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How To Make The Most Of #WorkingFromHome

Creative People

By now most of us have well and truly settled into our new working from home setups – but hands up who is still feeling a little bit weird about it? We certainly are.

Some of the struggles for Team TDF have included communicating efficiently when we’re all in different places; getting through our regular ‘To Do’ lists (seriously, why does everything seem to take so much longer when working at home?);  staying motivated… and not wearing trackies every day.  And we can’t be the only ones!

To help us all make the most of this strange new reality, we asked interior designer Lauren Li, writer Lisa Marie Corso, small business coach Fiona Killackey, illustrator Alice Oehr and writer and broadcaster  Benjamin Law for their top tips on nailing this #WFH thing – paired with some of our favourite home office spaces from the TDF archives.

8th April, 2020

Take a tour through Lauren Li’s studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

 

‘I’d recommend grabbing a basket or bag and just fill it with the things that aren’t work-related, and just sort it out later!’ – Lauren Li.

Lauren Li, Interior Designer

It helps to have a nice area to spend time in, but above all, your working from home set up needs to be practical! We don’t have a lot of space, so I don’t keep things on my desk that I don’t need. I’d recommend grabbing a basket or plastic bag and just fill it with the things that aren’t work-related, and just sort it out later. I do like to have a nice leather mouse pad and some colourful storage accessories (Hay do some great stuff!) on my desk. I also like to burn a candle or use an oil diffuser or have some fresh flowers or foliage, just to keep the spirits up.

Another important element for your working from home setup is to have a comfortable but cute chair, I love the ‘About A Chair’ by Hay. It’s critical to have a desk as the designated space to work, rather than using your laptop on your sofa, or worse your bed! Even setting up on the dining table works, as long as you make sure you’re sitting upright in said comfortable chair.

I also need a good quality set of headphones for the conference calls that we’re taking with our clients and colleagues. When I’m actually trying to get some work done I find it helpful to have some background noise, so the radio or a familiar playlist in the background helps me. Although there is no lack of noise with kids around all the time these days!

Check out Lauren’s online interior designer classes here!

Sean Fennessy & Jess Lillico’s perfect little office nook! 1970s lamp. ‘Tronco’ chair from District. Framed silk print from Issey Miyake exhibition, Tokyo. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The most magic little work corner from Ros Willett’s 1960’s Penthouse! Philippe Starck pendant. Interior design and custom joinery design by WOWOWA built by Evolve Interiors. Tretford peacock carpet from Gibbon Group.  Photo – Martina Gemmola. Styling by Ruth Welsby.

Corbett Lyon’s home office at the Lyon Housemuseum in Kew. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The desk of Corbett Lyon, architect and collector, with plans for Reko Rennie’s ‘VISIBLE INVISIBLE’, 2017. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

 

(Left) The one-and-only Alice Oehr. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. (Right) Alice’s bedroom and workspace. Vintage dinosaurs poster from Galerie Montmartre, curtains made from Ikea fabric (made by Alice and Lucy’s Mum!), desk made from recycled floorboards by Alice and her Dad. View Alice’s complete house tour here. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.

‘Wearing real clothes brings you a level of dignity that moccasins and polar fleece will simply never be able to’ – Alice Oehr.

Alice Oehr, Freelance Illustrator

Working from home as an illustrator is something I’ve done on and off for many years now – and there is an art to it. I’ve found there are some habits that help to minimise cabin fever and get things done.

Always get dressed in the morning: preferably not in trackies (obviously sometimes you are going to break this rule. Live it up!). The fact is, wearing real clothes brings you a level of dignity that moccasins and polar fleece will simply never be able to. Before I admonished it, I did once do a whole work-from-home winter in the one (matching) tracksuit and I did not, at any point, feel like a real member of society.

If you ditch the tracksuit and uggs, no surprise human contact – analogue or digital – will catch you unawares. I’ve both a) taken a video call with a whole panel and b) answered the door to a sharply-suited Jehova’s witness while dressed in a hoodie and fluffy pink slippers, fresh out of bed. I wish to repeat neither experience.

Also, try to maintain very disciplined work hours: eg 9–6 with a lunch break, then clock off completely at the end. This revolutionised my ability to actually pursue freelance full time. Before setting proper work hours, I’d regularly muck around all week then find myself having to work all night and all weekend – and that just ain’t right… for me anyway.

Alice has a brand new book out, called The Art of Cake! Check out this cute video of Alice talking about the book here, and buy it online here!

Our Art Directors Tiny Terazzo Palazzo! Chair by Dustin Fritsche of Softer Studios. (it’s Annie’s favourite chair ever, but probably not the ideal WFH chair, if we’re honest!). Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy’s Oehr’s desk.  Vintage heart poster from a market in France, old phrenology heads are market finds, the ‘Visible Man’ model, lamp from Modern History in Richmond, curtains are Ikea fabric again made by Lucy and Alice’s Mum,  chair is a Kai Kristiansen No 42 Ebay find.  View Lucy and Alice Oehr’s complete house tour here. Photo – Eve Wilson, Production – Lucy / The Design Files.

