Working from home tips

I figured I could either rant about the uselessness of my govt’s communication skills, or I could write something that I’d been meaning to anyway while being under Malaysia’s MCO (aka the Movement Control Order). The MCO is not quite as harsh as a quarantine or lockdown, but it does mean that anyone who isn’t working in a country-essential service capacity is to stay home and basically drive each other mad instead of your colleagues and more importantly, the health system. 

I work as a copywriter for an Australian company in my dayjob, following Melbourne hours. My team is essentially a remote team, though now we’re going to be working from home instead of the office. There are a few benefits to this: 

  • No commute (some of my colleagues regularly drive 40 minutes or more to work when there’s no traffic) 
  • Relaxed dress code (the company who pays our salary has a fairly strict business wear policy) 
  • And for my cigarette colleagues, no need to go 16 floors down for a quick break

However, the thing about working from home is that it’s very easy to get distracted. So here’s what I do to make things easier: 

Setting up a morning work routine

My alarm is still set to my pre-MCO wake up time. This is because my working hours haven’t changed. The only thing that has changed is that I can now snooze a bit longer before I head to “work.”

Things I do as part of my regular routine including showering, brush teeth, and (this part is an MCO bit) grab my office laptop out of the bag. I’m actually quite lucky that the office gave me a new laptop that has a USB-C port. My second monitor, keyboard, and mouse all go through a USB-C hub, so I don’t have to unplug 400 different cables to use my home monitor and peripherals, I just need to unplug 4 – headphones, charger, microphone and the USB hub. 

Doing this gets my mind ready for “work”, so when the laptop finally boots up, I’m ready to start the day. 

Instant noodles with a soft boiled egg
Forgot to eat lunch on time, ended up with just instant noodles

Keep breaks regular

I try to keep my routine as similar as I can with when I was going to the office – this means taking toilet breaks every hour or so because I make sure to stay hydrated, and I take longer breaks (5 minutes minimum) when switching between  brain heavy tasks. It’s very similar to what I do in the office… except I no longer feel the need to time myself because I don’t want to be seen as lazy for taking a long toilet break (leftover from my callcenter days). 

I also try to take my meals around the same time I usually do in the office, so this means having a bun or biscuit or something at 7.30am (basically something more than a cup of coffee) and possibly lunch at 11pm (though mom gets confused because to her that’s late breakfast). 

Recording by hand

Not like that. 

I began keeping a bullet journal to track my tasks in December, and it’s a system that’s worked for me pretty well since then. Writing things down help a lot, and they give me a sense of “what’s next” so I stop feeling lost. 

I also have a habit of drafting brief paragraphs in a throwaway notebook, so I brought both of these back from the office. It fools my brain into thinking that it’s work mode, so… I seem to have stayed productive at least. 

Socialise!

I talk with my colleagues a lot online, but I didn’t realise how much I relied on face-to-face communication until the second day of working from home. When you’re in the same area, it’s easier to holler/call/reach out literally to have questions answered, but when you’re working from home, it’s definitely not quite the same. 

So I am trying to reach out to my colleagues casually outside of just talking about tasks, and in the process I’m learning patience because I really can’t expect them to reply to me immediately (and vice versa!). 

TL;DR

  1. I make the effort to dress up
  2. Follow office timing as much as possible
  3. Record tasks by hand 
  4. Remember to socialise 

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