In 2020, many of us have found ourselves suddenly working from home. While this might be a dream come true for some, others miss the office and face new challenges trying to get their work done.
Although you’re saving time not commuting to the office, working from home doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting more done. In fact, it can make it harder to be productive. And with fewer opportunities to socialize in person, you might even notice a feeling of loneliness creeping in.
In this challenging time, we can all benefit from some support to navigate this unknown territory.
Here are our five suggestions to help you be productive and stay positive while working at home.
We’ve all probably done this at some point: In the morning, we start checking our emails in bed, then we move with our laptop to the kitchen table, and finally, we end up on the couch. This game of musical chairs provides some variety but doesn’t necessarily promote deep concentration. You’ll likely find yourself distracted by the things around you, such as the dirty dishes in the sink or the book you were reading the night before.
Our advice is: Find one spot at home that you can dedicate to work. Obviously not every home offers an entire room for an office, but a separate area already helps. You can isolate your office space using plants or room dividers. Having a dedicated space also makes it easier to separate work and family life. Once your workday is over, you can leave your “office” and enjoy your free time, which ties into our next suggestion.
When working from home, the border between your job and family life tends to vanish. One reason is that your usual commute to the office doesn’t operate as a buffer anymore. It becomes all too common to keep glancing at the open laptop placed on the couch table when you actually want to play a board game with your kids. We often underestimate how simple daily routines like changing into our work clothes influence our head space and help us transition into the different roles we play.
Our suggestion is to re-establish these boundaries between work and family life. One way to do that is to start each day like you were going to the office. Take a shower, have a proper breakfast, and wear something that wouldn’t cause you to panic if a spontaneous video call were to happen. This morning routine will get you in the right mindset to tackle your priorities for the day. Once you start working, you should also have a clear plan for when to stop.
Establishing routines is even more important when you have kids at home. They benefit most from a structured day with dedicated times for quiet play, watching TV, and meals. As a result, your little ones will be less inclined to interrupt you in a conference call when they know that they’ll have your undivided attention during playtime.
Taking regular breaks isn’t a new concept, and you’ve hopefully been doing it already in the office. The difference at home is that your favourite coworker doesn’t stop by your desk to take you for a coffee. It’s much easier to forget that you should look up from your laptop once in a while.
What you can do is set a timer on your phone for one hour. After working in a concentrated state for so long, you should take at least a five to ten-minute break. But, don’t keep sitting and get sucked into browsing the internet. Stand up from your desk, walk around, and get some fresh air.
Extra tip: To avoid the afternoon slump right after lunch, take a 20-min power nap on your couch to gather new energy for the rest of the day. Make sure to set your alarm, so you don’t drift off into a deep sleep, though.
When working from home for an extended period, many office dwellers start to miss the informal water cooler chats and coffee breaks with their coworkers. The isolation at home and lack of personal interactions can make you feel lonely, and that can even hurt your performance.
The good news is that video calls not only work for project updates and weekly meetings. You can actively schedule time in your calendar just to catch up and talk non-work topics. Why not take it one step further and organize a pizza lunch for the whole team? Everyone orders pizza to their home and eats together in a video conference.
Staying productive at home is harder for some than for others. You might have to take care of your kids or manage other personal responsibilities, which can impact your availability. As your boss and coworkers can’t easily see what you’re up to, they might start to make their own assumptions.
To not let any resentment creep in, it’s crucial to manage everyone’s expectations right from the start. Communicate openly when you’ll be available for meetings or chats. With the uncertainty about your whereabouts removed, your team will be more at ease.