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Working from Home: Practical Ways To Stay Disciplined

work from home

In a tech-savvy world, the number of possibilities presented is endless. Thanks to technology, work does not have to be done at a particular place or at a particular time. Some people work remotely, others do online work and they can simply work from the comfort of their homes.

Working from home is ideal in moments of crisis when flexibility is critical. In some cases, such as freelancing, you can work for people continents away. With such endless possibilities, comes the need to do things differently as there is a new set of challenges provided by the lack of a boss who wants to see you seated at your desk. You make the rules and live by them.

An office is great because it gives you a structured environment, which allows you to work almost uninterrupted and you are almost always assured of maximum productivity. However, if your job allows you to work from home, or if you are a freelancer who does not have an office, a strict self-discipline is the only way to stay productive. There is the great temptation to maybe watch a movie, snooze a little after lunch, or just laze in the house. So, here are some tips that can help you stay disciplined and productive, even when watching an episode of Game of Thrones would seem very ideal.

Get out of bed

Waking up

 

Of course, if you live in a bedsitter, your bed might be the chair and bed and only furniture you have. Most startups have been started on beds, where people simply wake up, pull their laptops and start working.

Although this sounds really romantic, it is a bad idea when you are trying to be productive. Once you feel a bit tired and lazy, lying down for two minutes is simply very easy and can turn into hours and before you know it, you will not have accomplished anything by the end of the day.

If you are to work from home, get out of bed, have a cup of tea and sit away from your bed, whether you live in a bedsitter or in a bigger house. Better still, have a dedicated working area, such as a chair and a desk, if this is possible. This will ensure that laziness is kept at bay.

   Have a schedule

Create a schedule

Self-discipline starts with having a plan and sticking to it. Having planned schedule ensures that you stay disciplined and motivated. For example, knowing your deadlines could easily help you plan your day well, such that you are able to create time to attend to your work on time.If you find it hard to have a written schedule and sticking to it, you can use apps to help you plan your day and work efficiently. A schedule will help you avoid the temptation to play another round of GTA V when you should be trying to meet a deadline.

Take a shower in the morning and dress up

Take a shower

Working from home is very comfortable because you can choose when to wake up and even whether the shower would be nice immediately you wake up, or later. Well, showering is a great way to wake up and get into the right frame of mind. Most people simply wake up, sit up on their beds, switch on their computers then start working. If you do this, chances are, you will feel lazy and it will take you much longer to actually wake up.

Another great tip is to actually dress up a little bit. Of course, suiting up is a bit impractical but, at the very least, get out of your pajamas.

 Attend to household chores and run your errands

Creating time for errands

One distraction that routinely comes with working from home is the urge to clean up and go run your other errands. It is easy to simply stop working on projects and start doing other things, especially if you are feeling lazy or tired.

Since you are not being watched by anyone, keeping the self-discipline that requires being diligent with your time can be tricky. To avoid such distractions, create time to attend to household duties and other errands.

Set goals and take some time off

Setting goals

In order to stay disciplined, set daily goals and stay focused. This way, you will avoid distractions and the temptation to procrastinate. Distractions are the biggest enemy of people who work from home. Therefore, setting daily goals and deliberately working towards them leads to more productivity.

On the other hand, it is very easy to work continuously without taking breaks since there are no meetings and other activities that require you to get away from your computer. When setting goals, set aside time for short breaks in order to re-energise.

 Set working hours

official working hours

While working from home, working hours can be vague. You can easily mix your personal life and work life, which means that there will be no time for maximum productivity or relaxation. Just like people who work in offices, it is important to compartmentalise your life and your work so as to avoid burnout.

Get Support When Children are Involved

Working from home can be a challenge when you are a parent or guardian with children in the house. They are not used to having their parent at home and might want to play, seek attention or even become clingy. Make it clear to those who can understand that you are still at work and engage them during your breaks to keep the balance. The nanny can also be very instrumental at this point in keeping the children busy and occupied.

Stay motivated despite the environment

Working from home is quickly becoming common. As such, there is need to develop a new set of skills which involve self-discipline so as to ensure that you remain productive. These tips will come in handy for anyone trying to find the right balance when working from home.

Why Working From Home Doesn’t Guarantee Work-Life Balance

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a shift in workplace operations with many companies working from home and others fast-tracking their digital strategies to adapt to the changing times. If you have been working from home, you might have realized like everything else, it has its pros and cons.

When starting out, you might have thought that this will be your ultimate work-life balance dream come true. You had pictured yourself finding time to discover hidden hobbies and interests while perfecting on your KPIs as an employee. By now you might have realized how hard that is. This is because working from home doesn’t necessarily guarantee work life balance. Here is why.

