As of recently, the majority of us had our workday completely turned upside down. If you’ve never worked from home, suddenly you are. If you do work from home regularly, you may now have a full household due to school closures or a partner working from home as well.
Figuring out how to utilize or share your new workspace and make the best use of your new-found freed up time can be jarring, but it’s time to re-frame and refocus. When you lose the structure of a designated workspace: the collaboration with colleagues, and the scheduled start and end time, things can get chaotic.
Here is how you can work as effectively as possible from the safety of your home.
The Command Centre
The first step in your work from home journey is to designate an area of your home specifically for getting work done. We’ll call this your command centre.
This could be an empty or spare bedroom that you convert into a home office. If you are pressed for space, you can set up a desk in an area where you know you’ll be able to focus and avoid distractions. Regardless of space or location, establish an area of your home where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day. Be sure your workspace is quiet (consider noise-cancelling headphones) and has exposure to sunlight. I know some individuals are mattress martyrs but I find it important to associate the bed as a place of relaxation and rest rather than a productive and creative space, and in saying so, I can’t recommend working out of your bed.
Set A Routine
Establish and follow a morning routine that you know works for you. Don’t wake up and roll out of bed straight into work, it’s not a great wake up feeling and you likely won’t be as productive as you’d want to be. Instead, wake up ahead of time, go for a jog or run, get some chores done and out of the way, eat a healthy morning meal and then get ready to plugin for the day to come. Taking that time in the morning before we start the workday organizes our thoughts and prepares us far better than the alternative of waking up and immediately working.
Tasks, Not Time
Sometimes while working from home you may suddenly think that now is the best time to do that chore or run that errand quickly - to prevent this, at the beginning of your day, create a task list of objectives to complete for the day. If we organize that list with an understanding of urgency, we can start to work through the day and you can even consider it proof of work done for your manager. Let’s even take it a step further and build in a rewards system - let’s say instead of taking a break every two hours we take a break after we complete a task off our list. During that break, let’s bang out a chore like the dishes or tidying up a room - now we’ve completed work and we’ve done a chore, leaving more time in the evening to relax and enjoy your leisure time.
Put More on Your Plate
Whether it’s projects or just an everyday task, sometimes work just takes longer than you initially thought it would. For that reason, you may get less done than you set out to do. To combat this, overestimate how many tasks you will do during the day. Even if you come up short of your goals, you'll still end the day with a solid list of tasks crossed off.
Stay In Touch
Keep the lines of communication open with your colleagues and managers and be sure to keep up frequent touch points so others know you’re available. Use whatever methods work best for you. Try to include at least some phone and video meetings each day. Talking with another human is good for you. You might be working completely alone, making communication especially critical to reduce the feelings of isolation and also ensure that your team is on the same page. Communication often lets others know you’re working and accessible even if you’re not in their presence, and is beneficial for yourself and for team performance.
Whether for internal or external meetings, make sure your video is always on. This increases engagement among team members, customers, partners and prospects. This also means, you need to dress your part, clean casual is fine. For these video meetings, ensure that there are no distractions and that you are the focal point. Try to have your back against a wall and avoid having an open room in the background. Clients, coworkers or even prospects may be distracted by activity going on behind you rather than what is being said.
The expression goes, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person."
I’d say this isn’t far off from the bizarre true rule of productivity which is that the busier you are, the more you'll actually do. Similar to Newton's law of inertia: If you're in motion, you'll stay in motion. If you're at rest, you'll stay at rest. Busy people are in motion throughout the day and have the momentum to complete anything that gets put on their desk.
In the beginning, you may find it difficult to reach that level of office business -- your motivation or attention can swing easily which is what leads me to my next point.
Plan Your Productivity
The obvious message here is working when you are most productive. Nobody burns through their work from morning to evening like Usain Bolt in the 100-meter relay - your energy and brainpower will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day and only you know that flow best. It’s important to know when those highs and lows will take place and plan your calendar around it. To capitalize on your most productive periods, plan your most difficult tasks for when you know you'll be in the right head space and tackle them head-on. Use slower points of the day to knock out the easier tasks which might not be as groundbreaking in work.
The Wrap Up
Working from home provides numerous benefits in terms of time & cost savings such as no transit or commute cost, reduced eating out costs and longer rest periods. All these benefits don’t just come at the drop of a hat once you’re working from home, they take discipline and effort to develop, balance and maintain. Pulling it off isn’t easy but it is achievable. With these tips, you can not only maintain productivity but blow it through the roof during this time if you make the best use of what you are given.