Jennifer Richardson shares her top tips on how you can green your practices as a freelancer, business owner or remote employee working from home.
In recent months, millions of workers around the world are transitioning or have already transitioned to working from home due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Concerned governments have put in firm restrictions on freedom of movement, emphasising the importance of self-isolating and practicing social distancing in an urgent attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to those millions of people all over the world who are suffering as a result of COVID-19; those who have lost loved ones, their jobs, and those struggling financially to get through these challenging times. There has, however, been one inadvertent positive to come out of all of this global pandemic – that is the sudden reduction in carbon emissions.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19, coupled with the global climate crisis we’ve been facing for some time (for example, Australia just had its worst bushfire season in recent history), has had devastating effects on individuals, families, communities, businesses and entire industries alike. There is no doubt that this is an extremely overwhelming, unsettling and scary time for everyone.
Green and healthy ways to work from home
In light of everything that is going on, I wanted to share some tips about how freelancers and remote employees can adjust to these challenging times and in the most eco-friendly way possible. I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor for over three years now, making the transition from classroom ESL teacher to remote worker at the end of 2016. It’s been an education in itself to navigate the world with my roaming office, and through this experience I have learned to be very flexible, whether it be from creating a comfortable home office or working in a more traditional office setting like a coworking space in a new city.
For those fortunate enough to have recently made the transition to working from home as a freelancer or with a distributed workforce, I’ve gathered some of my top tips to help you with this lifestyle change, and even how you can create an eco-friendly workspace at home.
1. Decorate your home office with local and green elements
One of the many advantages of working from home is that you can design your own workspace. This is your opportunity to make your new office space as green as possible! Filling your home office with things like simple fresh plants and local eco-friendly products will not only calm your mind but spark your creativity. When things go back to normal in the post-COVID-19 world, these are just some of the cool eco-products you can deck your home office out with:
- Design your space with eco-friendly furniture (no exotic imported wood products).
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs if needed.
- Fill your home with low-maintenance plants to clean the air and brighten the room. Some of the best plants to improve the air quality in your home office include English Ivy, Aloe, Lady Palm, and Golden Pothos.
The more you’re working from home, the more your house can be an eco-friendly little slice of heaven!
2. Use your work from home apps efficiently
Whether it’s design, copywriting, or management, working from home often involves its own series of apps and computer software to stay organised. There’s a time keeper for your hours, a project management app, a scheduler, and whatever else you may need to run your business. And let’s not forget about all the music streaming you’ll be doing throughout your workday! Before you know it, you’re charging your devices twice a day and your electricity bill is going way up.
Even though there are plenty of apps on the market, this doesn’t mean that you should be using almost every single one. Simplify things (and save some energy) by only using a few and get back to basics so that your workflow can be as green as possible!
And to keep track of your green lifestyle, we recommend downloading an app that can help you! ecoTrack is a wonderful eco-friendly app that tracks your energy output and also provides tips on how you can make your work from home life more sustainable.
To make sure your devices don’t drain too much energy, EcoCharge can monitor that for you. The app lets you know when your electronics are fully charged, as not to use unnecessary energy. So handy and efficient!
3. Make sure to take breaks when you’re working from home
Drop and give me 20! Go grab your favourite mat and YouTube a 20-30 min indoor yoga session for a break during the day at home. Stream a Les Mills video, get out that second-hand exercise bike from under your bed or pick up those dumbbells collecting dust in the bottom of your closet. Since COVID-19 is forcing us by law to stay indoors (whether you’re working from home or not), it’s even more important that we take breaks to move around the apartment or house or go for a solo walk around the park (where appropriate and following the social distancing guidelines), so that we aren’t stuck to our screens 24/7.
It’s recommended to take at least ten minutes away from the screen every hour, and I suggest setting a timer to help remind you to take a break. Or after some time spent working from home, you can discover what works best for you. Also, it’s worth investing in a standing desk. This desk helps lift your laptop and gives your back a break from constant sitting. Trust me, working for eight hours straight without any breaks (especially when you’re sitting in front of a computer) is NOT great for productivity! You need some movement to stimulate your mind and give yourself a bit of a detox from the computer and phone.
During these challenging times it’s especially important to occasionally get offline and try not to get too COVID-19 obsessed while we work from our screens all day, and are told to stay indoors (aside from “essential” outings).
For your lunch break and on your walk, listening to a podcast is a great way to clear your mind and maybe gather fresh ideas. The Slow Home Podcast provides great insight into living a more relaxed, mindful, and minimalistic life so you can focus on what’s really important.
4. Find a freelance community in your area
One thing that you really need when you start working from home: connection! Put out a call to find other freelancers in your area so that you can swap ideas, even if it’s only through online platforms at the moment. Collaboration is priceless when you’re working from home and have your own business. Freelancer groups can help provide insight, advice, and support for your work that you just can’t find with a Google search.
Here is one great source to find other freelancers around the world. These Meetup groups have obviously paused on social events for the time being, but there’s no better time to connect with others, even if it’s just in a virtual setting. Another way to find local remote workers is through Facebook Groups. Just try searching your location and the keyword “freelancer” and “digital nomad” to find the group that’s right for you.
Don’t be afraid to share your tips with other freelancers and pay it forward. And don’t be shy to ask questions if you’re new to the freelance life! Seeking advice from other freelancers can always open up new opportunities for your business.
5. Collaborate with other eco-minded entrepreneurs
Now that you’ve transitioned to working from home, you can choose to set up your new office in the most eco-friendly way possible. Here’s your opportunity to be an influencer of sorts. Publicly showing off your sustainability values will help set up a new mainstream. This will encourage new entrepreneurs to follow suit. Don’t just collaborate with other businesses that have the same mindset as you; be a leader with your eco-friendly lifestyle and it will catch on!
To inspire other eco-minded entrepreneurs, you can do things like share low-waste tips on your website and other low-waste lifestyle, eco-friendly content on your social media platforms. If you have your own website or blog, consider running a green website by choosing green web hosting with companies such as Digital Pacific – an Australian-based, carbon neutral company that runs on 100% renewable energy. Being your own boss means you can do things your way.
Read about more ways your business can help tackle climate change in our blog post.
With everything that has happened in the world lately and the current situation with distributed workforces (forced by COVID-19), lots of people could benefit from these tips on working from home. The concept of office work is evolving. Workforces are becoming distributed, meetings are happening through video conferencing, and the commute to work is now a quick trip from the bedroom to the living room for many traditional office workers across the globe.
It’s important for all remote workers to consider these tips and ideas to help them adapt to life at home, and we hope they can be beneficial to anyone who wants to create a sustainable work environment in their homes. An eco-friendly work from home experience is not only a great opportunity to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but can also open you up to more possibilities and innovations with your business or within your online workplace.