Contrary to popular belief, running Starling Arts isn’t only about the physical act of getting groups singing. About 75% of our working week is spent working from home on all the ‘stuff’ that comes with that job, with the other 25% in the rehearsal room. After almost ten years, we’ve picked up some great home working tips for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation!
It’s easy to think that working from home means you can lounge in your pyjamas all day, but we’ve found this to be counter-productive. We opt for lounge wear, so we’re comfortable at our desks and not restricted by our clothing, but still presentable if we have to have a meeting via Skype, chat to the postman or pop out for a pint of milk! Some people swear by working in activewear so that they feel as efficient as they might in the gym!
Have a Dedicated Space
Having a dedicated work space is essential. Anna opts for a specific part of her dining table, while Emily has a small home office. Invest in a good chair and any ergonomic tools that will make that space even more comfortable and efficient. Things like laptop stands, wireless keyboards and a mouse can really save your neck from injury or pain, and support your hand and wrist. Going to work in that dedicated space means you don’t associate places like the sofa or your bed with your job. As alluring as the sofa might seem, it soon becomes uncomfortable and impractical anyway!
Establish a Routine
Have a routine that works for you and stick to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean working 9-5 because that’s what society dictates; some of us are more productive at different times of day. For example, at Starling HQ Anna gets up at 7.30am each day and, if she goes for a run, tries to be at her desk by 10am, ready to blitz through admin. Creative tasks always seem easier in the afternoon. Emily’s routine fits around her son and his nursery and napping schedule. Given that three days a week our routine includes an evening rehearsal, we make sure there’s time for…
We can not stress the need for breaks enough! When we work in an office, we’re encouraged to break up our day with offers of tea or coffee from a colleague, meetings, water-cooler chat, etc. When working from your home there’s no one to reinforce one of the key things to balancing your working day. We’ve been known to take dance and sing breaks (boogying around for 10 mins whilst blaring out a feel good song or two), run breaks, tea breaks and, Anna’s favourite, cake breaks. All of them are valuable in maintaining a healthy work/life balance. We’re also big fans of the Pomodoro Technique, working for 25 minutes followed by a short break. We put timers on our phone, switch them to silent and can really get our head down and into a task as a consequence.
Get Some Fresh Air
Without the commute to work it can be easy to not leave the house when you work from home. While this is sometimes appealing on a rainy day (!), it’s not helpful for our wellbeing. We do everything from stroll around the block to taking a proper lunch time walk, all in the name of a good dose of Vitamin D.
We’re a full time team of two living almost 90 minutes apart on opposite sides of London, so communication is everything! We plan and discuss a lot of our work using Asana to manage projects and workflow, store and share ideas and documents related to the myriad of jobs and tasks we have on the go, and archive a lot of our work. It does away with email trains and searching for a hidden attachment in a long thread, and allows us to assign tasks and deadlines to different jobs.
We also have a WhatsApp chat dedicated to Starling Arts, one dedicated to our writing as Garsin & Shields, and another for our life as friends!
Get the Tech
Invest in the technology that will help you work from home efficiently. We’re both Apple users and find it particularly useful that our iPhones speak to our MacBook and iPads, enabling us to share work-related data and content. Given the nature of our business, our home working life isn’t always desk-bound. We’ve got microphones for recording rehearsal tracks, video cameras to film dance tutorials, and gadgets to take card payments through our phones! They’re all worthwhile investments, even if they seem expensive at the point of purchase.
It’s worth putting a timer on your phone or, if you have one, using a FitBit or smart watch to remind you to get up and walk around every so often, so you don’t fall into a sedentary life! Due to the lack of commute and not clocking up your daily step quota whilst walking around an office building, we don’t burn so many calories when we work from home. However, working from home means having the luxury of cooking for yourself, rather than eating fast food on the go. We’ll admit we don’t always stick to this rule (!), but where possible make sure you’re cooking healthy and practical meals that fuel your body and mind for the working day.
As we sing and regularly speak in public, it’s also important we look after our voices. As we’ve previously blogged we steam, drink lots of water, and warmup properly, all in the name of maintaining our vocal health.
Have Some Human Contact
We’re lucky that at least three days a week we get to leave our home office and run rehearsals, touching base with each other and our fantastic community of singers. During the choir holidays or on the nights we don’t run choir, however, it can get lonely sometimes! Everything from a friendly ‘Hello’ in the corner shop, to a chat with a neighbour, or even virtual contact with a friend or family member over FaceTime on a break can all help to make you feel connected to the world.
Have you got any top tips for working from home? Share them in the comments below!