How To Work From Home
Photograph by Mr Tom Cockram
Six ways to work more productively out of the office.
If gaudy web advertisements are to be believed, earning a living working from home is as lofty a career aspiration as any. As the workforce shifts towards a gig-like economy and telecommuting, it’s a wise idea to train the muscles required to pull it off.
The virtues of working from home are plenty. Freedom from the commute! Freedom from the agenda-less meeting! It’s perhaps the most worthy mark of autonomy a man can earn – but it’s not without its dangers. To succeed at working from home, a man must navigate innumerable obstacles, distractions being the least of them. Remaining happy, productive and stylish outside of a traditional office environment? It takes a little getting used to.
Happily, it’s been done. In 2010, Sydney-based art director Mr Arran Russell launched creative agency Folke Army with his wife Ms Jacqui Lewis. Together, they’ve worked on projects for brands including Audi, BMW and Hendricks Gin. The two also started The Broad Place – a modern wellness destination for busy professionals. Even better, Mr Russell manages to work on these endeavours from a bungalow in his Palm Beach home. Here, he shares the lessons he’s learned to develop a productive home office.
Build a worthy workspace
“It’s crucial to make your workspace as focused and pleasing as possible – or you can go mad,” says Mr Russell. First order of business? Separation of “home” and “office.” Designate a space that’s exclusively for your work.“It’s so important that you can close the door and have all the work stay locked in that room,” says Mr Russell. “Never have a TV in the same room, no housework within eyesight.” Strike a balance: comfortable, not cosy; stylish, not distracting. Build a space that reflects your work, and guard it obsessively.
Dress for success
The home office can conjure up connotations of an unshaven man rolling out of bed and starting his workday in loungewear – perhaps some sweatpants with a hint of cashmere. Not so fast, explains Mr Russell: “shower and groom before you walk into your workspace. Treat it as though you’re simply going to the office – albeit with a snappier commute (and more relaxed dress code). Grooming and dressing well gets you ready for what’s ahead, and keeps a sense of separation between home and work.”
Build yourself a uniform that reflects your work and ambition – whether that’s creative, precise or authoritative. Mr Russell recommends a seasonal wardrobe.“My studio is minutes from the beach, so I’ll favour swim shorts and a quality tee in the warmer months. When winter comes, I shift my uniform. A lot of my clothing is from Japan, so those key pieces like indigo denim come to the fore when it’s cold.”
Traditional workplaces are full of routines: meetings, lunchbreaks, WIPs and presentations. Successfully transitioning to a home office requires establishing new ones. “Waking before sunrise is a must-do for me,” says Mr Russell. “I’m usually up and meditating by 5.00am. Then I have a stretch and exercise for half an hour: it helps keep my mind and body sharp. Then, it’s usually a day of short bursts of high-intensity creativity and focus, with breaks in between.”
For all the giddy optimism that a home office brings to work-life balance, the reality can be a little less healthy. “I usually avoid all digital technology before I start work,” says Mr Russell. “It consumes most of my day and evening moving forward. A reprieve from it is so necessary – we also have a no technology in the bedroom rule.”
Work around (and with) your housemates
“Jac and I have worked together for years. It’s great to have her as close as I can to collaborate,” says Mr Russell. Naturally, it’s important to take your space when necessary. But don’t underestimate flexibility of your new working arrangement. “When my daughter gets home from school, she comes into my studio space and does her homework,” says Mr Russell. “We work together in silence for a little while then I’ll show her what I’m working on – she loves to contribute her ideas.”
Don’t neglect collaboration
Working for days or weeks on end in an isolated space can develop into a lonely habit. You’ll need your social and collaborative muscles warmed-up for crucial pitches and client meetings. So, keep things social. “There’s no one to talk to like in an office – it’s important you get out and about,” says Mr Russell. “I have several friends in the same industry who work for themselves. To be able to show them ideas or bounce ideas around with them is amazing.”