You’re on the Job 24/7

working from home work life balance

Flexibility looks so good on paper, adapting it is a whole different story. Remote working and flexible working hours comes with a fluid working schedule. The usual 9-5 gives you a fixed schedule that helps you plan around the available time to get your tasks done and to take a break at the end of the day.

Working remotely requires you to stay connected all the time. You will need to be more responsive and take on more workload than the usual 9-5. If you feel like you have been putting more hours, this could be the reason why. You need to be more productive than usual to convince your boss that you are working. This, of course, translates to more work done.

Working Remotely is Lonely

working from home work

Going to the office allows you to meet different people in your day-to-day. The watchman at your gate, different people in traffic, the lady who serves tea at your office, your colleagues and even friends later over drinks.

By the time you get home, you have had at least five interactions with different people throughout the day. The interpersonal interactions add value to your life. You get inspired, encouraged, even angered or tickled. This creates a rich mix of your daily life unlike the current interactions on video calls, emails and phone calls. It is even lonelier if you live alone.

Your Sleeping and Eating Patterns Change

working from home work life balance

Following a regular schedule ensures that your eating and sleeping patterns are regular and followed. You tend to sleep on time most of the time because you have to be up bright and early for work the next day. It is also easy to plan your meals and follow a routine because they just fit in an already existing schedule.

Working from home, on the other hand, has its numerous distractions and the notion of abundant time. You find it easier to click on the next Netflix episode with each episode becoming more interesting than the last till its almost dawn.  As for food, you might find yourself either with little or no time to eat or eating all time.

Your Home is no Longer Your Haven

working from home work life balance

Take a look at your current work station. Do you remember what used to be there? Probably not. Your home used to be the haven you come to at the end of the day to unwind after ‘a long day at work’. Working from home merges work and life into a seamless day-long activity that becomes difficult to untangle over time.

Waking up and working in bed is perfect for the first couple of weeks. It takes a toll on you when your workstation (your bed) is also the place that should give you relaxation. Research shows that light from computers and TV in the bedroom increases artificial light exposure and erodes your mental association between your bedroom and sleep. This is why you should create a clear distinction between your home work station and the rest of your home, difficult as this might seem.

There are More Distractions

On a normal day, there are many distractions in the office that could adversely affect your productivity. Now, imagine those distractions wrapped in the familiarity of your home and comfort zone, and you have the potential of your work productivity dropping to dangerous levels.

It is also easy to experience transfer of productivity from your current work tasks to other tasks around your home. It could start with the temptation to declutter your desk, then you realize that your bedroom needs decluttering too.

Soon you are spring-cleaning.

By the time you realize you have not touched your work the day is spent. You then get into this mad rush trying to finish off your day’s tasks before the evening stand-up meeting with your boss and department. This will obviously affect the quality of your output. If it becomes a habit, it affects your weekly, monthly and quarterly performance.

So, Is there Hope?

If you recently started working from home, you will identify with one or more challenges mentioned above. If you are a veteran remote worker, you have probably found a way of dealing with the challenges.

If you are having problems with productivity while working from home, this article here will provide guidance on staying focused.

If you are facing distractions and you are having trouble keeping up with tasks and basically staying sane amid the confusion, this article is very resourceful on finding structure in an irregular working schedule.

The most important thing to remember is that finding your optimal working environment is key. Peak performance is a combination of different factors and as long as you find out what works for you, it won’t matter whether you are in the office or at home.

Why You Might Prefer Working in the Office to Remote Access

Research conducted internationally states that millennials prefer working remotely as opposed to going to the office. This is because this option offers flexibility and a more seamless blend of life and work.

The BrighterMonday Millennial Report that is as a result of a survey conducted on over 8000 urban millennials in Kenya shows a remarkable difference between the Kenyan and International millennial. The millennial in the Kenyan workforce prefers working in the office more than they do at home or other remote options.

office vs remote

Interestingly, if you conduct a quick, random survey on a choice sample of young, working individuals and include the option of working both remotely and in the office, the answers might be slightly different.

office vs remote

A quick Twitter poll on the BrighterMonday account showed that another option introduced into the equation seemed more appealing: the freedom to have a mix of both office and remote options.

This draws our attention to another major factor in the BrighterMonday report that respondents considered important; Flexibility.

millennials leaving

With this information in mind, let’s look at some of the reasons why the Kenyan millennial would want access to both office and remote options as they work.

Added Investment on Internet and Equipment

office vs remote

Despite the widespread democratisation of internet connectivity across the country, limitation to just how much you can do with it as an employee is limited. Some of the office tasks required need bigger bundles that can only be made available by an employer. Hence, the need to go to the office once in a while to get these tasks done.

