The team at Open Cages has always been fully remote. We work from wherever ‘home’ is to us – from Poland to Portugal and everywhere in between.
We’ve been doing it for years. And while we’ve still got a lot to learn (and, in my case at least, plenty of bad habits to shake) we like to think we’re getting fairly good at it. We have a culture of sharing what works, and what doesn’t, to the benefit of our whole activist network.
As it turns out, working from home was one of the few 2020 trends we were prepared for. So as we enter the tenth long month of the year that changed our world forever, let us share the science-backed tips that can help you work from home like a pro (or at least, like an Open Cages activist).
Working from home is harder than it seems. Acknowledge that, and don’t give yourself a hard time.
I don’t know about you, but before I started working from home, it seemed like the dream. The convenience. The flexibility. The chance to fully control and optimise my surroundings.
However, the truth was more complicated. The flexibility of home working can leave you feeling like there is no separation between your professional and personal life.
If you don’t set proper boundaries for yourself, the change in lifestyle can have a big impact on your mental and physical health. And even if you do everything right, it’s still a big adjustment.
One report found that remote workers are more likely to experience high stress levels than office workers. So make sure you take your mental health seriously as you transition to working from home.
Create (physical) boundaries between work and your personal life.
Even a three-second distraction can double the number of mistakes you make – so it’s important to keep your work environment clear from personal clutter. Set aside a clear, quiet area that you’ll work in every day, where the distractions of family life are less likely to get to you.
Cleaning can make you feel super productive – so it’s no wonder that up to a third of people who work from home find themselves doing chores on the clock. But it’s important to avoid those temptations if you want to maintain your focus.
And when you’re working from home, having a designated work station has more benefits than just keeping you focused. Your brain is very good at creating associations between places and activities. So when you work in bed, for example (as I’m sure you’re tempted to), your focus drops, because your brain thinks that bed = resting. And if you keep at it, you’ll find yourself thinking about work when all you want to do is sleep.
Invest in the supplies that you need.
Now you’re working from home, you might want to invest in some supplies that will improve the quality of your workspace.
For example, you might consider getting a second monitor. Research has found that workers with two monitors start tasks faster, get work done quicker, and make significantly fewer errors than those with just one.
It takes up more space, sure, and may be expensive. But it may be a worthwhile investment to improve the quality of your work.
Another crucial aspect of any good workspace is a good-quality chair. You’ll want one that supports your lower back, and one that lets you adjust the height so you’re always eye-level with your computer. There are some good options here.
Further accessories can do additional work to help you avoid “microtraumas” – the little strains on your joints and muscles that add up over time, eventually causing problems like carpal tunnel syndrome and back injuries. One good example is a mouse – you might think you’re good with a trackpad, but when it comes to keeping your wrists healthy, there’s no comparison.
Plan to take breaks.
When you’re working from home, it can be easy to spend whole days sitting, uninterrupted, at your computer. But research has found that taking quick breaks from work can make you more productive when you come back. Taking a 10-minute break to go somewhere else – ideally outside – can boost your concentration.
If you find it helpful to plan your days meticulously, the Pomodoro app is a great method for doing so. It’ll tell you when to stop and start a break, optimising for maximum productivity and focus.
Find time for other people.
If you’ve gone from working in a busy office to being by yourself 8 hours a day, the adjustment can be jolting.
It turns out that work meetings serve more purposes than those listed on the agenda. We’re social animals, and having scheduled check-ins with your colleagues during the day can really boost your mood.
Connecting over a video call can have more wide-reaching benefits for your work. Talking ‘face to face’ can help avoid misunderstandings and assuage anxieties. And there’s some evidence to suggest that teams that meet regularly come up with more creative problem-solving solutions, too.
Video calls have been proven to be more draining than both phone calls and regular face-to-face meetings. Given our limited choices right now, that can make it tempting to avoid or greatly limit your social contact.
Finding the right balance for you will be important for your mental health. Ultimately: if you feel you need more contact during the day, asking for more video chats at work could be a solution.
At the end of the day…
We hope you find these tips useful – and that they help you avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve fallen into ourselves. Overall it comes down to what makes you feel comfortable, positive and productive.
One last thing. If working from home has left you with more free time than usual, why not use that time to help animals – by volunteering with Open Cages? There’s more information here, and you can always get in touch with us directly if you’d like to learn more.