The most significant change that COVID-19 has brought to our lives is probably related to our professional lives - work from home. As countries across the world went under lockdown, and people everywhere started practicing social distancing, work from home soon became the order of the day. It is now apparent that a lot of jobs can be easily done remotely with just a computer/laptop and an Internet connection.
However, work from home is still a significant change for those of us used to working in a physical office space. Working from home has its challenges and can hamper productivity if not managed properly. After all, home is a space we're used to associating with family and leisure time. Also, our house is a shared space where there may be distractions caused by chores or other family members. Let's take a look at how you can maximize your productivity while working from home in this new climate.
1. Maintain regular working hours
You want to keep a certain amount of consistency when working from home. Don't let your working hours become too flexible or filled with too many breaks. That will make it difficult to get any work done on time. Instead, keep in mind the hours that your supervisor requires you to be available, the hours that your colleagues are available for communication, and, most importantly, the hours in the day that you are most productive. Based on these 3 factors, set a fixed schedule for yourself and stick to it.
2. Personal time should be separate from work time
Just as you should be diligent about working during your working hours, it is essential to be equally sincere about your leisure hours. Otherwise, you can get carried away with work and risk burning yourself out. When working in a physical office, your brain understands it is okay to switch off from work mode once you're outside the office. At home, that separation needs to be enforced a little more explicitly. Promise yourself time off from work, and use that time to unwind and relax.
3. Create a dedicated workspace
Working from home is best when you can allot a specific place in any part of the house for office work. Whether it is a home office, or the guest room where you can sit with your files and laptop, or just a desk set up in a quiet corner of the house, use it to create an office environment. If possible, try to work somewhere that is not your bedroom to avoid lethargy. The act of going to your chosen workspace can set you in the right frame of mind and help you get started on work more efficiently.
4. Dress up for office
For many of us, work from home might just mean no pants. Tempting as that sounds, it also makes it difficult for your brain to switch into the working mode in the morning. Even if nobody is going to be seeing you, dressing up can help you mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead and keep you motivated.
5. Plan your workday
The biggest productivity hack out there has to be planning in advance. Set your priorities straight even before you get started on your work. Plan out the day according to what needs to be done urgently and how much time you think you can allow yourself for each task. If possible, try writing down your workflow the night before, so you wake up prepared. Make sure to include time for breaks to prevent boredom or fatigue. Start with the most urgent tasks first and make sure to tackle anything challenging during the hours you feel most energetic.
6. Manage communication
Working from home can feel isolating and lead to low spirits and demotivation. Regular human interaction is necessary to tell your brain that you are not in this alone. Set up regular touch-base meetings online with your boss and co-workers. Use communication tools like Zoom and Skype to bring each other up to speed on your targets and deadlines. While you may have seen office meetings as dreary in the past, virtual meetings today can be an excellent way to reconnect with your colleagues and catch a break from work as well.
7. Set boundaries
If you share your home with family or roommates, it is necessary to establish and maintain certain limits when it comes to working from home efficiently. If there are kids or pets around who may barge in on you while you're on a call, consider using a room with a door to distance yourself from the distractions. Request your family to treat your workspace like an office so that they think you unavailable when you are in that space.
8. Take some breaks
Continuously working can actually harm your productivity in the long run. After some non-stop work hours, you will find yourself bored, tired, or with a headache. Just because you are working from home does not mean you are not allowed to take breaks. Set aside time after you complete each task to step away from the computer screen. Go for a walk, make yourself a coffee, or spend time with the family. A short break can work wonders for rejuvenating your mind, so you return to work all charged up.
9. Organize your workspace
Let's face it when working from home, you are sure to be spending a lot of time at your workspace. For a sure shot boost of productivity, it is most helpful to keep things organized around here. If using a desk, make sure it is large enough to accommodate all that you need for work. Things like water, your laptop, other files should all be within easy reach. You can even personalize this space just like you would your office cubicle. Keep things neat and tidy, and don't forget, there's no janitor to clean up after you!
10. Time management
Deadlines can pile up surprisingly quickly when working from home. If you want to keep hitting your targets consistently, you must manage your time correctly. Create a to-do list and use it to organize your tasks. Minor tasks that don't take too long can be dealt with in between major projects, as a sort of break to give your mind a breather. Apps like Toggle and Trello can help you track your workflow and act as an activity log that tells you how much time you spend on each task. Knowing that will help you plan the next day better.
Working from home is relaxing and enjoyable, but it comes with many distractions and a strict demand on your part to stay disciplined. Use the tips mentioned above to make the most of your time without losing out on productivity. With a little bit of balance, you will soon find that you can stay peaceful while keeping both the boss and your family happy. And remember, practice makes perfect!