On the spectrum of productivity, working from home falls on one of two extremes – you’re working very well or you’re not – and there is rarely an in-between.
You’re either loving it and wondering why you haven’t established this as your normal way of working or waking up daily with a sense of anxiety of the day ahead, which is understandable because you’ve been thrust into a new orientation at work and it’s bound to take some getting used to.
For those who are working from home, it means spending days holed up indoors trying to establish routines that work.
Unlike the days when the work day starts with settling at a desk, the couch, bed and dining table are the new workstations. Days are spent grappling with the balance between enjoying the comforts of home and the discipline required to meet work targets. One has to ignore the idea that there is a lot of free time available and to focus on the fact that work expectations remain unchanged.
Working from home is not a novel concept in most parts of the world as freelancers, entrepreneurs and even some organisations have integrated it into their working models but for others, this presents an accelerated normal.
From Forbes to LinkedIn, here are some recommended tips and hacks on how to be productive, leverage opportunities, and learn how to adapt to the work from home experience.
First things first, get out of your pyjamas
Though this may be the one reason you love working from home, it may be the biggest productivity killer. Beyond getting you into the right mindset for work, you’ll be ready to handle any impromptu video call and be mentally and physically prepared for the day.
Create a working space that works for you
It is advisable that you scan your home and settle on an ideal space that can be converted into a temporary home office.
Your new workstation needs to be conducive enough to enable you to deliver and at the very least, should be positioned so that distractions aren’t in your line of view – including anyone else who’s also working from home.
Set up a proper work station with a desk and an adjustable chair that allows you to sit in an upright position to be able to maintain good posture.
Once you set up your new work space, set clear boundaries with family members that no one should rearrange (or play!) in your spot. Establish boundaries in your home for the people in your life to make sure they understand that being home doesn’t mean you’re available fulltime and that you need quiet time to focus on work.
Create a morning routine
Think about what a normal working day would look like for you and replicate that routine at home. Create a schedule every morning that balances your work and home life activities and get into the rhythm of a routine that serves both wholesomely.
Understandably, you may be enjoying not having to get up, rush out of the house, and commute to an office, but this makes it harder to adjust to working from home.
Train your mind by setting a ritual that sharpens your focus when you wake up, whether it’s some exercise, meditation or breakfast with the family. This way, everyone in the house can adjust to the new routine.
Your best bet to operate efficiently as you work from home is optimizing your use and understanding of technology.
Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s new communication platforms, such as Blue Jeans and Zoom, and assist colleagues who are having trouble adapting to the same. In the new work from home reality, technology and teamwork are two sides of the same coin.
Develop a good sense of “netiquette” by making sure that when on a conference call, your microphone and video are muted as the background distractions annoy and may be misconstrued as a sign of disrespect to your team.
Discover when you’re most productive
Monitoring and listening to your natural body clock can help you understand and maximise your high productivity hours. Are you a morning person, a night owl or an afternoon person?
Learn what works best for you and build your work schedule around your peak productivity periods.
Initiate work and communicate
Working remotely is a test of your mental mettle. You’ll need to be ready to become a self-starter on projects and pivot quickly. Without constant supervision, you must ask yourself, “What needs to be done next?” or “What is the problem?”
Become a self-starter and be accountable to yourself
You will also need to find appropriate times to regularly check in with your managers and colleagues and experiment with different ways of communication to establish what works best as you work apart.
Schedule your work
In the office, back to back meetings can chew up your time and energy and at home, the same applies to the barrage of conference calls throughout the day.
If you start feeling overwhelmed and anxious from the endless calendar invites to join calls and find that time is getting away from you to sit and actually get some work done, take a step back and block off some hours of your day. With some undisturbed time, you can get in two hours of deep focus and give your daily performance the boost it needs.
David Allen, a productivity consultant who is best known as the creator of the time management method known as “Getting Things Done” recommends that people implement the “two-minute rule” to make the most of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
Leverage online resources from professionals
Learn from the seasoned work from home champions and research-backed expert tips to optimise working remotely. Become a pro at dealing with distractions and getting everything done while working from home through this LinkedIn course.
Control your social media consumption
If you find yourself spending most of your day constantly checking Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, this one’s for you. Think carefully about which notifications to keep on, and which to mute until later.
Allocate time slots for checking your phone and, if you’re still struggling use settings and apps that help you control your time online or cut you off from social media apps for specific hours in the day.
Take Short Breaks
There’s a general notion that by working from home, you will be able to get more done because there will be fewer distractions. Therefore, sometimes you may end up over-committing and working too much, which also kills productivity.
According to Nextiva, a modern business phone system for enabling remote teams, research has shown that taking short breaks does actually increase productivity and boost creativity levels.
To reap the benefits of this, integrate five-minute breaks into your daily schedule, if not, you won’t last too long working from home.
Incorporate some physical activity during these short breaks to keep your body active. Take a brisk walk, play with your kids, or do some chores around the house. Before the pandemic, you were used to being out and about, but now as we are confined to our homes it important to be active for the sake of your health.
Indeed, everyone has their own preferred way of working but working from home may just be here to stay. With so many hours in the day left to our individual discretion, making the most of our own time is critical.
Futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler once wrote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
It’s time to work smarter.