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Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Time Out's guide to working from home

Good internet and some creature comforts are all your need for your work-from-home set up

Delfina Utomo
Written by
Delfina Utomo
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The Time Out Singapore team is almost a month into working from home – it took us a while to get into a routine, but you could call us low-key pros by now. Telecommuting takes time to get used to, and working from home requires a lot of self-discipline but it's a necessary measure to help flatten the curve. Here are our tips, hacks and apps to help you with focus and productivity. 

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Set up your 'office'
Photograph: Unsplash/Olena Sergienko

Set up your 'office'

If you have a designated desk at home for work, good for you. Your home workspace is settled. If not, set up a makeshift work area at home (preferably away from your bed), whether it's the dining table, the coffee table in the living room or the vanity table in the bedroom. All you need is a table, chair and quiet space – window views are optional. Once you've established your 'office', it will be business as usual every day. 

Have good Wi-Fi
Photograph: Unsplash/Mika Baumeister

Have good Wi-Fi

Working from home means that everything has to be done on online platforms. With Zoom calls, Slack, group chats and a lot of liaising online, you will need stable and good internet connection. Of course, there are times when things glitch and technology fails us but the first thing you need to have when working remotely is good Wi-Fi connection. Chances are you already have access to Wi-Fi at home but hit up one of our telcos for deals. Singtel and Starhub offer good package plans while MyRepublic offers no-contract plans if commitment is an issue. Be sure set up your office in a spot where your wi-Fi signal is the strongest too.

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Accessible charging points
Photograph: Unsplash/Andreas Palmer

Accessible charging points

Set up your work station near a charging port so you don't have to continually scramble to find a point when your laptop's battery hits dangerously low levels.

Communicate as much as you can
Photograph: Unsplash/Gabriel Benois

Communicate as much as you can

In a strange time where socialising in person is actually illegal, it is important to 'see' and talk to your team as much as you can. There are plenty of apps you can use during this time like Zoom and Google Hangouts for video meetings. Another piece of advice, making the effort to 'dress up' for every online meeting also helps in taking the work-from-home situation more seriously. We're not talking full-on makeup and crease-free shirts, but just look presentable and not like you just rolled out of bed.

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Time management
Photograph: Unsplash/Tomas Yates

Time management

An important thing to establish when working from home is logging your hours. While we save loads of time by not having to commute, there can be days that feel endless because we spend all our time working. Make sure you take lunch breaks, go to the toilet, have some time to make your tea and coffee, have a snack and of course, sign out for the day. Don't chain yourself to the desk just because you can. For task management, you can also try apps like Todoist which allows users to manage time effectively and organise tasks according to priority. 

Minimise distractions
Photograph: Unsplash/Minh Pham

Minimise distractions

Yes, your home office is comfortable – but it shouldn't be too comfortable. Treat each day like a proper day at the office. If you keep snacks on your desk, keep some by your side so you won't be tempted to keep going to the kitchen. If the sounds of your office keep you in focus, you can download Noisli, where you can create background sounds to help you focus. If music helps you focus, plug in and listen to your favourite tunes with some good headphones.

Tips and tricks from the team

Nicole-Marie Ng, editor
Photograph: Nicole-Marie Ng

Nicole-Marie Ng, editor

I've turned my dining table into my home office. I keep things pretty simple, with a weekly planner for daily tasks and a notebook placed on my right to jot down ideas that come up during our daily editorial meetings. I've had to switch out coffee for tea since I don't have a coffee machine at home. I start every morning with at least three big cups (I'm currently sipping on TWG's Always Sakura) to get me through the day. There's no air-conditioning in my living room so I use a small portable fan to keep me cool – the only downside is that it leaves my eyes incredibly dry, so I'm constantly popping in eye drops.

My tip is to create a daily schedule that helps you build routine back in your life. For me it looks a little something like this: 9.30am team meeting, 10am a meeting with my boss, 10.30am my first task of the day, 1pm lunch, 2pm my second task of the day, 7pm dinner and some rest and relaxation (aka catching up on Instagram and YouTube), 8pm exercise, 9.30pm my third task of the day, which helps me cool down before I shower and head to bed.

But of course, things don't always go according to plan, cut yourself some slack and roll with it. We're not just working from home, we're trying to get work done during a very distressing time – take breaks and protect your mental health so you don't get burnt out.

Delfina Utomo, digital editor
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Delfina Utomo, digital editor

I have the messiest desk in the office and it's the same at home. I like to surround myself with personal and pretty things because – I don't know maybe it's like a Horcrux situation. It also keeps me grounded and it's important when working a full day at home. I don't usually move from my setup once I start in the morning so I need to have some coffee or tea by my side, antihistamines, eyedrops and some chocolate. I'm currently snacking on Fossa Honey Orchid Dancong Oolong Tea Chocolate, it's so delicate. I like surrounding myself with nice scents so my Aesop Resurrection rinse-free hand wash and rind concentrate body balm are permanently by my side. Also, my cat Taro is my colleague these days. She's sucks at her job cos all she does is sleep.

A tip I picked up this WFH period is to wear a fresh shirt for work every morning. For some reason it makes me feel ready for the day. The other day I was late for my daily Zoom meeting because I was ironing my shirt. Sorry boss. 

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Dewi Nurjuwita, arts & culture editor
Photograph: Dewi Nurjuwita

Dewi Nurjuwita, arts & culture editor

It's inevitable that you'll feel like work is invading your personal space when you're working from home, especially for people like me whose desks are located in the bedroom. 

Simple objects on my desk, such as small artworks I've collected over the years, my favourite books, the latest copy of our magazine (shameless plug here), plants, candles, crystals and tarot/oracle decks help to stimulate creativity – especially in a world that's seemingly becoming less inspiring every day. 

I find that waking up at least one hour before the workday starts and setting aside some time to make breakfast, have coffee, and read (or even exercise) can make a huge difference. That way, you don't just roll out of bed and head straight for a Zoom meeting.

Fabian Loo, food & drink writer
Photograph: Fabian Loo

Fabian Loo, food & drink writer

Did I bother to pack my desk when my editor told me to snap a picture of my work desk? Nope. Was I hoping that slapping on a VSCO filter might make it look less like a mess and more hipster? Jokes aside, setting up your work station to suit your needs is instrumental during this WFH season. I don't like to move about once I start working, so I need my cup of water, my notes, some snacks, and everything else that I might possibly want within reach. 

And another tip I've recently picked up to help me stay sane during this period: take the full hour lunch break (LOL sorry boss). As your room becomes your workplace, it's important to set clear boundaries for work and leisure. During lunch, walk away from your laptop (as you would on a normal day) and enjoy your meal.
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Kashmira Kasmuri, designer
Photograph: Kashmira Kasmuri

Kashmira Kasmuri, designer

To keep calm and composed (read: not hitting the panic button while hustling), I always make sure my work area is clean and neat. Maybe it's psychological but I always feel a sense of calm when everything around me is tidy and organised. Working from home can also be tricky so for me, only keep the things that you need during your working hours by your side. If you have random junk around, please keep them somewhere else or hide it. If not, you tend to get distracted.

To keep from getting WFH fatigue, one tip is to have conversations with real people – in real life. I have a chat with my mum for a bit and it helps sometimes with new ideas. 

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