Updated: Oct 14, 2020
The Pandemic has thrown us all into a routine which many are calling ‘ the new normal’. In these unprecedented times, the way we work and live our lives has undergone a dramatic shift. Companies like Twitter have announced that their employees will be allowed to work from home as confirmed by chief executive officer Jack Dorsey, in a company-wide email. More organizations are expected to follow the same trend.
Working at home, like all other things, has its ups and downs. Sure, working from the comfort of your home, in your PJs sounds like a dream come true but in reality, it can be harder to stay focused and productive while working remotely.
In the whirlwind that COVID-19 has thrown us into, one can feel a bit like a rudderless ship; not knowing what to do and where to go. For those of us who are new to it, working remotely can be a serious adjustment. It is not uncommon to feel unmotivated and overwhelmed.
But necessity truly is the mother of invention. And humans cannot get success until they are not resilient. So, to help you with your ‘working from home’ journey.
We have compiled a list of strategies that will help you in making the best use of your time at home.
1. Designate a workspace
Specific workspaces make it easier to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Research has also found that it is easier to focus and get into work mode if you have a designated workspace in your home which in turn, increases productivity.
A desk of your liking set up in any corner of the house can be sufficient, make sure to use it consistently. If you have kids in the house build an association with the area so that they know not to disturb anyone who is sitting there.
If you can’t designate a separate room, a corner of the dining table or a work table set up in your bedroom works fine. The table acts as a threshold. As if it is a boundary separating your work and your home life.
You can even personalize your workspace by adding a lamp, your favorite office supplies, perhaps even a plant. Make sure the environment is comfortable and conducive to productivity. You can also add fun things like scented candles if you prefer.
We would advise you to not set up your workspace in places you usually use for relaxation. The reason for this is, your mind has already created an association with the location. For example, ever wondered why you feel sleepy, as soon as you get into your bed? This is because your brain gets the signal to start powering down as it has made an association between your bed and sleep. So even though cozying up in your comforter with a cup of coffee and your laptop, sounds great but it won't lead you to be very productive.
2. Get dressed
Another way to ensure you can focus on your work is to make sure you are in the right headspace. To do this, it helps if you continue about your day exactly the way you would pre-pandemic. Any morning routines you used to take part in before leaving for work are encouraged even if you are working from home.
An important part of this is getting dressed for work. Of course, we’re not saying you should show up to your designated workspace in a full business suit. Just making the effort to wear fresh, clean clothes and brushing your teeth can make a world of difference in your productivity. Showing up to work in your PJs and with a bedhead sounds tempting but will end up hurting you in the long run. As well as blurring the difference between home and work life.
If your mind is unable to register the difference between home and work, it can lead to your work anxieties transferring to your home life and risks overwhelming feelings of burnout.
3. Stick to a schedule
Since you are working from home you might be tempted to be a little lax when it comes to time management. This is why, for optimal productivity, it is important to stick to a tight schedule. You might need to schedule more diligently then you did when working in an office to avoid the specific distractions a home may produce.
Start by waking up at the same time every day and going about your lives during the week as you would in a non-pandemic situation.
According to research conducted by Morgan in 2004 time planning and accountability, especially for families with kids is a huge advantage of working from home. So why not make the best use of it?
Writing down schedules and making to-do lists has been proven to reduce anxiety. If you are not a fan of using a traditional pen and paper, you can use the planner on your phone or your laptop. Thanks to the leaps in technology, there is a multitude of customizable planners you can use.
If you have kids, who are also stuck at home because of the pandemic, it is a good idea to get them on the same schedule as you. Of course, as children, their schedule can be more relaxed than yours but the general rule is to make sure your schedule is parallel to each other. You can work while the kids do their homework or take part in remote learning, take a break when they take a break. This way you ensure accountability.
It's important to spend quality time with your children or your partner. Having parallel schedules ensures that you can get your work done without compromising on quality family time.