Also, you will find that the ease of working remotely is determined by the kind of equipment you need to get your work done. If you use a desktop computer in the office and you have no laptop at home, it might be tricky to get anything done considering you can’t keep carrying the components of your desktop computer to and from the office.

Your Role in the Company and Industry you Work for

Some positions and departments can easily thrive with members working remotely while conducting regular meetings for project status updates. Tech-based roles like developers, digital marketing, and sales can be heavily conducted remotely.

Some roles require daily team collaboration, or sophisticated equipment as in technical careers like engineering, medical and hospitality industries. For such roles, working from home or any other location completely misses the point of working at all.

Distractions in Environment

office vs remote

The workplace is already awash with distractions that steal valuable time that should be spent hitting targets and objectives. Working remotely, for most people, compounds these distractions. The fact that the environment is not ‘official enough’ decreases productivity for most people.

Constant Collaboration with Team Members

office vs remote

For most remote teams, broken telephone and time spent trying to get on the same page is a headache. Despite the sophisticated collaboration tools in the market like Slack, Skype, Trello and others, it still doesn’t beat the efficiency of a face-to-face meeting where people quickly get on the same page. This is why even teams that work remotely should physically meet every so often to iron out issues technology cannot solve.

We can therefore safely conclude that;

millennials leaving

Flexibility is key for you as a Kenyan millennial. You want targets clearly set and deliverables laid out. For you, working smart is more important than working hard and you’d rather be measured by how well you hit your targets than just how many hours you clock in.

While it is clear with time and advancement of technology working remotely will become more attractive and natural, the Kenyan millennial currently wants a mix of both office and remote options. They want to assimilate more life into their work-life by following personal interests while still hitting their work targets.

As a young professional in Kenya, do you agree with this school of thought? Engage us in the comments.

Work From Home: Emerging Jobs For Freelancers

Make money online

You have dropped CVs in numerous companies. You have made applications for any job vacancy that remotely defines your skills. However, you have not been invited for a single interview and the bills keep piling. Well, jobs are hard to find, with research by the Institute of Economic Affairs showing the unemployment is rising in Kenya. While you want to build a career in your chosen field and become the best that there is, you should not overlook the opportunities to work from home that have been created by the internet.

As the internet becomes faster and more affordable, tech-savvy people are finding endless freelance opportunities that are creating employment for them. Think about it; you probably know that neighbour who never leaves their house apart from when they are going to the shops but they are never late on their rent and they somehow live a very good life. What you don’t know is that such people are making an honest living from their online freelancing work and they have the comfort of working from home.

The beauty of it is that such jobs are available to anyone with basic skills in computing and you bid for them on online freelancer sites that host numerous jobs from across the globe. 

How online freelancer sites work

These sites are like auction marketplaces where people who want certain jobs for them post them on the site. These jobs are verified and the person who posts the jobs pays for the job but the freelancing company keeps the money until the job is done and approved by the client.

The online freelancer then bids for the job through their account after analysing the requirements for the job. If the freelancer wins the job, he/she starts working on it and delivers within the specified timeline. The client then approves of the job and the freelancing company releases the money to the freelancer after deducting a facilitation fee. 

Most of the sites are international. However, Ajira is a local, government-run platform that helps Kenyans get jobs by recommending verified local and international online sites that have genuine jobs. The platform also helps you to get certified so that you can easily find jobs and has training programmes which equip you with the right skills so that you can get the best jobs in various fields.

Make money online through these online freelance  jobs

So, just what jobs can you engage in and earn money online?

Writing and translating

You probably hated school assignments especially when we were on campus because it more often than not, interfered with your plans for a wild weekend. Well, it turns out that you were not alone and people all over the world would rather not have to do their assignments.

This aversion to assignments, coupled with busy and demanding lives are what have created online freelance jobs for many people in Kenya right now. Remember the saying ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison?’ This saying comes in handy for those who are looking for jobs that allow them to work from home.

With just a laptop, a good internet connection and some basic writing skills, you can now become employed and earn a living by helping people do their assignments, at a fee of course. This has become popular in the recent past as students become too busy to do their assignments while others have a lot of time on their hands that lets them do the assignments.

Using sites such as Freelancer and Upwork, you can bid for jobs and earn a living right from the comfort of your house.

However, it is not only students who need help. You can also work as a business writer, content writer, copywriter, creative writer, editor or language translator. These are opportunities that just require you to have basic writing and grammatical skills but can create employment opportunities for you.

Web and graphic design

If you are a designer or have some good web and graphic design skills, you do not have to worry about finding a job or not putting your skills to use. You can now help numerous small businesses across the globe to set up their websites at a small fee. This will expose you to international best practices and give you experience with working for different organisations with different needs.

