“I work from home but I’m not very productive.
“What are my main issues as I work from home?”
“How can I address these issues and be more productive?”
Create a routine
Set ground rules – for yourself and for others
Ask for help
The Coronavirus crisis has millions of people all over the world working from home. This new way of working offers many advantages. One is the convenience of working from a familiar, comfortable environment. Another is the huge amount of time you can save. This is a big advantage for office workers who otherwise commute a long way to and from work every day.
Nonetheless, for those who are new to working remotely, the model can be somewhat challenging. A lot of people struggle to balance their professional and personal responsibilities when the locations of both work and play are the same. “I don’t feel like working. I’d rather snuggle up with my dog!”
Some find it difficult to stick to a work schedule due to the added flexibility that is now freely available. “I have to cook, clean, work, watch the kids, watch the maid….”
Still, others complain that they get easily distracted and are unable to focus on work during ‘work hours. “I can’t concentrate. The TV is taunting me!”
So how can you make your work from home experience more productive and happy?
Tip#1: Create a routine
Most people who complain about working from home do so because they don’t follow a set routine. Why is a routine important? For many reasons:
To help us feel more in control of our day
To make room for all that’s important and to prioritize
To reduce our stress levels and aid our mental health
To help us form healthy habits
Finally – and this will sound counter-intuitive, but is no less true – to help us cope with change.
So how can you create a morning routine? Start with something small – make up your bed, brush your teeth, drink a cup of coffee or tea. Take a shower and boot up your computer. But before you dive into work, make your to-do list and review your priorities for the day. Try to do all these things at a fixed time every day. Maintain regular hours. Here’s a routine you can try for your work from home workday:
7 AM: wake up and make the bed
7:05 AM: brush teeth
7:15 AM: drink coffee
8 AM: Start work
10 AM: Short tea break
10:15 AM: Restart work
1:30 PM: Lunch break
2:15 PM: Restart work
3:30 PM: Tea break
3:45 PM: Restart work
6 PM: End of day
A routine can be more powerful than a clock at helping you get started each day. It can also help you wind up each day with a sense of achievement and productivity.
It’s also a good idea to take some time at the end of each day to review what you did right, and where you can improve. Use this information to improve your routine and your productivity.
Some more tips:
Create your own guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day
If possible, create a dedicated office space
Figure out what times of day you’re most productive versus when you tend to sag. Reserve your hours of high focus for your most important tasks
Use automatic time-tracking apps to check whether you’re sticking to your schedule
Take breaks in their entirety. Don’t short-change yourself
Tip#2: Set ground rules – for yourself and for others
One of the benefits of remote work is flexibility which allows you to need to extend your day or start early as and when required. But it’s important to not misuse this flexibility. Let routine changes be exceptions rather than rules. If you do work late, sleep in a bit the next morning. If you start early, wrap up earlier than usual to make up.
Give yourself regular breaks during your workday. Stay hydrated with enough water. Eat well and exercise regularly.
Apart from these ground rules for yourself, you should also set down some rules for others. This will help you control the amount of time others take – or selfishly grab – from you. Start by blocking time on your calendar for productive tasks. Don’t schedule any meetings or conference calls during this time. If you’re really busy and someone calls, messages or emails you during that time, politely say that you will get back to them when you have some free time. Unless that person needs your help urgently, there’s no reason why you should allow your schedule to be skewed because of someone else’s priorities.
You should also have rules for the people sharing your home. If you have children, be clear about what they can and cannot do when you’re working. Let other family members, neighbors, or friends know that your work hours are for just that – work. Clearly state that you don’t have the free time to watch their children or pets, oversee their home repairs or collect their Amazon packages.
Tip#3: Ask for help
Most people hesitate to ask for help. This is especially true for women who work from home full time and have a bunch of personal/familial responsibilities and think that they should be superwomen. Don’t fall into this trap. If you try to do everything yourself, you will end up raising your stress and lowering your productivity. You will be stretched so thin that you will start to resent the whole world and come to hate your job. And hating your job is not the way to be productive at it.
Ask your firm what kind of support they can provide. Flexible hours, VPN access, an office mobile – all these can be helpful. If you’re stuck on a particular task, request a colleague for help. If you’re unfamiliar with a piece of technology, contact IT. Don’t waste hours researching “How to access AWS” on Google!
If you have young or school-going children, ask a family member if they can help you watch over them. If possible – and if it’s safe – hire a cleaner and/or cook – so you don’t have to shoulder all home-related responsibilities alone.
At the same time:
Don’t be afraid of change. Be flexible wherever possible
Stay in touch with your colleagues and managers through video calls
Don’t be too yourself. Take time off. It’s not a crime to say “I’m sick. I can’t work today.”
Maintain an active personal life. Talk to friends, read, bake, listen to music – do anything that helps you unwind and be happy