Remote working is in. Most of the world's working population works from home these days. But the pros and cons of working from home haven't really changed, other than the fact that you can add "social distancing" to its list of pros. Most corporates are deploying work from home solutions to protect and safeguard their workforce from the pandemic. But that doesn't discount the fact that the list of cons of working from home is quite long.
Distractions of all shapes, sizes and kinds are available while working from home. And there's that whole matter of getting into your work-mode, both physically and mentally. It's difficult not to change tabs on your Internet browser to check the latest news, help your kid with her online class, or grab a quick bite from the kitchen only to get engaged in a heated discussion with your spouse about the probability of a COVID-19 vaccine getting launched soon enough!
Working from home productively is not an impossible task. It takes discipline, persistence, perseverance, and pure patience to stick to a productive work schedule while working from home. And yes, the ability and willingness to say No! also works wonders in sticking to your schedule.
Start by understanding your usual routine first to set up an effective work schedule. Then you can set up some definite rules of working from home and keep following those!
Answer the following questions to get started:
- When are you productive? When do you like to work? Mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights, or late nights?
- Looking back in the past few weeks, what chores are you supposed to do at home, other than your work? What about your social commitments online?
- Do you have an assigned workspace area in your home to set up shop? What about your family members? Will they leave you alone to work in peace, or do you have kids (or other members of the family) who might find it fun to annoy you?
- How much time are you spending on your smartphone on "other" activities?
- How often do "emergencies" happen in your line of work?
Once you have the answers to the above, you can follow the following 5 tips on how to make work from home work!
1. Choose the Right Time to Work
I am not a morning person. Never have been. And lockdown has only made it worse. I can't get up early in the morning and get down to work. If I do, I will just waste my time away thinking of what to do instead of doing anything at all. Or I will keep thinking about what else I could be doing, other than sitting at my desk. I understand my capabilities, so I choose to start work from mid-mornings well into evenings.
Also, usually my productivity kicks in around an hour or so later after I start working at my desk. To combat that lag, I now make my to-do list of the day the previous day, so I can get into the thick of things right from the get-go.
Working from home this way works for me, and it can work for you too once you understand when you should be working.
If you aren't too sure when exactly to start working, or you need to follow corporate policies on when to start work, you can try this - get ready to work, just like you would have gotten ready if you had to go to your actual office. And instead of getting into your car to get to the office, just walk over to your workspace to start your workday.
Put on a suit and tie. Do your usual makeup. By getting ready for office, you are preparing your psyche to start working. You are signalling your brain that your work hours are about to start, and that will help you work better, rather than working in your pyjamas.
2. Plan Your Daily Schedule
When you are working from home, you are essentially at home. Which means you can't just ignore everything going on at home and straightaway start your work. You have your own set of chores to do in the house, before you can settle in at your workspace.
You must plan your day with your work tasks and chores in mind. And don't forget about family time and social commitments. Otherwise that twinge of guilt that you are in work-mode 24/7 will always accompany you while you work, distracting you, messing with your head and affecting your productivity.
Dedicating specific work hours, with 10-minute breaks sprinkled across the day, in your daily schedule can also do wonders to your productivity levels. Plus, it gives you that opportunity to wrap up your work and relax at the end of each day.
Make sure to include physical activity into your schedule too. Maybe you can do some yoga stretches or take a quick walk around the block under the sun with your face mask on.
And keep yourself hydrated - drink water every hour or so. Too much caffeine in your system can't be good, so yay for water and nay for coffee.
3. Dedicated Workspace
Your modern home office can be an entire room, or just a corner table in your house. It doesn't matter where you are working, if you have customised that space to your liking and comfort.
Make that space comfortable for you to work in. You will be sitting there for long hours of the day, even if you are taking breaks in between. So, choose a space that you would like to work in. Get the gadgets and gizmos you want around you while you work. Maybe some noise-cancelling headphones? And a good chair to support your back.
Choose the right accessories to complement your workspace. If you have the privilege of using a door, you can keep your family members out for certain hours of the day. However, if you have babies in your house, that won't make much of a difference. So, sync your breaks with the usual timings they pop by. You can get the refreshment you want, while they can get a kick out of being with you while you've been working. Win-win.
4. Limit Your Screen Time
Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ - these are names of the technological distractions in your life. Combine these with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tik Tok, and you wouldn't be able to tear yourself away from your smartphone. And the more time you spend on your smartphone, the less time you spend at work, plunging your productivity levels at an alarming rate.
So it's best to limit your screen time on all your devices. Work on your laptop and keep your devices away from you. Turn off app notifications, and focus on your work. Just remember to communicate it clearly to your team members where you can be found. And you should be able to work in peace. Mostly.
And once your work hours are over, go wild. Binge watch, play, you are free in your free hours. Use it wisely.
5. Master the Art of Saying No!
When working from home, you must learn to say No! to impromptu meetings, social calls, and interruptions from those around you. Be ready to decline meeting invites which can be resolved with messages or phone calls. Evaluate work “emergencies” realistically before saying Yes! Don't schedule more than a couple of video calls, or you will be risking Zoom fatigue.
Share your working hours with your friends and family. If they insist on calling during those times, tell them why you need to avoid distractions like calls or messages while working from home. And if they still don't get it, be firm and interact with them in your free hours.
And if you are self-employed like me and need to address impromptu calls from new leads, you can schedule those before you start your work for that day. That way you can deal with the outcome of such calls into your workday. You can tweak your work schedule for that day and be productive even with sudden changes to your list of tasks. Usually works for me.
Working efficiently from home is not an impossible feat. The above 5 tips on how to make work from home work will set you up for success while working remotely. Just remember to answer those 5 questions honestly and realistically before using any of these tips. You will get a lot of clarity on what you need to do once you have your answers.
Get as much help as possible from those who live with you to make this remote working work for you. As you use the above tips, you will face challenges of course, but as long as you stick to your plan, you should do fine.