Updated: May 24, 2020
COVID19 has suddenly put us on a worldwide lockdown and most companies are asking their employees to work from home. The CORONA virus has given a new dimension in the work-related domain and a new acronym ‘WFH’.
Being efficient, working from home can be a challenge. There are tons of distractions, less accountability, and less communication than when you’re working in the office. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. There are lots of ways to keep yourself working productively from any location. Whether you work from home every day, a couple of times per week, or even if you’re just working from home while you recover from an illness, these tips can help you to get the most out of your remote work hours. You won’t believe how much you can get done in a day!
1. Keep yourself to a regular work environment This is the first step stick to a routine to ensuring productivity while working from home. It’s tempting to give yourself total flexibility as to when you get started, take breaks, and call it a day. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t keep yourself to at least some amount of consistency. Setting yourself consistent hours keeps you accountable to yourself and your work. It makes you more likely to get all your work done, and it also makes it easier to get in touch with you. Here are the important factors to consider when you’re setting an at WFH schedule:
When your boss needs you to be available
Communication with your co-workers and customers
Time of day when you are most productive
Many home workers will tell you about the importance of just getting dressed. Just because we can lounge around in our pyjamas, it doesn’t mean we should. A good idea could be to take a shower, get dressed and maybe even take a short walk before you set up in front of your computer for the day.
2. Keep work time and personal time separate Just as it’s important to work when you say you will, it’s important to give yourself time off when you’ve promised it. Don’t extend the workday too far beyond what you planned, at the risk of burning yourself out. Keeping work time and personal time compartmentalized also helps you keep productive while you’re at work and reduces stress when you aren’t at work. In the same way that you scheduled your work hours, schedule, communicate and plan when you will not be available to work. For example, if you like to take evenings to spend time with family, make sure you communicate that you aren’t available for work during that time. And then hold yourself to that commitment!
3. Designate a specific working space When I first started as a consultant, I made the mistake to work from my bedroom. Very soon the bedroom became connected with nothing but work. It’s an understatement to say that it pretty much ruined my sleeping patterns. So, a top tip I have learned is to designate a space for work only. Supporting work from home is an easy employer decision for the staff able to be productive with a laptop and a smartphone. But your home might be less prepared when it comes to having a functional home office. Find the best table and chair combination that gives you the best working position. If you can, invest in a comfortable chair and of course watch out for ‘tech neck’. Meaning if you can’t use an external screen, at least try to put your laptop on a pile of books to give your neck some rest. Maybe even stand up while on conference calls. Plan to set-up and tear down your work environment daily. You need a suitable location to go to, without making your family go crazy with permanent offices in multiple locations across your home. If you are for the first time working from home, see if you can agree to set some ground rules with people around you. I have given up the negotiations with my Kids, but my wife/mother and I are starting to get into nice sync now that we have agreed on our personal space. If this is not done you may become an errand boy at home.
3. Plan your workflow One sure-fire way to keep productivity up is to get smart about planning your workday. Before you even start working, make sure you know what your priorities are for the day, how long you think it will take you to get everything done, and what you will work on if you have extra time. You might find it helpful to take a few minutes before you go to bed to plan for the next day. You may find that you sleep better without the stress of planning in the back of your mind. If you find that planning before bed keeps you awake, try making plans for the day while you eat breakfast or exercise before work. In your planning, consider the following:
Do the highest priority tasks first
Plan your day around your natural cycles–do the hardest work when you have the most energy throughout the day
Plan yourself rewards and breaks throughout the day
4. Ramp up the communication A lot of people reading this won’t be an extrovert like me. But even for introverts in times like these, connecting with colleagues is probably more important than you think. One of the best things about working in an office is the potential for collaboration and socialization. We normally spend most of our time in proximity to our colleagues, which makes it easier to stay in sync more effortlessly. Now with the proximity gone, you don’t have to lose this just because you are working from home. Try to check in with your co-workers at least a couple of times per week, whether by email, phone, Skype, or even in person. We need to be mindful to keep those communication lines open. Luckily today there are tons of tools available to help us with video calls, digital chats and even digital whiteboards or collaboration programs. Make sure you keep up on a personal level as well as a professional level. You can do this without taking a lot of time–just share the most important things and encourage your co-workers to do the same.
5. Be your janitor Unlike in the office, you don’t have housekeeping staff to clean up after you, which means you must do it yourself. Keeping your home office clean helps you stay focused, get organized, and be productive. Even if you’re someone who isn’t bothered by a messy desk, keeping some semblance of order helps ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks (or gets lost in a stack of paper, as is more likely). However, this tip goes beyond just keeping your home office clean. Having a messy home could inspire you to procrastinate on work tasks in favor of cleaning–which is bad news for your productivity. Setting yourself a weekly cleaning schedule can help you keep on top of cleaning your home, so you won’t be tempted to clean during work hours. Make sure to schedule regular tidying of your home office!