Setting up for success while working from home

This post is an excerpt from an internal company email sent by our CEO Jeremy Johnson to all Andela employees, as part of an ongoing series of update emails to touch base with everyone during the lockdown.In the weeks since COVID-19 cases soared and forced a lockdown across the world, many companies have had to transition to operating remotely. For many people — and companies, the transition is rather abrupt and daunting, and every useful tip helps.At Andela, we've been at the frontlines of championing remote work from the start, and we're happy to support others who are making the transition to set up for the future of work. We believe the points outlined by Jeremy on how to thrive while working remotely can be a useful resource for anyone, whether they're employees looking for guidance, or they're companies looking for a blueprint that helps.Here you go:

Define your workspace:

  • Separate work from home. Don’t work wherever you happen to be. Set aside some space, preferably a room (but it doesn't have to be) to be your dedicated workspace. That way, when you enter it, you know consciously what you’re there to do: go to work. The key is to change your state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work”.
  • Get a good chair. Posture matters.
  • Keep your desk and general work area neat. A clean workspace helps keep your mind organized, which makes you more productive.

Maintain regular habits & routines:

  • Set regular hours, and stick to the schedule.
  • Your PJs are probably super comfy but don't stay in them all day. Instead, give yourself a real start to the day: Have breakfast, have a shower, get dressed. Then make a list of tasks for the day and get moving.

And introduce some new ones, too:

  • Keep three lists: The first list is the things you will do today. The second is the list of things you’d like to get done, but aren’t essential. The third is things that need to be done at some point. That way, when it's 4 pm and you can't remember what you've had for breakfast, you will be able to remember what is left to get done.
  • Keep a notepad nearby. Jot down ideas for blog posts, projects, anything that springs to mind. Look at it twice a week to refresh your mind -- some of the best work you’ll ever do will come from random bits of inspiration.
  • Don’t stop working if it’s a hard day. There’ll be times when you haven’t got any ideas, or just don’t feel productive. Train yourself to do some work anyway. It’s a shortfall from “It’s just not happening at the moment” to “It’s a bit tough, I’ll stop for the day”. Next thing you know, you never seem to get anything done.


Minimize distractions:

  • Turn off your phone (and definitely Whatsapp) when you need to work without distraction.
  • Be careful what music you listen to while you work. Music, TV, the weather… Just about everything will influence your mood. Some you can’t change, some you can. Make sure that you surround yourself with things that will give you the best frame of mind for whatever you’re about to do.
  • Sound Canceling Headphones. Seriously useful regardless of whether you have kids...

Give yourself a break:

  • Take regular breaks. Don’t be locked in the room all the time. For every hour you work, have a 15-30 minute break. Give your mind time to digest what it’s just done, then come back. You’ll improve the quality of what you produce dramatically.
  • Don’t go back to work when you’ve finished. Had a great idea for a post? Fantastic, write down the basics on a note and pin it up. Don’t go back to work when you’ve finished.

Set clear boundaries:

  • Know when to stop. Don’t work late into the night. Set defined times when you’re going to work, and then when it passes, stop. You can have a bit of leeway here, but make sure that you don’t end up letting work run your life.
  • Set boundaries for those around you as well. Schedule your work time and make sure the other people who live with you know that you are unavailable for playing, chores, etc. during work time.

Protect your mental & physical health:

  • Start the day by spending some time alone to just sit and do whatever. Relax, let your mind wander. Pray if you're into it. Just make sure that you aren't in the “I hate working” mindset.
  • Keep a glass of water by your desk all the time. Try and work up to drinking a few big glasses a day if you don’t already.
  • Have a small but healthy breakfast and lunch. Too much food will make you feel tired, but not enough will make it hard to think.

Preserve human connection:

  • Make time for people. When people ask, give them what you can.
  • Call someone in your family or a close friend at least once a week. Your mom will appreciate it, and it will help you stay grounded.

Focus on gratitude:

  • We get to control what we focus on, and the evidence is conclusive: focusing on gratitude makes you happier.
  • Think about who has given their time and energy to help you get where you are, and let them know that you appreciate it. The more you say thank you, and mean it, the happier you will be.
  • Let's not forget that the reason most of us are working from home right now is because of a pandemic wreaking havoc on global health. If you're reading this right now, how can you not be grateful that you're healthy enough to do so?

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