking the day off with focus. We run through something we nailed from the day before, share our focus for the day, and how we’re going to tackle any obstacles we have. Even if you’re not part of a team or your team aren’t implementing it, it’s a great idea to run over what you nailed yesterday and what your priorities are for the day.” And hey, if you want to share your goals and achievements with someone but haven’t got a team to share them with, share them with us! We’ll be your remote, digital team for the time being.
Nikki’s top tip is to make sure you get dressed every day. “Not having to feels like a luxury, but preparing for your day as if you were going into work makes you feel more human and puts you in a good head space.
Be intentional with your time
For me, learning to be intentional with my working hours was life-changing. I never used to ‘shut off’ – even if I wasn’t actively working, my laptop would always be open, I’d have my work apps notifying me on every device I own, and I’d let my workday bleed into the evening and even the night with no real end point to my day. Now, I’m still flexible with my exact hours – working until earlier or later in the evening depending on workload and if I need a longer lunch break to recharge – but I’m intentional about picking a time to finish up, writing my to-do list for tomorrow (to prevent myself thinking about work all night), closing all my apps, emails, and physically putting away my laptop and diary. Oh, and I’ve deleted all my work apps from my phone – that way I’m only engaging with work when I actively choose to, not because an email popped up while I was face-timing my mum.
For Naomi, on the other hand, it’s more important to create space at the beginning of the day to practise some self care before the work day starts. “I don’t pick up my phone until I have done some form of self care. I like to do 15 minutes of yoga or Kettle-bell Pilates or a meditation from insight timer. I also have a good breakfast and I always start my day with hot water and lemon, with my daily cod liver oil and vitamin D tablet.” For Naomi, who works in customer experience, picking up her phone before she’s ready to go into ‘work mode’ is like a teacher taking classes before school opens. If using your phone also feels like work to you, come up with a ritual you do each morning before picking it up, even to scroll through Instagram.
Get fresh air and move your body
Yes, lockdowns are f*cking difficult. If you’re in the UK, you’re allowed out for one form of exercise a day – use it. Keep yourself and others around you safe by following health guidelines, of course, but use it! Speaking as someone living in Spain, where I cannot go out except to buy essentials, the freedom to go for a walk or jog every day is an absolute blessing and one I am absolutely green with envy over.
Take it from Louisa: “exercise is super important to my schedule, and at the moment whilst gyms are kind of out of order, it’s so important that I allocate time to get outside and move my body. I love YouTube workouts, or taking a quick 5k outside. Don’t be afraid to step away from your laptop and get some fresh air if you have to!” At-home workouts are a great alternative for people who can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t want to go out, but so is just doing some dancing around or shaking out your limbs – anything to get your blood flowing.
Even if you can’t go out out, make fresh air a priority. Jess’s advice is to make the most of whatever outside space you have: “stand out on the balcony or in your garden whilst you drink your morning coffee. Or, if it’s real crappy weather, just open up all the windows. Fresh air gets the blood flowing and it can be a real mood booster. Without it, I found time really creeps up on you and, before you know it, you’ve spent the entire day cooped up inside – which can be a real killer for productivity”
Create a physical space for ‘work’
Without a physical space to go to, it can be easy for your work and home life to bleed together. Unfortunately, while it might sound like it makes work more relaxing, it usually results in making home feel less relaxing. It’s a great idea to substitute your commute and/or the physicality of sitting down in your office with something you can do at home.
Now, most of us probably aren’t lucky enough to have an at-home office – if you do, great, you’re winning at working from home already. Louisa didn’t even have a desk for the first few weeks of lockdown and had to improvise with a stack of books piled up in front of her armchair. But, crucially, she didn’t just say fuck it and decide to work from bed. Let your bed remain a sacred space for sleeping, proper relaxation, and sexy time. Naomi swears by noise-cancelling headphones – which are a total game changer with three kids running around. When she’s wearing them, she’s in work mode.
Our TOP tip is to dedicate a space for ‘work’ and keep it just for work. “During the work day, move around when you take a break,” Jess says, “for example, when you stop for lunch, even if you just get up and sit on a different chair on the dining room table, it’ll help segment the day and something as simple as looking at the room from a different angle will stimulate the mind and reignite the senses.”
Don’t expect your workday at home to mirror a workday in the office
Don’t force yourself to match an eight hour workday if you don’t have to! For many of you, your working hours will be able to shrink while still getting the same amount of work or more done. Some meetings will become emails. Others will still be held but over video chat and (probably, hopefully) shorter than in-person meetings. That office banter you miss just freed up an embarrassing amount of time (yes, it really is possible that you were spending so much time nattering at work!) That hour long lunch break you always took isn’t mandatory either. If you want to eat microwaved leftovers from last night’s dinner in five minutes flat then get back to work, you absolutely can – but finish your day earlier!
But do be mindful that work expands to fill the time allotted – I know from experience that if a task needs to be done like, now I can bash out copy in half an hour, but if I have all week to complete that same copy task, I’ll toil with it for hours, wanting it to be perfect, fiddling with it endlessly. I don’t have a great fix for this other than that if you’re in a position to have someone else (a boss, coworker, flatmate, friend) hold you accountable to deadlines, they’ll really help you work more efficiently.
Make the most of new freedoms!
That commute? It’s now free time. As Leah says, “If you weren’t already working from home, then you’re used to investing your time into commuting. For lots of London babes, you’re likely looking at around 45 mins to an hour each way. That’s 2 extra hours a day you just got back – use them to do something positive for yourself. Whether it’s an extra long bath, a workout, or calling your nan!”
Embrace the benefits of not being around colleagues. While it’s good to fabricate some atmosphere of the office at home, you can still relish in the fact that you’re not, in fact, at an office. “I LOVE to have little sing-song at some point in the day,” Clemmie says. “My fave playlist is ‘Best of Broadway’ – my rendition of the entire Hamilton soundtrack is quite something!” Louisa also loves a to belt out a show tune randomly throughout the day: “it’s nice to take advantage of being at home where people won’t recoil at my screeching!” Whether you’re into singing show tunes, dancing to chart-toppers, or even head banging to death metal, anything that keeps your morale high throughout the day is a great use of time in our book.
Self care is god and we are her disciples
Remember to be gentle with yourself during this time. Whether or not you’re used to working from home, if you’re struggling to focus, get motivated, or maintain a functioning sleep schedule these days, it’s so bloody understandable.
Whatever you do, don’t pressure yourself to ‘use’ this time to work more, start a side hustle, or be super creative. Now is not the time to bully yourself into someone else’s idea of self-improvement.
Remember: give yourself switch-off time from your work; call your friends and/or family as much as you can (especially if you’re an extrovert who needs social connection to re-energise; and get fresh air any way you can (sticking your head out the window for five seconds! It’s better than nothing). Oh, and move your body. You don’t have to work out, but sitting still all day everyday will be really bad for your mental health. Do some stretches, shake your limbs around, have a little dance. Anything and everything counts, as often and for as long as you can.
Working from home can be anything you want it to be. It’ll just be trial and error figuring out how to get there. If you’ve got any questions or tips and/or tricks of your own to share, hit us up on socials. We’re not going anywhere 😘