Tips for successfully working from home

No one’s watching. No one’s distracting.

Working from home can be fantastic! A year ago, I was in my 17th year of a 9-to-5 office job. Commuting downtown everyday, working overtime, paying for parking, and eating lunch out. Then I joined McQueen, and learned I would be working remotely, and to say it was a huge change would be an understatement! It has taken me almost 6 months to get the hang of it. This situation isn’t unique to me, many modern professionals are working from home these days. It works well for us, so I put a call out to the McQueen team to send me their tips and tricks on how to successfully work from home. We are a creative bunch, but I’m sure these can help anyone making the shift from working in the office to a home based office.

McQueens tips for successfully working from home:

1. Make yourself a work haven

One of the things many people find difficult about working from home, is how to separate it from being at home. A clear way to do this is to create and define your work space. Whether it is an office, a room or in your basement, find a space that you can create that is just for work. When you go to that space, you are going to work, so you can focus and shift your head space.

There is something that happens as I walk down the basement stairs to my home office. I switch from kids, cleaning, dinners and laundry to emails, deadlines, schedules and creativity.
~ Cindy, Art Director

“You aren’t chained to a desk. The majority of my work takes place at my desk, but for calls that don’t include needing to be at my computer I take a seat in a comfortable chair near a window all the way across my home. Not only does it remove you from the desk for a few minutes, but not being at the screen allows you to focus solely on the call.”
~ David, Director of Digital

2. Avoid ‘always available’ by setting a schedule

When you work from home it’s common for friends and family to assume you are, somehow, always available for chats, texts, and anything else they need when in actuality you have projects and clients that need your attention. Set a schedule and boundaries to ensure your work day is respected the same as those who are at an office. It may take a little while, but eventually people will understand when you don’t answer them during your business hours.

Take into account when your energy is high or low, when mapping out your schedule. Load heavier work into high energy times and book meetings or strategy sessions to help keep you engaged when your energy is low.

“Have a big monthly calendar where you can visually set goals/ deadlines/ exciting things to look forward to”
~ Amelia, Graphic Designer / Calligrapher

It has taken me some time to realize that there may be some unscheduled (non-work related) items that require attention in a day – that is ok. I’ve adopted a “20-minute” system. I set an alarm for 20 minutes and attack the project. When my alarm goes off I head back to my desk and get back to work. I found that the task would sit with me all day if I pushed it off, allowing myself that time makes me way more productive.

“Each year I create what I call my ‘daily plan’ – it is a list of activities I do for myself, while giving myself clear timelines. For example, I like to be in my office working by 8am, so often I will get up at 6:30am, so I can get ready, have my coffee, meditate and prep for the day.”
~ Jared, Creative Director

3. Wearing pyjamas all day every day can do strange things to a person

So get dressed! There is a common misconception that working from home means sitting on the couch in your pyjama’s all day, not so. Each morning, when you get up be sure to shower and get dressed just as you would heading to an office (even if they are comfy pants). Changing out of your pj’s will help you feel more motivated to start the day.

“Enjoy yourself, you’ve got the place to yourself! I like to play music quite loud and sing along.”
~ Sarah, Senior Graphic Designer

4. It’s way too quiet

It is important to get out of the office, work from a coffee shop or cafe, meet up with colleagues, schedule lunch meetings, go for a walk around the block. Sitting alone by yourself can be isolating, so make sure you schedule yourself time to make those in-person personal connections as well. If you work from home, you know how easy it is to ‘just keep working’ and lose all sense of balance – after all, your work is right at your fingertips. Leaving your home every evening is one way to create balance, even if just to go for a short run or walk around the neighbourhood. This creates a clear separation between the work day and leisure time. I take a ½ hour before picking up the kids from the dayhome to prepare dinner for the family. It gives me the brain break from answering emails and allows me to cut carrots in peace without answering 700 kid questions.

“There have been times where I feel like I’ve been enclosed in this bubble for days… people get the chance to commute to work, so why not go outside for a walk to stretch your legs?”
~ Andrew, Videographer