With the COVID-19 global pandemic greatly limiting our movement and social interactions, working from home is well on its way to become the new normal. Even though the lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, companies are still encouraging their employees to work from home as much as possible.
Working from home can be advantageous for some and counterproductive for others. For some, the flexibility it affords and the time it helps them save by eliminating the daily commute translates into better output. However, some people miss the routine and structure of a regular job and find working from home rather distracting.
Irrespective of which category of people you belong to, these seven tips will help you make the most of your remote-working situation. Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy it!
1. Avoid the bed-to-desk trap
Working from home can tempt you into cutting yourself some slack here and there. You may want to catch up on those extra hours of sleep because you are not in a rush to get dressed and leave for work. If you’ve been waking up just 15 minutes before you need to clock in on your system and feeling uninspired, try preparing for it just like you would if you were going to an office.
Wake up early, get some coffee, read the newspaper, make yourself some good breakfast, take a shower, dress up in your work clothes, wear makeup (if you do) and then get settled in your work desk. Trick your mind, if you will, into believing that you need to “report” to work and you will notice a positive shift in your energy and motivation.
2. Set a work-friendly environment
Not everyone has the luxury of having a home office. If you live with roommates, your only option may be to work out of your bedroom. However, no matter how small your workspace is, try and make it as organized and distraction-free as possible. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Avoid working on your bed. Invest in a good quality work desk and a comfortable chair.
- If you have a window that allows in plenty of natural light, create your workstation near it. Get a bright desk lamp if needed, especially if you end up working after dark.
- It’s tempting to let the clutter be when no one but you is going to see how messy your desk is. But a disorganized workstation can be highly distracting. Keep it neat and tidy, just how you would if you were in an office.
- Keep all the distractions away. Whether you live with family or roommates, request them to stay out of your workspace and reach out to you only when it’s necessary.
- Resist the urge to check your phone often or spend time browsing the Internet or checking out your social media feed while you’re working.
3. Create a routine
The best part about working from home is the flexibility to create your own schedule but don’t confuse that freedom for the right to work without structure. Workplace routines were set in place for a reason: to create the right mindset and an environment free of distractions to allow you to focus better and be more productive.
This does not mean that you need to follow the regular 9-5 routine. The beauty of working from home is that you can identify the time of day when you’re most productive. This can be early in the morning, late in the night or well into the afternoon after lunch. Whatever time it is you choose to work, create a routine around it and stick to it as much as possible.
Next, create a schedule for your tasks within the hours that you would be working. This ensures that you get all the important stuff done and prevents you from procrastinating. For instance, you may want to spend the first hour finishing client calls and responding to emails. Then you could spend two to three hours working on your most important tasks for the day, followed by two hours of overseeing or assisting your teammates. If you are a freelancer working multiple projects, set aside hours for each of them.
4. Get the right tools
A seeming downside of working from home is that there is no in-person interaction with your colleagues. This is an important aspect of work, whether it is the routine briefings or friendly chats by the watercooler. Fortunately, there are several online and cloud-based tools that can help you overcome the lack of such interactions and even help you manage your tasks more efficiently:
- Project management tools: Asana, Trello, Casual
- Video conferencing apps: Zoom, Slack, Google Meet
- CRM apps: Salesforce, Hubspot CRM, Zoho CRM
Use these apps not only to ensure a smooth and timely workflow but also for casual interactions that keep the morale high.
5. Practise self-care
When you’re working out of a workplace, it is easy to segregate professional life from personal life. You go to work at a fixed time, finish your tasks for the day and return to the comfort of your home at a particular hour.
These boundaries tend to blur when your home is also your office, but maintaining work-life balance is equally important and this is where your routine comes into play. It helps you avoid bringing work home, just as it allows you to stay focused on work and not get distracted by other issues while you’re at it. This balance is vital not just for your productivity at work but also for your physical and mental well-being.
Health and productivity are, in fact, inextricably linked. In order to bring your best self to work everyday, even if it’s at home, you must factor in time for exercising as well as any other therapeutic practise that rejuvenates your mind. This can be meditation, playing a musical instrument, cooking, painting, dancing or just reading a book. Most importantly, don’t forget to eat your meals on time and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
6. Be focused but take it easy
As important as it is to have a routine to help you focus better, make sure you enjoy the various perks of working from home. For instance, if you like taking afternoon naps, go for it (as long as you make sure you wake up in an hour or two and get back to work). Allow yourself that extended lunch break every once in a while. Get up, stretch, walk around, play with your pet or your kid. The key to making the most of the luxury of working from home is to balance professionalism with flexibility.
7. Stay connected with the world
Working from home significantly brings down your socialization, even making it negligible if you live by yourself. Don’t get so absorbed in your routine that you forget to interact with the outside world. While in the physical world, we’re bound to follow social distancing norms; you can still use video calls and group chats to stay connected. Social interactions can be a great source of inspiration, rejuvenation and motivation.
When done right, working from home can be life-changing. With proper planning and time management, you can ensure that you meet your work commitments in the best possible way while also earning free time to indulge in other pursuits or spend quality time with family and friends.