With everything that’s going on — or lack thereof — we thought we’d share some insights on how we work best from home. During these strange times, we believe it is important to remain positive and promote the positive effect of remote working, if it’s an option for your business.
We want to help you maintain a work-life balance when your work is only a few metres away — so we thought we would share some of our own experiences. We are a diverse professional team specialising in varied fields, with our own different backgrounds and needs, so maybe some of us will provide a few helpful hints. We got all our team together (no, not on Houseparty or Zoom), to come up with the following work-from-home hacks.
If your usual daily routine is ‘get up, eat, commute, work’, you’ve been hit with a few home truths in the last few weeks. Our Senior Developer Charlotte is a seasoned “remotely-working” girl (she’s based in France!) and recommends having things organised before starting each day.
Charlotte says: “It is important to have a structured schedule. Without structure, you’ll just start working in your pyjamas all week (though it can happen sometimes!) and get confused between being at home and actually working. I make sure to have my breakfast before I start to work, and I try to make sure I take short pauses every once in a while — even if that’s walking around my flat to get the blood running to my legs!”
Eanna, our Head of Marketing, has a slightly different approach, but with the same outcome: “I try to prepare for work as if I’m leaving the house, i.e. shower, brush teeth, etc. The only difference being I probably wear more comfortable clothes at home — I tend not to sit around in a blazer or three-piece suit.”
For many people, working in an office is much more than just getting the job done. There is an important human connection that’s more difficult to maintain now that COVID-19 has locked our office doors.
At Matrix, we set up a series of daily meetings via Hangouts, to review workloads and share ideas for projects. We also regularly discuss our workload using our project management tool Basecamp. But it’s not all work and no play — if you haven’t been sharing Tiger King memes, videos of disastrous Zoom meetings or photos of Leo’s ‘Mr Taoiseach’ mug, you’re doing this quarantine wrong!
Our Social Media Specialist Rakky says checking in with the team is vital to keep her mind fresh and open to new ideas. “I miss the chats in the canteen and the ideas we had together, in non-scheduled brainstorms,” she says. “To overcome that, I try to get in touch with people from different departments and to send everyone ideas I think can work best with our current and future projects. I also make sure to check on people to know how they are dealing with self-isolation, and how their families and home life are.”
This is a must whether you’re in the office or at home. A clean environment leads to better concentration, and is a great way to avoid procrastinating on that project that needs to be submitted today!
Ruchi, our SEO Specialist, had a different experience from the rest of us and needed to work on a contingency plan. She was in the middle of her holidays in India when she found out her flight back to Ireland had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. She had to repurpose an area of her house to be a new office space, and let people in the house know her work schedule while she is working from home.
Ruchi says: “For me, while creating your own office space it helps to keep all the essential things that you need close to you, like your earphones, charger, water bottle/glass, etc. And if you are staying with family in the house, avoid places you know can be crowded during the day and avoid distractions.”
A schedule is vital so you can get the most important work tasks out of the way during the time kids are occupied. Matrix founder and Team Leader Jeff tackles that area with Bluetooth headphones.
“With three kids and egotistical pets, conference calls can be hazardous,” Jeff explains. “I regularly use Bluetooth headphones to allow me to move around, should any domestic incidents erupt mid-call. I often turn off the camera too in web calls, which allows me the freedom to warn the kids or the pets.”
Charlotte is the proud owner of two cats, and rather than being a distraction, she reckons they’re great co-workers, as she jokes: “They are funny and will keep you entertained. And they might answer when you speak to yourself, so you don’t forget how to talk!”
The home environment, the kids, pets, rolling news and work activities might not be the perfect combination, and if you are noticing a decrease in your productivity, just remember that millions of workers worldwide are in the same boat. To tackle that, one of our Senior Developers Bernard has a golden tip: the Pomodoro Technique. If you’re new to this approach, the low-down is that it’s a focusing technique that forces you to pour all your concentration into a single task for 25 minutes, without distractions, and then leave your desk for a break (usually five minutes). “There are apps for mobile and desktop based on it, which sends notifications to remind you,” Bernard explains. If you want to give it a go, check this.
For one of our Content Writers Maria, it’s important to come up with a list of her daily tasks, as a way to increase productivity.
“Write a list of things to do either the night before or the morning of your work day, and to get your work started, do the easiest/quickest thing on the list first,” she says. “This gives you a nice feeling of accomplishment to kick off the day, and then tackle the hardest thing on the list next!”.
To keep himself productive, Eanna tries to make sure his office area is always clean: “There’s nothing worse than sitting down and trying to work with a mess around; it’s seriously distracting”. He also avoids working anywhere that he typically relaxes or unwinds in: “This negatively impacts both work and relaxing time”.
If you decide to block out chunks of time to get those important tasks done, why not break them down even further to give your brain a break from the screen? Jeff finds that too much blue light and being indoors can be bad news for our body clock, and offers this easy tip: “I try to get some daylight, even for a few minutes soon after waking up. If I have to make or receive a phone call, I will use that as an opportunity to go outside.”
Richard, our Operations Manager, tries to keep a balanced schedule, even during his breaks.
“Every two hours I get up and do some squats or make a cup of tea. That’s enough for me to get five minutes out from the desk,” he says.
Let’s just say we’ve gained a few hours now that we’re not arguing over the office playlist! If there’s one thing the Matrix team has in common is a passion for music — even if we can’t all agree on our favourite artists. Having some kind of music in the background while working on different projects has been necessary to all of us, in different ways.
Richard is less keen on any specificities, saying he doesn’t mind “having the radio on in the background”. Bernard prefers specific sounds to help him concentrate, as he explains: “There is a site called Focus@Will that has music and sounds proven to help you focus. It’s not free, but you can trial for 14 days and keep doing that.”
Our Content Strategist Conor listens to music 24/7 (literally, even going to bed!) but is strict when it comes to background music while writing or editing, as he says: “I listen to everything from metal, to hip-hop to techno, but when I’m working it has to be ambient music or downtempo electronica. Lyrics are a distraction — I’d be afraid of stray Bowie lines creeping into any documents!”
To Jeff, music depends on the type of work that needs to be done. “Shallow work, such as flicking through high volumes of small tasks requires a good pace, in which case I will reach for Rammstein, Thin Lizzy or Slipknot,” he says. “Steady work requires a more easy flow and I will listen to The Doors, Radiohead or The Beatles. For deep work, I can’t have any lyrics to distract me, so it’s classical music, jazz or Irish traditional music”. He also gave us an idea of the music he uses to punish himself in case of making a mistake, but that’s a long-running internal joke and company secret!
Working from home, after all, means you are at least spared that valuable commuting time. Why don’t you use this extra time to do something for yourself? Eanna makes sure he has his dose of exercise to balance things: “Since working from home means moving a lot less, it’s crucial for me to exercise that evening – running, gym (if possible) or even just a walk. This really helps with balance”.
Rakky is using her extra time to learn new stuff, as she reveals: “I have a list of online courses I always wanted to do, but procrastinated for a while. I’m using part of my extra time on it and, whenever I feel like, I just jump onto my acoustic guitar as well, as a great source of distraction.”
As we continue to adapt and develop new routines while working from home, we’re still operating as usual to assist our clients in developing their business for a new future. Be it web development, digital marketing or web hosting; our skilled team can help drive your business forward online. Contact us today for more information!
By Jeff Sheridan
By Conor McCaffrey