From the front end, back end and software engineering, you can now get a job online that specialises in web design because small companies and individuals are on the hunt for skilled people who can help them set up and maintain their websites. If you are a beginner sharpen your skills with online courses and opportunities like internships. 

If you are a graphics designer, UX designer or a video producer, you can also make a living through online freelance work.

Customer service

The customer is king and this means that every organisation’s customers must receive the best services if and when they need them. However, some companies cannot afford to have customer service teams or require customer support teams occasionally. Such companies and individuals hire online customer service agents who work from home and are paid per hour.

As a customer service agent, you handle issues such as live chats, bulk emails and all other customer support duties for the agreed time frame. With the rise of social media as a marketing and customer support tool, many small organisations and individuals are also on the look for people who can help them manage their social media pages.

Virtual assistants

There are people who have hectic schedules out there and they have no means of keeping tabs on all their activities. Well, that is where your skills as an assistant come in, with such busy people requiring someone to take care of their schedules and handle issues as they emerge.

Virtual assistants handle work such as transcription, web research, calendar and appointment management; and data entry for those who hire them. These are often simple tasks that require no specialised skills and they are paid per hour or per job. The jobs only require you to have a computer and you are set to make money online without the hustle on traffic jams.

Programmers and app developers

There is an app for everything. As demand for app developers and programmers skyrockets, more and more people are requiring skilled people to create good apps for them and Softwares that can handle their unique problems and businesses.

App developers are on demand and with good skills, you can help numerous organisations and individuals come up with great apps and make a living in the process. This is also an opportunity for you to sharpen your skills and learn new things as technology changes so that you can stay abreast with what the market needs.

Finance specialists

If you have been taking CPA and other accounting courses, you can put your skills to good use and make money online while at it. There are many people who are looking for accounting specialists, business analysts, Excel experts, financial reporting analysts, among others. These are competitive jobs and you get to earn a living while sharpening your skills in accounting and finance.

Advantages of working from home

Greater flexibility

Unlike people who have to go to work from 8 to 5, people who work from home have the ability to schedule their tasks well and determine how they will use their time. This flexibility enables you to accomplish more in a day as you have the freedom to choose how to use your time.

These jobs also have time frames and you can choose to take on those that do not interfere with your free time or time allocated to other tasks. On the other hand, you can allocate specific time to do all your work and this leaves you with enough time to attend to all your other needs.

Microlearning

In a fast-changing world and with freelance work becoming more popular, those who are engaged in online freelance work need to stay abreast with market trends since they serve clients from across the globe. What this means is that they constantly need to be learning so that their skills can be on demand.

Just like those in traditional jobs need to learn constantly due to disruption of the workplace, those who do online freelance jobs also need to keep updating their skills. With online freelance work, however, you learn new skills in bits without even knowing it and these can come in handy for you in future.

For example, Zendesk Customer Support is a tool that is used in customer service and many people engaged in online freelance work that involves customer service have had to learn how to use it.

You get to choose your assignments

In a normal working environment, you do not have the freedom to choose what kind of work you want to take up. This is especially in small organisations where duties overlap. With online freelance work, you actually have the freedom to choose the kind of assignments you want to work on, as it is an open bid system. As such, you can choose those jobs that interest you, making the job enjoyable.

Additionally, with numerous opportunities online, you can choose your field and hone your skills while at it.

Financial freedom

Some sites give you the freedom to set your hourly pay rate and determine how much you want to be paid, for a particular task. This gives you financial freedom as you can choose how much you want to get paid, something that is not so common in a tight job market.

The fact that you also choose jobs from across the world means that you can get jobs from areas with strong currencies, pushing up your earnings. You can also set a maximum target and take up jobs that will help you earn your target within your preferred time frame. This gives you the freedom to make as much money as you possibly want to.

As an added advantage, if you have your own account, you can bid for numerous jobs and then subcontract people to work for you, enabling you to earn more.

Less expenses

All you need is a laptop, which you only buy once, internet connection and a stable power supply, of course. This means that your budget is minimal as you do not have to factor in things such as fare and money for buying the right attire for work. The freedom that comes with the ability to work from home means that you set the rules and you thus have greater control over your expenditure.

If you have been looking for a job, you definitely want to keep it BrighterMonday for fresh jobs available but, as you wait for that interview, you might want to try online freelance jobs to pay the bills. You get the freedom to work from home and put your skills to use. This is an opportunity that can come in handy for you as you can easily gain work experience and invaluable skills that you can use in future.

WRITTEN BY
Doreen Mueke
Doreen is the Senior Content Marketer at Ringier One Africa Media.
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