Ten of Raconteur’s writers offer advice for newcomers to remote working on how to stay productive and happy at home
For more than a decade, Raconteur has relied on the hard work of professional freelance journalists to create its special reports’ content. So, as populations the world over continue to adjust to their new remote-working lives, who better to turn to for advice than our own writers, all of whom have been working from home for a lot longer than just two months. From what to wear to maintaining a work-life balance, we asked these seasoned pros in early-April for tips and first-hand experiences on how to make home working work for you.
London-based writer, specialising in technology, business, sport and culture. Full-time freelancer since 2009.
“I’ve been freelancing for over a decade, working from home mostly. I love the flexibility and I’m now reasonably productive, too. But it took a while to, let’s say, optimise my time. I’ve found creating a specific office area and keeping it tidy is important. But ordering the day is critical. Determine a to-do list before you begin work, plus a rough time limit for each task. Don’t be afraid to invest in tech. A 50-inch monitor has improved my working life immeasurably, a decent webcam is advisable and surround-sound speakers certainly made it a more pleasurable experience.”
Writer and photographer based in Brussels. Full-time freelancer since 2015.
“I don’t have a strict routine. I usually start whatever assignment I’m working on at my desk or at the kitchen table. But will stop for a couple of hours or more when I get stuck and get on with other things. Stepping away from the work for a while tends to do the trick. Some people forget they are working remotely and that they don’t have to abide by the conventions of a traditional office environment. For instance, a lot of my best writing has been done late at night. I take full advantage of the fact that no one is watching. As long as you deliver quality work, on time, you can play with the time however suits you best.”
London-based writer and presenter specialising in beauty, lifestyle and pop culture. Full-time freelancer since 2016.
“Everyone hits their productivity peak at a certain time of day. For me, I like to send emails that are bugging me or send interview requests first thing, read the news for about half an hour and then I hit my stride around 10am. The hours fly by until early afternoon, so I make a note of getting into anything particularly gnarly – editing something long, researching complex topics, transcribing – when I’m at that peak. Any phone calls come before this, to avoid clock-watching and feeling like I’m running late, and anything after is something less intensive, like replying to emails and mapping out next action points.”
No one is watching. As long as you deliver quality work, on time, you can play with the time however suits you best
Journalist, commentator and former newspaper editor based in New York. Full-time freelancer since 2018.
“I’ve worked as a freelance journalist since having a baby two years ago. Working from home allows me to accommodate childcare, particularly as my husband works long hours and travels a lot. I have a routine that I loosely follow every day, both to stay motivated and to make sure the boundaries between work and non-work aren’t compromised. I never have meetings before 9am and, whenever possible, I’ll explicitly schedule at least an hour of exercise into my day. I try not to work in the bedroom or eat at my desk. I’ll often work after my daughter has gone to bed, but I’ll always take a break in the evenings for dinner and to spend time with family.”
London-based journalist, specialising in finance, books and arts. Full-time freelancer since 2018.
“Whenever you’re limited to a physical space, as many of us are right now, I think it helps to use your body to demarcate the day. So, I go on a walk first thing in the morning, like a pseudo-commute, because I can’t just roll out of bed and start writing in the living room. And in the evening, I look for ways of expressing ‘OK, now it’s my evening’ by making a physical change, too. That could be a shower, baggier trousers, some yoga, challenging my partner to a dance battle or even just sitting on the other end of the couch.”
Journalist and copywriter based in Portsmouth covering business, tech and innovation. Full-time freelancer since 2015.
“Don’t be surprised if the novelty of working from home has already worn off. Making the commute from your bed to your desk can take longer than a journey into the office, especially if you don’t impose a structure on yourself, including getting out for some fresh air once a day. I am a bit of a creature of habit. To kick my day off, I would usually go for a walk to clear my head (I’m fortunate enough to live ten minutes from the sea), set up base in a café or library around 9am and stay there until just after lunch. I would usually arrange any interviews or calls for the afternoons. Getting motivated each morning during the lockdown has been the biggest challenge. I go for my one permitted exercise a day first thing in the morning and then try my best to stick to a routine. And I’m learning not to be too hard on myself if I fail. As well as structure, wear comfortable, casual clothes to get you into the right mindset. Don’t be too sloppy, but don’t wear a suit either.”
Try out early starts, long lunch breaks, all-nighters, four-day weeks. Find out what works for you and build your routine around it
London-based creative copywriter and journalist, covering advertising, marketing and sexuality.Full-time freelancer since 2019.
“I schedule varied work tasks for myself each day. This means I avoid having that excruciatingly boring day at the end of each month when invoicing needs to happen. And I make sure to do some non-screen-based work at regular intervals. For me, this is usually lying on the sofa, recording voice notes for myself on where I need to make edits in my writing and how I need to approach them. I schedule co-working hangouts with other freelance friends so we can catch up over a long lunch; this frees up time for self-care activities in the evenings. After filing a piece of work, I’ll often reward myself with a short nap. Would highly recommend.”
London-based journalist covering news, business, health, equality and parenting. Full-time freelancer since 2013.
“As a big list-maker, there is nothing I love more than starting the day with a schedule of tasks to be ticked off. I find assigning times for calls and emails, especially the tough ones, and setting daily deadlines for each bit of work helps me plan my week so I don’t become overwhelmed. The benefit is I can also schedule in time for a walk or run, as it’s easy to get tied to the desk otherwise. Getting into the fresh air is a brilliant energy and mood booster, and often gives me that ‘eureka!’ moment of a new idea or way of approaching things. It’s essential for me that I have my desk by the window and every year I create colourful window boxes, which I nurture like my children. It makes me so happy to see the flowers and watch them grow while I work. Watering them is also a good screen break for a few moments.”
Sustainability, business and travel journalist based in Porto. Full-time freelancer since 2004.
“Occasionally, I find myself envying office-worker colleagues. Mostly because of the everyday perks of office life, like hands-on IT support and printer cartridges that seemingly last forever. Then I remember my trump card: flexibility. As a homeworker, you can work when you like, wear what you like, sleep when you like, take breaks when you like. Relish this freedom, max it out. Try out early starts, long lunch breaks, all-nighters, four-day weeks. Find out what works for you and build your routine around it. That said, I change my work patterns fairly regularly. Why? To avoid getting into a rut and, well, because I can.”
Journalist, podcaster and media trainer based in London. Full-time freelancer since 2018.
“Working from home leads to working longer hours, leaving me feeling depleted of motivation and creativity. Antidotes are connection and movement. Make appointments to have cups of tea over calls with colleagues. Try to take a walk or get some exercise daily. Take backache seriously. Create a workplace in your home that fits your needs. My best purchase has been a laptop desk, which can be used to work in bed or on a kitchen counter as a standing desk. It’s also helpful for angling my laptop camera just right to look presentable in Zoom calls.”