If you're working from home, you're certainly not the only one. More and more people from across the globe have made their spare room or even their bedroom into an office space over the past year. Firstly we want to say, if you're feeling frustrated and unmotivated when it comes to work, you're not alone. Millions of people around the globe are once again doing their best to cope with national lockdowns and restrictions, including us all here at CB HQ.
This situation is understandably causing many people to feel anxious and uncertain about what lies ahead. One way to help ease anxiety about working from home is to be prepared. From implementing measures to safeguard your mental health, to ensuring you have all the equipment you need, there are several things you can do to enhance your productivity (cheap broadband, anyone?) and comfort while out of the office. Don't miss our round-up of the best desk and best office chairs to help make you more comfortable too, plus our selection of the best smart home devices. We also have guides on office organisation ideas, office storage solutions and best headsets for working at home.
Below are our top tips to help you work from home like a pro, plus some essential items to make each day a bit more enjoyable.
01. Stay disciplined
Whoever said you shouldn't bring your work home with you clearly never had to work from home. One of the biggest challenges is keeping your work and home life separate. So, give yourself a dedicated place to work – even if it's a just the end of your kitchen or dinner table.
Anyone who has worked from home will understand the temptation to turn on the TV. There's nothing wrong with a little background noise, right? Then before you know it, working from home has turned into Netflix or Disney Plus time. Not only is this bad news for your work, but also for your leisure time. Sitting on the sofa won't feel relaxing in the evening if you've been doing it all day, so try and keep things separate.
02. Make sure your laptop is up to the job
In most cases, a laptop is probably the most important piece of kit when it comes to working from home. For the sake of your productivity (and sanity), you'll want to make sure it can handle whatever your job is about to throw at it. If it's time for an upgrade, we've got options for you. Topping our best laptop for graphic designers list is the hugely capable MacBook Pro 16-inch. Here are a few other options to cover a range of budgets:
03. Get a VPN
If you haven’t yet got one, you’ve at least probably heard about VPNs. Standing for Virtual Private Network, this downloadable software lets you change the IP address of your computer or phone to somewhere else entirely differently. Whether that be to a server in another country, back in your office or another location entirely.
Perhaps a VPN’s most crucial feature is its encrypted connections. That means the utmost privacy and security for you when you’re working at home, which is particularly handy if you’ll be sending and transferring sensitive information.
But it’s not all about work – one of the main reasons VPNs have become so massive over the last few years is because they can help you stream TV shows you wouldn’t normally be able to. The extra versatility of the best VPN services have made them an increasingly popular replacement for standard antivirus software.
04. Embrace little visitors
Ask around and you'd be hard pushed to find someone whose kids or colleagues kids' haven't attended a video conference call in the last few months. With plans constantly changing, one of the biggest issues many working parents have had to face is childcare options (or lack of). Creative Bloq's weekly meetings have certainly had their share of Old MacDonald renditions and little voices joining in the conversations.
While the world remains in such a state of uncertainty, it's now been accepted as a given by many that video calls may include new little visitors. Our advice? Embrace it. The tiny humans can often provide some much needed joy and humour in this ever-so-serious world right now.
05. Make your workspace comfortable
Grabbing a kitchen stool is fine for a few quick emails, but if you're about to spend a lot longer at your desk at home, you need to be sitting comfortably. When it comes to office chairs, our top pick is the iconic and ergonomic Herman Miller Mirra 2, but our list of the best office chairs includes options to suit every budget.
06. Take breaks
Even without your boss looking over your shoulder, it's easy to end up tied to your desk – especially when your colleagues can see your green dot coming and going on Slack. But just like in the office, staying in one place can easily lead to cabin fever, and that's not what you want from the place you have to sleep in.
So, give yourself a change of scene as often as possible, even if it just means going to another room. One of the great benefits of working from home is being able to cook a decent meal, so don't forget to give yourself a lunch break, and get outside if you can, even if it's just for 10 minutes (see tip eight).
07. Get the right software
So you've got the laptop, now it's time to load up on software. Slack will help you to keep your colleagues in the loop, and check out Zoom for conferencing calls (or see our Slack alternatives and Zoom alternatives for other options). And if you need to share files, see our send large files post.
If you're a creative, you'll almost certainly need an Adobe Creative Cloud plan if you want to use any software from Adobe's Creative Suite, including Photoshop and Illustrator (although there are, however, plenty of Photoshop alternatives and Illustrator alternatives available).
08. Leave the house
This final tip might seem like counter-productive advice for, you know, working from home, but it's important to get outside, get some fresh air and stay active – providing you're not in quarantine, that is.
As much as we all hate commuting to work, it normally involves at least a touch of exercise, whether you cycle in, or even just walk to the station or car. When establishing your work from home routine, make time for at least one trip into the great outdoors. You don't need to go for a full blown hike every day – a trip to the shop can be enough.
Not only does this keep you active, but can be good for your mindset. Even with Slack, Twitter, and the tons of other means of communicating online, working from home can become a lonely experience if you're missing out on talking to people in person. Even a quick chat with a shopkeeper or barista might put a smile on your face before you head back to your home office.