A good way to make sure you don’t fall off the wagon is by making sure to remain consistent. Your body thrives off of routines and rhythms; by being consistent you are training your body to recognize a pattern. If you deviate from that pattern, Your body will let you know.
Working from home can be isolating. In fact, according to Wilson and Greenhill; Lack of communication with your colleagues has been specified as one of the main disadvantages of working from home.
Even in today’s hyper-connected world, it is easy for details to fall through the cracks. Communication while working remotely is more important than ever. Since you are not in the office, the absence of visual clues can be a serious hindrance.
Work from home can feel a little socially isolating, and lead to a divide between you and your colleagues especially if you work in a team. Try to make sure you know what is expected of you, as well as communicating what you are expecting. You must refrain from making assumptions and keep your team updated on everything.
Colleagues will be more understanding if you let them know about any obstacles you might face in advance, especially if you are working in a home that has kids. Even the most immaculately planned schedules can fall through because of the unpredictability of having children, and that is ok. Let them know in advance, draw attention to it from the very beginning. Chances are they are also in the same boat.
The good news is there is a plethora of software at your beck and call, from emails to video calls. If you are working on a joint project, there are ways you can screen share so that everyone is aware of the work progress.
5. Take breaks
When you’re working from home it is easy to lose track of time. You look out the window and all of a sudden the sun is going down and you’ve sat at your desk for longer than you care to admit.
In a traditional office, it is easier to take breaks. People walking by can stop by your desk for a quick chat, or maybe you walk to their desk to catch up for a few minutes. You usually take a lunch break, during which you can take a step back from their work and socialize. However, there is none of that when you are working from home. It can feel overwhelming because while you may think that you are being incredibly productive and getting a ton of work done, in reality, you may be asking too much of your body and could be well on your way to burnout.
Burnout is a state of physical, psychological, and, emotional exhaustion due to prolonged stress. Along with causing people to feel exhausted and overwhelmed it can also make them feel, alienated from work or related activities along with reducing their performance.
To avoid that from happening you must schedule in some breaks into your day. You can use these breaks in whichever way you prefer. Varying from yoga to more strenuous outdoor activity or maybe even taking a little nap. What's important to remember is that you utilize this break time away from any screens.
While it is vital to use some of these breaks to connect with your family. It is equally important to have some alone time, which is why you should make sure to take a few hours to yourself and engage in a relaxing activity.
Parents who work while taking care of children often feel as if they are always on. This not only proves overwhelming for the parent but also takes a heavy toll on everyone involved. This is why it is important to communicate with your partner about needing some “me” time and making sure both of you can have some time off.
If you work on a laptop as most of us do, you are probably familiar with the back pain that comes with it along with the strain it puts on the eye. Which is why spending your break hunched over a screen, might seem a bit counterproductive.
6. Stop working at the end of the day
According to Hill and Martinson, in research conducted in 2008, it was discovered that people who work from home usually work longer hours than those who work in an office. The reason this happens is that when you are at home there is no physical cue that signifies the end of the day.
Usually, in an office, you might see your colleagues leaving, bidding you goodbye, maybe the lights start turning off. All of which signifies that it's time to go home. So, you leave your work-related stress at the office and make your way home to rest up for the next day.
But this does not happen in a work from home setting. It becomes easier to lose track of time and once you are riding on a wave of productivity, you keep thinking to yourself, “ just this one last task” but we all know there is no such thing as the last task. There is always more work to be done.
Which is why it is essential to set boundaries and stop working at the end of the day. It can be helpful to have a set time, after which you cease all work-related activity and leave your home office for the night. We need consistency in our routines otherwise, we are going to spend way too long trying to figure out what to do each day and how to do it.
This way you can ensure that your work doesn’t overshadow things you need to get done outside that sphere. We already know that well-rested and satisfied employees work better so by continuing to have a life outside of work you are investing in your quality of work.
Time changes and we have to adapt ourselves to the changing world. Following these tips will help you actively and efficiently work from home.