With the COVID-19 outbreak, most companies have enabled their employees to work from home. While working from home seems appealing, it is lonely in this period of social distancing. Being productive is becoming the ultimate personal litmus test. For those who are recently introduced to this concept or those who do not have a proper workstation, the lack of self-discipline, focus and ample distractions can massively reduce your productivity. After all working from your personal space, which is not the usual workspace can be challenging.
Plus, how do you stay away from snuggling with your dog, or logging to Netflix to binge-watch that series? Or how do you keep your children or spouse from yelling questions in the house, thereby breaking your thoughts? Also, since you’re at home 24/7, how do you stay away from toiling overtime?
Working from home has its own set of challenges that you wouldn’t face in your usual professional environment. It is vital to create a schedule and stick to it. Stay away from oversleeping or lingering over breakfast, and think as if you are driving to work, even though you are just going to the next room.
For some, blasting music helps stay focussed and get work done. For others, the background noise could be the worst productivity killer. Some of us work better in clutter while others function with reduced efficiency if their workspace is untidy. Everyone has a different style of working.
Irrespective of your style of working, these 9 tips will facilitate the adjustment to the new working situation during this era of coronavirus outbreak.
#1. Have a designated workspace – Don’t work from your bed or the couch. Have a dedicated workspace in your home, so that you do not meddle into the space of other members of your house. This way you can concentrate without getting distracted by sitting in front of the TV or spreading your work on the kitchen table.
Make your work zone disturbance and noise-free. If you do not have a separate room, pick a corner that is away from the main area.
Work in solitude, from the same place every day.
#2. Discourage intrusion – Set strict boundaries on the time when you are off-limits for your housemates and family unless an emergency.
Sometimes, well-intended friends and family might call you or stop by to chat or interrupt your workday. Such interruptions lead to a loss of focus and prevent you from sticking to the deadline. While the location of your job is now home, it is still like every other profession that requires privacy and concentration.
Inform your network of your workhours when you cannot be interrupted and the after-hours when you are available.
#3. Add a structure to your day – One of the most important points to remember while working from home to maintain productivity is to have a structured day. Decide your work hours. Stay away from checking your emails or responding to them all day long. Train your mind to finish the task list in the set time limit and not extend beyond that.
Get up, freshen up, get dressed and get to work. Don’t work in your pajamas.
Stick to a routine instead of switching the work hours every day. After that, stay away from your work desk, at an arms’-length. Don’t get swallowed up the never-ceasing work-load.
#4. Workout – Regular workouts, exercise, and physical activity are beneficial to everyone. Especially when you are working from home, there is hardly any movement since your workspace would the next room. Squeeze in time for a workout.
Even in between work, take out a few moments for some stretches. In one of your breaks during work, or even after the work hours, roll out the yoga mat and get moving.
Positively, this is much easier when you are at home since in an office setting you would be unable to pull this off without catching eyeballs.
As the majority of areas are locked down during the Covid-19 and movement outside of the house may not be possible, opt for a workout session in your house itself. There are lots of apps that give free and paid sessions to sweat out all the calories you pile on. Don’t take your health for granted while working from home.
#5. Sit in a good position – Pop your laptop at the eye level, to reduce the strain on your neck. Keep your posture in check, with the back straight and your feet flat on the ground. Do not bend your shoulders. No harm in propping yourself on a few cushions to maintain body alignment.
Ensure that your workstation is comfortable, clean and efficient. Don’t clutter it with things that are not needed.
Stay hydrated and do not keep snacks on your worktable. To avoid overeating, set times when you can take a break for food or snacks.
#6. Take more breaks – Our limit to focus on a task is anywhere between 50-90 minutes. After that, the mind needs a break to recharge and focus on the task.
Split your day into 50-minute windows, with a 10-minute break. Use this time to go away from your screen, add some movement and practice your zen. If your job doesn’t permit you to take such frequent breaks, go away from work for a minimum of 30 minutes.
This could be the time set aside for lunch or a quick walk.
Alternately, you can break work into small chunks. For example, if you are a content writer, set milestones such as brainstorming the topic, researching the outline, writing each section and then editing. These smaller tasks will help you choose when to stop working before getting up and moving.
#7. Interacting with people – Someone asked me a few days back, of what level of interactions to expect when working remotely. My advice was “think carefully whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.” The more extrovert you are, the more you would require to interact with people in your social circle. On the other hand, for introverts, the presence of people doesn’t matter.
When working from home, the onus is on you, to get the level of interaction with your teammates, family, and network. You could set up virtual lunch or coffee dates with people who inspire you or whose presence you enjoy, to keep your energy levels up.
#8. Team communication – When working from home, communication with the remote team takes a while to get streamlined. We miss out on facial cues that we use in our communication when working remotely.
Try building rapport with the team members so that you can understand each one’s tone in the message better. Use tools such as Zoom for video calls with the team and Slack for the text-based communication. You would realize that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. A quick video call would help you sort out the query or confusion in minutes which would otherwise be dragged for days and weeks.
#9. Motivation – While working from home, most of us would require external feedback and motivation, regularly. And planning to prevent from being overloaded by the to-do-list.
However, each person responds differently to getting motivated working in isolation, at home. You will have to learn and understand what works for you. If you get a happy buzz from the sense of accomplishment that is followed by finishing a task, use a pen and paper to get mentally rewarded by crossing off each item for the list. Or you could share the tasks done with your team.
Or else, you could plan your day the previous night to stay on track and focus on completing one task at a time.
Wrapping up – Your best ally in these difficult times is to maintain efficiency and productivity while working from home. Be flexible and follow these 9 tips to find your groove. A good work-life balance and taking care of yourself will give you a competitive edge.