What I’ve learnt working from home

working from homeSo recently I landed my dream job, recently being about 2 months ago. “What is this job I hear you ask?” well I’m still a security consultant / penetration tester, but this is a work from home job. Very little time on client site (which is good since most of my skills are home based). I am absolutely loving it! It might not be for everyone, so here are some things I have learnt or things you might not have considered before starting a work from home job.

Getting dressed

A lot of websites and blogs recommend getting dressed into normal clothes when you wake up to get into that “work mode” I havent found this the case for me, I like to get up, make coffee and crack on nice and comfy in some joggers and a baggy t-shirt. I guess that’s one of the pleasures of not having to go to an office. getting dressed undressed and redressed in the evening is waaay too time consuming and that could be time used for work.

Set a schedule

If possible multiple schedules. First is the work calendar with what job I am doing on what days, this must be followed to keep to deadlines, keep the company happy and so I know I am on track. Then I have my overall daily schedule, this is not set in stone, but breaks down the day into multiple parts/guidelines, up at x, work from x to x, dinner for 30 mins around x, work from x to x, then finally; dinner, free time and bed… This is never followed by the times set but having it written down means that what needs to get done gets done and is something to always keep in mind and try to follow.

Take small breaks and long breaks

Working on a computer from home it is far too easy to just wake up, work, forget to eat then cram something in before bed. This ruins you very quickly. Small breaks should be taken from the computer every few hours. I tend to use these to get household stuff done like washing up, putting away clothes washing, cleaning somewhere etc. all the little jobs that build up. Then big breaks should be taken, 1 or 2 a day, which consist of: time to eat, read or do some exercise. All of These breaks must be away from the computer, that is the whole point of them, so don’t go checking facebook or watching youtube!

Go for walks outside

I am a happy hermit, I could live years just sitting on the computer in my man-cave hacking away at stuff for the rest of days. unfortunately I think I would be a very unhealthy person then. You do need to take 2-3 times a week to put clothes on and go outside. I know it sucks, but go on a quick 30 min walk, you will feel better for it. once it is in your routine say every Monday, Wednesday and Friday it will feel weird not doing it.

Add unplanned time

This is important both for work and free time. For work make sure you have extra time after the job, or that you finish a little before it is due. Things always go wrong and with this wiggle-room you will have time to fix them hopefully before the deadline. If you do finish early and everything is OK then you have some free time to do something from your to-do list. Unplanned time in free time is also important, time to watch a film, netflix, read a book… whatever, we all need time to unwind also. It’s all about the work / life balance, admittedly if you are working from home there’s more work than life, but if you love what you do (and it’s what you would be doing anyway) then that’s even better.

Make sure there is no-work time

Much like above, you need to make sure you do plan time for yourself, a couple of hours in the evening or whatever you can snatch make sure to take it. Make sure that work is not on your mind and you are not working in this time, it’s you time.

Tidy workspace

This may not be for everyone, but I find if there is too much junk on my desk or around me it distracts me from what I am supposed to be doing. A tidy desk keeps me focused. Usually I have keyboard and mouse, vape and a bottle of water. And that’s it! unless I am doing some hardware hacking or something that requires making a mess on the desk then it gets tidied as soon as possible after.

Have smaller projects to do that are productive

For those times when the workload is thin or you finish early or your just not in the mood. Make sure you have a to-do list of things to do that are productive. When these times come it can be easy to go on social media or browse random websites, but with this list next to you (I have it on a white-board always in my peripheral vision) you will be reminded of that productive thing that you can do. As a side note don’t rub out completed tasks but cross them out, then at the end of the month you can see just how much was accomplished and start afresh next month.

Background noise

Working at home can be quiet, I recommend putting on some podcasts or playlists to work along to, and since you are working in your own dream environment, if you can crack on happily with Slipknot screaming in the background then go for it. Whatever makes you happy.

Discipline to do work

This goes without saying. If you work from home then you have to have the self-discipline to WORK from home. Wake up, do your job.

White-board/notes/journal/calendar

Use these. I am a big fan of the white-board, being able to quickly scribble something up, wipe it down, change ideas etc. and something that is always visible. Notes can be minimized, calendar on a browser tab somewhere, but the white-board reminds me to do stuff, when and how. That is just my preference, I guess the main point here is to get organized, whatever shape that comes in.

Homey not officy

Your office should be separate from the rest of the house, it should be some place you go to get work done. This is not the case for me as my work is my play (lucky I know). Since you don’t work in the standard office anymore you should make it more homey. Somewhere that you want to be, that is calming and in your style but still distraction free so you can sit down and get work done.

Computer glasses

I am probably the worst for this, I can happily stare at the screen for hours on end until my eyes hurt and I have a headache. I’m not sure if it is a placebo or not, but I have some computer glasses (well gaming glasses) and those days where I don’t leave the computer, if it’s crunch time and I just have to plow away until the job is done then these really help a lot.

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