Full-Time Freelancer Answers Top 5 Work From Home QuestionsBy Poon Yi Lin • 8 min read
Many of us have been excitedly counting down to the end of the circuit breaker. But with the announcement of the phased re-opening, it seems like most of us are still going to be working from home for some time.
If Work From Home hasn’t been working out for you, there is still time to turn things around! It can be difficult to battle all the distractions at home while trying to stay productive. We spoke to Vatanak, a full-time freelancer of 2 years, about how he makes work from home work for him.
Here are 5 actionable tips from him that will immediately transform your WFH days:
1. I am not used to all this freedom! How do I structure my day?
WFH definitely sounded great to many of us at the start. Without the eyes of our colleagues and bosses on us, there is freedom to do pretty much anything.
But why are so many of us feeling less productive with this freedom? Vatanak attributes this to two factors: the lack of mental pressure from being watched, and the temptation of other distractions. To keep productivity levels running high, he stresses the importance of finding structure, setting your own rules, and keeping to them.
Here is how Vatanak structures his day.
“In the morning I get up at 6am, and work between 8am and 11am. I can either start a little earlier or later than 8am, but I make sure that the task I aim to achieve within that time span is achieved by 11am so that it does not carry on and affect the other plans that I have.”
Taking Short Breaks
“I’m very focused on my work during those three hours. I take a 5 minutes break in between every hour. When I start work at 8am, I take a short rest between 9am to 9.05am for 5 minutes just to relax the brain. I think that for me works very effectively because when your brain works on absolute focus, you shouldn’t work it too much for too long. A short break in between is really good.”
“For lunch time, I give myself a 1.5 to 2 hours break. After I end the morning’s work, I normally resume work at 1pm, so the break is between 11am and 1pm, and those 2 hours are more than enough for relaxation. I take about 30 minutes to have lunch, the next 30 minutes to take a shower, and I have the remaining 1 hour of free time to either work out or watch a short TV show – but not let it exceed the time that I set.”
He also abides strictly by a set of rules that works for him and minimises distractions.
“I act the same when I’m working from home as if I’m in the office. During work hours, I only focus on doing my work and not open social media or devices that are for personal usage and affect my work. I make sure that I finish the work first during the allocated time, and only if I have free time then I can do whatever I want.”
Keeping to a relatively fixed structure for your work days ensures you have ample time to rest and recharge. Having designated work and relaxation periods throughout your day is crucial to ensure you are productive and well-rested!
2. How should I make the best use of all my extra time?
Let’s face it: with WFH, most of us are sleeping in more, and finding ourselves climbing out of bed only 30 minutes before work. With all that time saved on transportation and getting ready, we find ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands.
But… What have you done with your time? How can you be the master of your own time? Vatanak is very intentional in setting aside part of his free time for learning and self-improvement.
“I allocate my working days and self improvement days separately. So out of 7 days a week, I would spend 4 days all focused on work, and 3 days just for relaxing and studying, and gaining a new skill.”
As he is a freelancer, he is able to afford allocating 2-3 days a week for learning a new skill. However, for the rest of us, every little bit still counts.
Instead of spending an hour on social media or video games, every hour you spend investing in yourself could translate into a competitive advantage in your next job interview or salary negotiation.
3. Everyone’s taking online courses now. How should I get started?
Indeed, online courses are all the rage now as more people turn to the internet to upgrade their skills. Vatanak is not new to online learning; he’s been doing it for the past 2 years. His tip? Find out the skills you need to learn, then building your own curriculum.
Find out the skills you need to learn
“My previous experience was only in marketing. Throughout my work in marketing, I got involved in market research and data analysis. I also know that my passion is in data, numbers and analytics.
To know what skill sets I need for this job, I go on the job market and search for the job to find out what are the skills (e.g. coding and programming languages) I need to learn in order to get into the job. I searched 5-10 such jobs and compiled them together to see what are similar and what are not.
On top of that, networking is also important. I have a few friends in the IT industry so not only did I search online myself, I also asked them to look at what I compiled to check if it is indeed relevant for me to study those skills in order to get into the job market. After that, I would decide which skills I’ll prioritise first and I start studying them in order.”
Building your own curriculum
With the vast number of online courses on the internet, it can get overwhelming. Here is how Vatanak plans his online learning:
“I go to official university websites which provide paid courses and reference their course outlines. Then I go back to the free courses and try to arrange them accordingly. Sometimes, the free course from one website alone is not enough. So, we have to go through many websites and mix them together. That’s what I’m doing right now. Right now, I’m learning from 4 different websites but on the same subject.”
Ready to get started on some online courses? You can check out free online learning and career resources here for more guidance.
4. How should I communicate with my colleagues and bosses?
This can be one of the most challenging things for those of us working from home. Without face to face interaction with our bosses and colleagues, communication becomes extra important.
“Every end of the week and month I will produce a report and send it to my client. Normally, I will only send to them via email and mention all the important things in the email. Unless there is something unusual or abnormal, then I will private chat them on a social app like Whatsapp or Line. If something urgent really came up and really needs their attention, then I have to give them a call because it is time-sensitive and you need to get it done right now.”
5. How can I keep work separate from home?
Things can get tricky real quickly when the lines between your personal space and work space become blurred.
“Working at home should be more relaxing for you because it’s your own private space. But before, when you go to work, you only spend time at your workplace working. Once you are at home, you enter your relaxing mode. But when you start working at home, the place where you are supposed to relax now becomes your working space. And if you don’t manage your time properly, work will invade your personal time at home. The work that is supposed to be done by 5PM or 6PM can drag on till 9 or 10 PM. And the place where you are supposed to relax has now become a stressful place for you.”
“Some employers contact employees after working hours and some employees feel the obligation to reply. Those little things also affect people who are working from home, making them more stressed. The line is no longer clear cut and it is invading.”
Vatanak makes sure to set clear expectations and boundaries with his clients.
“I am clear cut with my fixed client that my working hours are only between 8am – 5pm and I will not read any emails beyond 5pm. So for me, that’s the line I draw for myself.”
“For me, timing is really important and that’s why I make it clear to my employer that after my working hours I do not talk about work. You have to make that clear and employers need to understand that as well. Because many employers breach that line. And even though it is a small thing like sending an email, it affects your mood. If you’re already home having dinner with your family and kids then you get an email to do this and that – yeah, I understand why people feel more stressed at home.”
If you’d like to get more work from home resources, here’s a consolidated Covid-19 Career Resources page for you. We’ve curated the best-of-the-best resources on companies still hiring, work from home resources, mental wellness, free career coaching, and more.
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