Guillaume Hérail

Ramblings in Frenglish

Working From Home Tips

Posted on — Jan 6, 2021

2020 and the Coronavirus pushed a lot of people to work from home and by the look of it, it’ll continue for at least a good part of 2021. Here are a few things I try to hold on to make sure I work in the right conditions while not overworking myself.

Dedicate a room

I understand not everybody can have that luxury (and I currently don’t). Having a room allows you to enter your office and leave it at night. If you don’t have a dedicated room, make sure you can isolate yourself and avoid having to work on your coffee table, sitting half crouched on the couch. You want to set a boundary between life and work.

My option currently is to have my desk in my bedroom. It means I spend most of my time in my bedroom everyday but that way my family can use the rest of the appartment and I won’t be disturbed while on calls. Having noise cancelling headphones tremendously helps as well.

Close Slack after hours, really

Slack is super intrusive. Yes, you have a Do Not Disturb mode but it doesn’t prevent you from quickly checking what’s happening at work. If you work with distributed teams over the world, there is always something happening there and, depending on your personality, your FOMO is kicking in. A solution that works for me on Android is Island. It’s an open source app (not on f-droid unfortunately as it depends on proprietary libs.) that will create a local work profile in which you can install any app you want.

UPDATE 2021-01-07: Thanks to a toot from Jae, I discovered a FLOSS fork of Island: Insular.

That way, you can deactivate your work profile in the notification center by tapping on it. If you end up trying to open slack when the profile is closed, your phone will greet you with:

Turn on work profile?

Your work apps, notifications, data and other work profile features will be turned on

This is enough for me to cancel opening the app. I still tend to slip at times but it overall works.

Track your time

It’s hard to know whether you are spending too much time working or not if you don’t track your time and actually easy to underestimate it. I wasn’t tracking my time at first but started doing it, suspecting that I was working too much. To do so, I used gtimelog. There are other tools but this one is pretty simple, it’ll just write your logs in plaintext in a file.

Here are my guidelines:

While this level of detail is not needed to make sure you don’t do 50+ hours a week unknowingly, it helps me knowing where I spend my time. Using this tool, I noticed I could take some of my Friday afternoons or be a bit more relaxed at times.

Keep a routine

Don’t keep your sweatpants (or lack thereof) to work! Going to work is the same as going to the office: dress up, get your coffee and build a routine that you will follow every day. This will help in setting that boundary between life and work straight. I usually wake up around 6:30-7:00 to take care of my kids and start my morning routine, at 8:45 I’ll grab a coffee and go to my desk where I can start my day. Between my wake up time and 8:45, I’ll play with my kids, attend to the appartment and prepare myself to go to work as I would do it if I was going to the office. At 09:00, I’m at my desk, ready to start my day. At the end of your day, use a routine as well. Close your laptop, tidy your desk, shut the lights off, shut slack down on your phone and step outside the room. Your work day is over!

Exercise and go outside

Since you are working from home, you’re going outside far less and making rounds in your flat is not going to improve your fitness. I’m currently going running 3 times a week. I also try to go outside at least once a day, if only to get groceries or play with the kids. This helps me clearing my head and make sure I don’t feel like a goldfish in a bowl.


These tips helped me going from working far too much in an unstructured way to keeping a good balance between my personal and work life. While I hope that this situation will end soon, I’m also looking forward to our legislation and employers to be more keen on allowing remote working. I wouldn’t mind moving to a different appartment/house to get more space if I didn’t have to go to the office everyday. Unfortunately, the outcome of this situation is still pretty unclear.

This is day 4/100 of #100DaysToOffLoad!