Whether you’ve always been a remote worker, have gone 50/50 since the pandemic began, or you had to be forced out of the office by a lockdown, working from home has become a common experience for many office workers the past year and a half. But this sudden mass exodus from official workspaces means that many people were unprepared, and a lot of workers have struggled to get into the zone when they’re stuck at home.
That’s why we’ve been publishing features that focus on ways to stay productive while keeping a good work-life balance. From time chunking to the Pomodoro technique, the Casper team has delved into the best strategies for working well – and for our final feature, we’re looking at the office space itself.
One of the most difficult parts of working from home for most people is the sheer number of distractions. A lot of us share our homes with other people, which can mean a lot of accidental (or purposeful) breaks in focus as we try to stay on top of our work. This element is a lot harder for parents, but even pets can become a source of grief in the workday. Add to that the possibility of noisy neighbours or – God forbid – nearby construction work, and your home office is suddenly the least productive space on the street.
The most effective way to avoid these disruptions (apart from making a solo move to an isolated cabin) is to get a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Simply blocking out the noise can be good enough, but playing some focus-inspiring tunes or noises adds that extra layer of immersion in your work (for instance, this writer is currently listening to rain and thunder sounds!). There are a lot of options on the market for noise-cancelling headphones – there’s even a high-tech device called the Crown that analyses your brainwaves and plays the best music for you in the moment! – but the best choice is always going to be a combination of requirements and budget. Here’s a rundown of popular choices to start you on your search.
Despite the distractions of the home, many of which come in the form of other people, a lot of remote workers find it quite isolating. We take for granted the casual chats of the break room, the ‘popping in to say hello’ as you pass another office, or just basking in the productive vibes of an office in the zone. While co-workers can be just as distracting as your family or housemates, they can also encourage you to stick it out when your mind starts to wander – so how can we emulate that at home?
A great way to get those productive vibes is through ambient noise tracks. Instead of listening to music or white noise, try listening to workplace or café ambience! These are tracks edited together with the sound of typing, page turning, sporadic soft chatter, and just general noises of people moving around. These soundscapes let you immerse yourself into your work without actual people tempting you to distraction, giving the illusion that you’re surrounded by productive people – let that atmosphere influence you!
If sounds of anonymous people don’t quite work for you, connecting with your actual colleagues can do the trick. Videoconferencing doesn’t have to be restricted to official meetings; jumping on a call just to quietly work in each other’s company can simulate the office environment, giving you the same air of productivity as in-office workdays. Any video conference platform works for this purpose, but there are also dedicated devices, like Sidekick – a tablet made specifically for coworking remotely with some great features, like status-setting, easy one-on-one conversations, and an incoming ‘kitchenette’ feature for breaks.
If you find your days becoming fragmented and aimless, it’s probably time to get serious about to-do lists and goal setting. Just writing a list on a piece of paper doesn’t work for everyone, though, which is where time tracking software comes in. In a nutshell, time tracking does what it says on the tin: it tracks the time you’ve spent doing specific activities. Using this kind of program, you can see exactly how much time you’ve spent working, breaking for lunch, using social media, exercising – any category you want to track, you can. You just have to remember to set your timer!
Of course, time tracking can be done old-school as well, with just a timer and a spreadsheet, but dedicated software and hardware can make it really easy to get started and keep at it. For instance, Time Flip is a little gadget shaped like a twelve-sided die that connects to a tracking app. When you set it up, you put little stickers on each side of the die (pre-set or customised), which means that each side corresponds to an activity. When you start doing that activity – for example, responding to emails – you just flip the device or tap that side of the die and the app starts timing you! The greatest benefit (apart from the aesthetics) is that you don’t have to touch your phone at all during the workday, making it less likely that you’ll fall into a social media doomscroll.
Noisy distractions, productive vibes, and time management are all common working-from-home struggles, and if the past eighteen months have plunged you into this unfamiliar world, we commiserate. It can be a steep learning curve, but we hope these tips have helped making your remote working experience a little bit better!
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