How to be Productive While Working from Home

With the coronavirus pandemic, many countries are instituting voluntary or mandatory work from home policies in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. For most employees, this move presents a new way of doing business with challenges that most are not used to.  With the world navigating a sea of uncertainty, here are a few tips that will ensure productivity and success and help establish some semblance of normalcy to the work that we do best:

  1. Establish a Physical Space Designated for Work

It is important to continue to maintain a separation between work and home, even when working from home. This separation helps to maintain a high level of focus during work, ensure adequate downtime and avoid burnout.

A separate space does not always have to mean an entire room dedicated to a home office. If space does not permit, you can single out a distinct corner of your living room, kitchen or dining room for the purpose of work. Ensure that the furniture you use is comfortable enough to sit and use for eight hours a day; good natural lighting if possible is important as well since you will be spending less time outdoors than usual.

A distinct space helps signal the start and end of your workday, as you enter and leave the space. If you tend to use other spaces for work, your couch or bed, for instance, you can start to blur the lines between work and downtime, leaving you feeling like you’re always in work mode.


  1. Define your Work Hours

As with physical space, defining your hours of work helps to separate work and time for family, hobbies, rest and relaxation. If you’re collaborating with coworkers and customers, it is best if you keep to your business’ normal working hours, so they are able to contact you and conduct business as usual.

A key characteristic of working from home is the reliance on keeping yourself accountable. This means that you put your best effort during work hours and resist the urge to spread your work through the evening. Time to rest and recharge is just as important and vital to start the next workday with a fresh focus.

Other family members and children are also at home, and so communicating your boundaries in terms of time and space is crucial to ensure productivity. It is equally vital to disconnect and give your family your full attention and be more present outside of workhours.


  1. Dress for Work

It is tempting to work in the comfort of your pajamas but taking the time to get dressed signals a shift in mindset toward a productive day. Video conferencing with colleagues will most likely be part of your workday and it would be embarrassing to be caught looking less than professional. It may not be necessary to dress as formally as you would have at work, but the power of dressing appropriately reinforces everyday routines and cannot be underestimated.


  1. Minimise Distractions

One of the major challenges you will have to face at this time is distraction, particularly since family members and children are also working from home. It is natural to get distracted when all the things and people you love are close by.

Taking a few breaks as you would normally do at the office is fine to do at home too. Use a timer to be mindful not to make your breaks extensive or take on activities during the day that require extended attention. A decisive break to prepare a quick snack, for example, gives you the mental space to reinvigorate your focus once you get back to work.

Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. Checking in on COVID-19 updates is going to be at the forefront of your mind. It’s good to stay informed, but you want to limit your exposure to information that can drum up anxiety, by turning off your mobile notifications during the day.


  1. Establish Regular Communication

If you don’t usually work from home, chances are there will be some bumps in the road. The key to steering through these bumps is communication, especially with your manager and coworkers. Devise a plan that lays out expectations for how often you should check-in and how you’ll convey any changes or new assignments to one another. Do the same with anyone you usually work collaboratively with throughout the day. Adjust this plan as you go to incorporate any changes or lessons learned and don’t hesitate to reach out to the same people you usually turn to for help, even though you’re not in the same building.

Don’t solely rely on email to reach out to coworkers. A video chat or phone call can yield quicker results with less miscommunication while restoring the social connection and interaction that you’re used to around the office.

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