Though many people begin working from home specifically because they want to set their own schedule, it’s too easy to let this freedom get the best of you. There is nothing wrong with starting your workday at a different time or scheduling occasional daytime appointments, but you shouldn’t be so lax with your schedule that you are no longer able to get your work done or communicate with your coworkers in real time.
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If your workplace has been closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be adjusting to working from home for the first time. This transition can be challenging, but with the right habits you can be just as effective at home as you were in the office. If you are looking for ways to stay productive when working from home, these four steps will have you making the most of working from home in no time.
Develop a sustainable routine
Keeping a schedule is an important part of staying focused and on-task throughout the day. When you work from home it can be tempting to hit the snooze button one too many times or skip lunch, but losing track of your schedule will make it harder to get your work done on time. Whether you use a to-do list, a stopwatch, or a scheduling app to follow your agenda, here are three important aspects of establishing a good routine to help you stay productive throughout your day.
- Establish a morning routine. You can sleep in a little longer now that you don’t have to commute, but in order to stay productive you will need to start your day with something a little more energetic than dragging your laptop onto your chest checking your emails while still in bed. Begin your day with a run, some stretching,or a cup of coffee—whatever it takes to get you in the mood to work.
- Get dressed. While you may be tempted to work from your pyjamas now that you are free of the office’s dress code, they aren’t likely to put you in the mood to work hard. Dressing in work-appropriate clothes will help you feel more like you are at work rather than relaxing in your home.
- Schedule breaks. When you don’t have coworkers making fresh pots of coffee or donning jackets to leave for lunch, it can be easy to forget when it’s time to take a break. Even though your routine is no longer dictated by a regimented office routine, you shouldn’t let yourself develop bad work habits. Working for too long without a break will cause you to burn out and lose focus. Don’t work through lunch, and don’t eat sitting in front of your computer. It’s important to allow yourself to look away from the screen once in a while.
Create a productive workspace
Working from home gives you the opportunity to create a workspace that is more comfortable than your office, but don’t let yourself get carried away—you won’t be productive working from the couch. It is important to establish a workspace that allows you to be efficient and undistracted, without too many interruptions. To make sure you have the best possible home office, here are some simple tips for establishing an effective workspace.
- Find a distinct space for your office. You may not have a separate room to use as an office, but it is important to feel like you have your own space where you can work. Find a location where you won’t be distracted by your children playing video games in the living room or your spouse clanging pans in the kitchen. Lower-traffic areas of your home will be better suited for focus and hard work.
- Communicate with your housemates. Your household should know not to disturb you when you are working. Tell them your work hours so that they know not to bother you, and if they need to be reminded a simple do-not-disturb sign goes a long way.
- Block out distracting noise. Keeping the door shut and window closed may be all it takes to eliminate distractions, but if you don’t have a separate room to work in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to block out the outside world. If you prefer not to listen to music while you work, ear plugs will do the trick.
- Declutter your desk. If space is limited, you may be forced to work from a kitchen counter or a nightstand in your bachelor apartment, but don’t let your things get in the way of your work. Before you start work each morning be sure to remove any distracting items from your makeshift desk and create as tidy a workspace as possible. Whether you use Marie Kondo’s method or simply move your pile of clothes to a different chair, a clean workspace is integral.
- Find the right furniture. The hand-me-down wooden chair that you sit on to eat breakfast might feel a little less comfortable when you sit on it for 8 hours a day. Now that you’re working from home, a comfortable office chair is more than worth the investment.
Communicate with your team
When you aren’t in the same room as your coworkers, you can’t just catch their attention as they walk by your desk. If you need to have a conversation with a teammate, you have to make a real effort to reach out to them. For both your own workflow and for team cohesion, it is important that you develop strong communication skills when working remotely.
- Set shared goals. You are all at the same company, even if you are not in the same room, and you are working towards the same outcomes. Establish clear goals with your coworkers to ensure that you all have a shared sense of purpose.
- Let your coworkers know what you are up to. When you work remotely, you can’t be seen, so it is important to remind everyone that you are still a part of the team and hard at work. You don’t want to be forgotten. When you finish a task or project, let your teammates know. Whether it’s by email, video conference, or simply a post in the relevant Slack channel, keeping your coworkers up-to-date on your work will give everyone an opportunity to discuss the work that you do together and establish you as a part of the team.
- Speak up. If you are in a large group call, make sure your voice is heard. Even if it’s only to say hello and goodbye, you want your coworkers to remember that you were present and participating.
Beginning to work from home is a significant lifestyle change that will interrupt your old routine. You save time by not commuting, but you can no longer stop at the gym or the grocery store on the way home, and you are no longer spending any time face-to-face with your coworkers. It is important that you find ways to ensure you don’t go stir-crazy while stuck in your own house all day.
- Keep work and personal separate. When you sign off for the day, make sure to stay signed off. When you live and work in the same room, the division between work and play can become blurred and you might find yourself answering work emails when you should be sleeping. For your mental health, it is important to know when to work and when not to. Make sure you have set “work” hours and set “personal” hours, and make sure they don’t overlap.
- Go outside. One of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health is ensure that you engage in regular outdoor exercise. If you don’t have errands to run or plans for the evening, you no longer have a specific reason to leave your house. Make a point of heading outside and seeing the sun each day, even if it is just to go for a quick walk. A stroll around the neighbourhood right after you sign off is a great way to create a dividing line between your work day and your evening.
- Don’t forget to socialize. When you go from spending 40 or more hours of your week with your coworkers to 0, you will be spending much less time with human beings than you were before, particularly if you live alone. This may seem like a relief at first, but social isolation can wear you down. Make sure you are checking in with coworkers during the day whether it’s by messaging them about their weekend or inviting them to have lunch with you via video conference. An occasional social outlet will keep you from feeling too confined in your home.
Working from home presents unique challenges, but with the right habits you can be just as productive at home as you are in an office. With these tips you will be well on your way to a successful remote career, whether you are interviewing for a new gig or learning new skills that let you work from home.