The recent COVID-19 outbreak has forced many companies and governmental institutions to ask their employees to work from home. At first, that might sound like a brilliant idea, but most people are not used to working away from their offices. There are a lot of distractions at home and it might not be easy to switch into work mode when there are no co-workers or management around. This article will provide you with tips on how to stay productive and organize a comfortable home office.
First of all, you should think about how best to organize your daily routine. At home, your family is around, you have access to the TV, and your gaming PC or console is waiting to be switched on. How do you fight these distractions and remain productive?
Organize your space
It may sound tempting to work right from the bed or couch but, in fact, it won’t be productive and, over time, might lead to frustration. If you work from a place where you typically rest, it will be transformed into a gray area in your mind over time. You will neither find rest there, nor be focused on your work. So, find a place, a desk and a comfortable chair where you can dedicate yourself to your work. Equip your space accordingly and don’t let the distractions, your favorite podcast or a new series (to name just a few examples) sneak in.
Create a workflow and working hours
Just as you have a distinctive workflow in your office with your typical processes, tasks and working hours, you should create one at home. Allocate time for working, for preparing food and eating, and relaxing. Also, try to stick to your typical working hours. Many people who start to work remotely actually work more and at later hours, which is stressful and will lead to loss of productivity over time.
Keep in touch with your team
Constant communication is a great way to deal with hurdles at work. Many issues are solved by a brief discussion with the right person at the right time. Also, if you are engaged in a troublesome piece of work, it is a good idea to stay connected with your management, to be sure that you are on the right track. So, organize and participate in online meetings and conferences to discuss your daily tasks.
Water cooler talks are important
When you feel stressed in the office, you typically take a five-minute break to discuss this and that with your colleagues and make a couple of jokes. So, create a “water cooler chat” in whatever app you use, so as to have the chance to share a recent meme or discuss the latest news. This will help you to switch focus from work and give your mind a rest.
Create a checklist
A checklist with daily tasks will help you to keep an eye on urgent issues and things that you started previously and have not yet finished. Create priorities for your work items and share it with your colleagues and management.
Your colleagues are also working from home
Chances are that your teammates and management are also working from home and have completely different routines and rhythms. Don’t swamp them with messages and calls if they don’t answer immediately. Plan your discussions and conference calls beforehand – just as you do in the office.
How not to get distracted
Now you have organized your ideal home office, but the next season of [name-your-favorite-series] is out and you haven’t finished watching the last season and, by the way, you’ve always wanted to start to paint and now is the time!
No, it isn’t. Here are some tips on how to stay focused while you are working from home.
Talk to your family and friends
Your family members and friends should understand that you are, in fact, working. Ask them not to distract you during working hours. However, since you are now more flexible than in the office, you can still spend more time with your nearest and dearest. Just schedule time when it’s convenient for you to switch from working.
Leave “fun” aside
It might sound cruel, but hiding the distractions -- your console or a great book that you haven’t finished -- is a good practice to keep focused on the work. You may have a strong will, but it will be even stronger if there is nothing testing it. This also applies to notifications from social networks. It’s easy to spend hours just surfing the latest updates on Twitter, Reddit or Facebook, so just turn them off while working.
Music might help
A nice bit of ambient music in the background may help you to stay focused on your tasks.
Your health is the main thing to keep an eye on while you are working from home. While you are at the office, you typically move to meet colleagues or to go for lunch, and you have the option just to take a five-minute walk outside of the office. Now, when you are at home, you don’t have such flexibility. Here’s how you might make things better for yourself.
Have a quick stretch and perform a couple of basic physical exercises once in a while. Long physical inactivity, also called hypodynamia, can have consequences like headaches and back pain. Create a reminder to stretch yourself once every couple of hours.
Hydrate and balance your diet
Dehydration will leave you exhausted and leads to loss of productivity so be sure to have something to drink at regular intervals. Also, don’t make the mistake of ordering a fast-food delivery or just cobbling lunch together from what’s left in the fridge. A couple of weeks of such a diet will have a strong negative impact on your health.
You need proper light and fresh air
Bad lighting and lack of fresh air are two well-known sources of headaches. Spend a while every so often aerating your home, and make sure your workplace is well lit. However, even if you ventilate your house or apartment well, that’s not enough. Spend some 30-60 minutes having a walk outside to relax your mind.
Your daily routine is important
Don’t lose your daily rituals, like a morning and evening stretch, a cup of fresh coffee or half an hour of Internet surfing in the morning and the evening.
Here are a couple of good applications that might help you organize your home office:
- Toggl – an application to track the time you spend on tasks. It will also allow you to get reports to overview how efficient you are.
- Trello , Asana – easy-to-use and free (up to a certain point) task managers. Good for cooperation with colleagues.
- 24me, Google Calendar - calendars will help you to schedule meetings and discussions with team members. Also, if you share your working calendar with your team, they will know when you have free time for yet another discussion.
- Zoom, Google Hangouts – since you are not in the office and cannot gather to have a meeting, you need conference apps.
- Freedom allows you to block distracting Web pages and apps.
Your first days of working from home will most probably feel weird if you are not used to the concept of the home office. You will get distracted a lot and the days will feel scrambled. However, if you plan your habits and workflow, organize your workspace well and think about your well-being, you’ll find that you need to lose neither your productivity nor your sanity.