How to Work From Home as a Designer

If you have been working from home the past year or so, you are not alone!
As you know, since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted, remote working has started to become a norm (due to safe management measures to mitigate the risk of wide-spreading the virus). You may have (subconsciously) noticed:
  • Office laptops replacing desktops.
  • The importance of having a dedicated workspace.
  • The importance of a decent WIFI internet connectivity at home.
  • The surge in remote communication tools being used (i.e. Zoom, Teams, Slack etc.).
  • The lines between work and rest is blurred.
  • (The list goes on and on… Feel free to share in the comments what are some interesting observations you made during the WFH phase.)
Initially I struggled with the abrupt shift, and found myself feeling more stressed out with work (you might probably feel the same!). However, knowing that remote working was there to last, I began to experiment with ways to adapt to the new ways of working and also keep my mental health at check.
It definitely wasn’t easy, but I am glad to have ‘survived’ and can confidently say I am more motivated and efficient with working from home now! These are a list of ‘strategies’ that have aided me over the past year of remote working, and I hope to share it with everyone during these tough times.
Plan ahead (to avoid getting stressed out)
I usually lay out a conscious plan of the next day’s work activities at the end of the previous day. This reinforces the work that needs to be done, and it also helps to lighten the tempo towards the end of the day. The benefits of remote working provides flexibility (it is also a double-edged sword, and I will share more later), and I find it essential to have a schedule to ensure I am able to complete my tasks as planned.
By having control of the work that needs to be done, I find myself less stressed-out in my work environment and therefore become more productive in completing tasks.
Create a schedule (and stick to it)
I organise my To-Do List using Evernote (I know it may not be the best tool for project management, but it has served me well over the past year. Do share in the comments if you have any other suggestions to better organise a To-Do List!). The list provides an overview of the tasks that I need to complete for the day, for the week and for the month. This helps me plan the work that needs to be completed, and allows me to prioritise my tasks accordingly.
Apart from organising tasks needed to be done, I also keep track of my projects’ status using a separate Evernote document. This allows me to manage my projects more comfortably and plan activities ahead too.
Establish a dedicated workspace (and be organised)
I know what you guys are thinking… This sure doesn’t look organised!
  • Secondary desktop monitor — Very helpful with my daily work – be it conducting a workshop, or just drafting documents while referencing another document on my laptop.
  • Scrap papers — Although I usually document my notes using Evernote, sometimes I will use scrap paper to write draft logs, especially during a workshop.
  • Water bottle and snack area in the green tray — I try to hydrate myself as much as possible during work hours (which allows me to take frequent quick washroom breaks as well!).
The truth is, I am really comfortable with working in my organised mess, and you should also take some time to optimise your workspace to suit your preference too. More importantly, there should be a clear boundary between your workspace and other family spaces to ensure proper work-life balance!
Work in small blocks of time, break goals into manageable tasks (but focus on one task at a time)
“The Premack principle states that for any pair of activities, the more probable or valued one will reinforce the less probable or less valued one.”
Nicholas L. Weatherly, Richard W. Malott. (2008) An Analysis of Organizational Behavior Management Research in Terms of the Three-Contingency Model of Performance Management. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management 28:4, pages 260-285. 
To simplify it… There are days where I will feel motivated to get things done, and there are also days where I struggle with productivity/motivation… I’ve realised that breaking huge tasks into smaller blocks make the work less ‘scary’ and a lot more manageable/achievable. In between the smaller blocks of tasks, I usually take a short breather to stretch or just grab a quick snack.
Rinse and repeat… Engaging in ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ tasks at an interval helps to motivate me in getting my work done efficiently throughout the day. I always find the ‘light’ tasks as a form of reward for completing the ‘heavy’ tasks, and it allows me to ‘recover’ my energy before working on the next ‘heavy’ task.
This method has served me very well over the past year, and I highly recommend you to try if you haven’t!
P.s. Of course, there are times where deadlines are urgent and the rule would not be applied. However, I will usually try to stick to the principle wherever possible.
Eliminate distractions and interruptions (or limit them consciously)
The benefits of remote working is that there is flexibility when it comes to managing work/tasks. However, it also means that there is a whole lot more discipline and time management required to get things done.
This brings me back to my previous point about breaking tasks up into smaller blocks. Knowing that most of my distractions are actually intentional (the ones where I take a quick breather after completing my smaller blocks of tasks), it actually reduced the subconscious ones from happening (browsing news articles etc.).
If there are times where I require extreme focus in completing a task, I would either close the door behind me or wear a earpiece to reduce audible distractions.
Take short and frequent breaks (and reward yourself)
Remember to reward yourself! Even going for quick washroom breaks frequently is a form of reward too! That aside, I usually catch a quick breather and stretch whenever I complete a small block of task. Of course, as mentioned earlier, I would occasionally head to the fridge or cabinet to grab snacks to reward myself too.
Hahaha, it’s like a treasure hunting session for me. I am not sure what is in the cabinet, but I know I will leave with a good loot!
And don’t forget that since we are spending a lot more time seated (we do not need to travel to and fro the physical office), always remember to stretch during short breaks!!
Organise/attend frequent team meetings or catch-ups (to keep your sanity!)
The toughest part of working from home is that we lose the physical aspects of communication. Gone are the days where we can easily walk over to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question or communicate about a subject matter. Nowadays, I find myself communicating with the team mostly via Slack, and we also organise impromptu Zoom calls if required. Our Monday team meetings in the office allows us to casually catch-up on the projects’ status, have F2F discussions on project matters and maintain our regular social connection too.
The inconvenience from remote working has definitely resulted in a lot of missed interaction opportunities, but it has also forced us to be more adaptable with new ways of working. That being said, do remember to consciously communicate with your teammates. After all, humans are social animals and we thrive through interaction with others.
Pat yourself on the back (or take a moment to reflect)
Yes literally, pat yourself on the back! Although there is flexibility when it comes to remote working, it requires a great deal of discipline and time management, which isn’t easy. Always remember to practice self-care (to prevent risk of burning out), and take a moment to reflect on your accomplishments. It is okay to make mistakes, that is how we learn! 🙂
To whoever reading this, hope you are coping well during this global pandemic. Remember to take frequent walks and short breaks, and maintain regular consistent working hours too! 
The list above is based solely on my personal WFH experience. Do share below if you have any tips or tricks that have aided you in your work from home journey!
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