Inside Kat Macleod‘s Donvale home studio, Melbourne. View the complete story here. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lisa Marie Corso’s #WFH situation. The spare room/study. IKEA PS1 desk and plywood dog by Alice Oehr. ‘I work a few days at home every week, so having a #zenden to write in is essential to my productivity,’ Lisa says. View her complete house tour here. Photo – Eve Wilson for the Design Files.

‘Never underestimate the power and thrill of being able to cross something off a list’ – Lisa Marie Corso.

Lisa Marie Corso, Freelance Writer

Honestly, I think my TEDTalk theme would be “Working from Home” because I have A LOT of opinions about it. I’ve been working from my home office for three years, and in that time I have developed a few rituals essential to my daily routine and productivity.

I split my day into before work, at work, and after work. We all know we shouldn’t be working in pyjamas, I especially know this because by 11am you’ll smell something gross and be shocked to discover it’s actually YOU. You’ll then have a shower and do your hair in the middle of the day and throw your whole day out of whack. So before 9.30am, I get up, make myself look decent and clean, eat breakfast and try and go for a walk.

In the ‘at work’ period of 8 hours I make a list of ACHIEVABLE daily tasks. There’s nothing worse than an overwhelming list! On this list I also put in lunch, my favourite part of the day, and an afternoon walk. Sometimes the walk doesn’t happen but I am more likely to do it if it’s on the list. Never underestimate the power and thrill of being able to cross something off a list. Some days will be super productive, some less so, just like if you were sitting in your work office.

My favourite productivity tools are: Trello for making daily work lists and using time management apps including Focus Keeper and Forest.

The very considerate little home office of Andrea Moore. ‘My desk chair is one of our old kitchen table chairs I grew up with as a kid’ she says. Styling – Andrea Moore. Photo – Eve Wilson.

A study that wraps around to the living room in this DREAM home. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli/The Design Files.

The very organised works space of Aimee Tarulli. Osso desk chair from District. Felt pinboard by Al and Em pinboards. Desk lamp from Beacon Lighting. Amphora vase by Iggy and Lou Lou. To check out her complete house tour click here. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Can it get any more ideal than this? Anna Swain knows how to get that serene home office vibe. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A chalk board wall to jot down those genius ideas! Nice thinking Remo & Melanie Giuffré! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Fiona Killackey of My Daily Business Coach. Photo – Annette O’Brien.

‘When you set boundaries and chunk your work (time blocking), you’re more likely to focus’ – Fiona Killackey.

Fiona Killackey, Small Business Coach

Creating blocks of time in your week for specific things (ie meetings, marketing, emails, analytics etc) helps keep you focused on just one task or area at a time. It’s so easy, particularly for people working from home for the first time, to get pulled in a variety of directions – doing Zoom meetings one minute, then responding to emails, then trying to get some marketing done then working on the eCommerce backend etc. This can be exhausting, inefficient and ineffective. When you set boundaries and chunk your work (time blocking), you’re more likely to focus and get real traction happening in that area, then you can move onto the next. Use this free weekly planner to map what a week might look like, then consider which tasks you could “chunk” into time blocks i.e. doing all of your marketing/admin 12-3pm Mondays.

Depending on your personality, working from home can be a paradise or a prison sentence. Regardless of your attitude towards it, having people to turn to can do wonders for mindset and mental health. From sharing funny stories and things that made you smile, through to venting your frustrations or working through problems, having a regular time to chat with friends in a similar boat can help. This may be fellow small biz owner friends, past colleagues or friends in a similar industry. Figure out a frequency (ie weekly) and communication medium (Skype, FaceTime, phone) and create a scheduled time to check in with one another. I have been doing this for years with three of my fave biz friends and it has been invaluable for keeping me motivated, personally and professionally.

Check out Fiona’s offline and online courses for small business owners, over at My Daily Business Coach.

A whimsical little treehouse nook in the home of Fleur Glenn. Fleur shares, ‘This is my mother’s desk. My mother died 30 years ago. I love sitting at her desk high in my study looking out through the trees. The birds watch me and when I open the little windows I think one day one might fly in and sit on the desk as I write. The desk still holds some of mum’s old notebooks and photos.’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Emma Clark Gratton keeping it simple in her Robin Boyd home. ‘Lee (Emma’s husband) got the desk from Great Dane, but it was broken and in pieces so they were going to throw it out. He managed to restore it and we’ve dragged it from house to house’. Lamp is an original Planet lamp bought for a dollar from a church sale in Warrandyte. Clock from IKEA. Geo dresser made by Lee. Photo – Caitlin Mills. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Isolation never looked so good! The home of Zana Wright will warm your heart! At the desk are a zigzag chair made by joiner friend Christian Moerhke, and a Lavitta chair from Great Dane. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The home office of freelance writer Benjamin Law. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

‘One of the biggest learning curves is learning how much you can do, and how much time it actually takes’ – Benjamin Law.

Ben Law, Freelance Writer

One of the biggest learning curves is learning how much you can do, and how much time it actually takes.

To begin, you’ll probably overestimate how much you can fit into a day – a dangerous mind-frame that even has a name: time-optimism. You’ll need to adjust your expectations and schedule what can and can’t realistically fit into your time.

Also: be self-aware. If you’re easily distracted or get slack, discipline yourself by scheduling your entire day in advance, down to the hour, including breaks. And if you tend to work yourself into the ground … do the same thing! Enforce your breaks in advance. Know when to stop!

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