Due to COVID-19, many businesses worldwide are encouraging employees to work from home in order to contain the outbreak and reduce the chance of community cases. If you are somebody that is used to the office/commuting lifestyle, or you struggle to find motivation at home it can be tough- especially when as at the time of writing it looks like this could be a changing happening for an extended period. So, just how do you maintain productivity, set a routine and keep your mental health at bay when working from home?
Read on for our work from home tips to help you through COVID-19 and beyond:
1) First things first: set boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘home’
This might seem tricky to do when your new office becomes your living room! Yet just because you work from home and are working in the same place you are living, doesn’t mean you can’t establish some simple rules to keep both aspects of your life separate. That means not working on your laptop in bed! Try and have a designated work area set up. If you have an at-home office, great, but if not set one up in a space at home which encourages you to work as you normally would.
2) Have a morning routine
Research has proven that many of us are most productive in the morning, so rather than succumb to the temptation to lay in bed until midday, set your alarm to get up at your usual time. You can use the additional time you would have spent commuting to get a morning workout in, or prepare a proper breakfast- things you usually struggle to fit in. But being ready to sit down and begin working at your usual start time (normally 9/9.30am) encourages your brain to keep active throughout the day and helps you prepare your workload for the day ahead.
3) Choose appropriate workwear
Whilst nobody is expecting you to suit up for a commute to the kitchen, working at home wearing your pj’s does nothing for motivation or productivity purposes! Undoubtedly one of the perks of working from home is being able to wear more comfortable, practice clothes, yet it is still important to have a ‘work’ wardrobe that is distinguishable from your sleepwear/ loungewear etc. This is especially important when on any team/business video calls. You may be at home, but you are still a professional!
4) Limit distractions
Distractions can occur in all workplaces but are even more likely to happen at home, which is why it’s so essential to have a dedicated workspace set up. Sitting on your laptop in front of the TV isn’t going to see you achieve your best work, neither is visiting the kitchen fridge for a snack every 10 minutes! Instead, learn to proactively manage these distractions by having set break times or working in a quiet setting if obtainable.
5) Come up with a working system with family or those you are isolating with
If you have your own space it might be easier to create a working from home routine, but for those who have partners or families at home with them, it can be more challenging to separate work/home life. If your partner is also working from home discuss with them how you can both be at your most productive by having separate workstations. When families are involved it’s even more tricky, but tips such as utilizing nap/sleep times to sneak in work whilst children are sleeping or using break times to play with the kids may allow you time to concentrate on your workload when you need it the most.
6) Be realistic about what you can achieve
This isn’t the same as working in an office, so whilst having more hours in the day may seem like you have tons of extra hours, don’t be over-ambitious about what you can achieve in a day. It is totally normal to need an adjustment period or have days when motivating yourself is harder. On the other end of the scale, productive days might leave you tempted to not take breaks or stay at your workstation which isn’t good for your mental health. Accept that it’s a transition and be honest and transparent with the people you work with- if you need support or have any questions or concerns just ask.
7) Get moving!
You might not be able to get to that lunchtime pilates class right now, but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to sit around all day! Use your breaks to get up and walk around- even if it’s to just to put a wash on. Fitness trackers can help in this way to make sure you aren’t remaining stationary for too long. Equally, schedule in time for a workout. Due to COVID-19 many fitness platforms are offering free Facebook or Instagram live workouts that can be completed in as little as 10 minutes with no gym equipment required (you may just need to swap hand weights for tins!) Most governments are still allowing daily outdoor exercise time (in line with social distancing) so it’s important to utilize this fresh air, even if you just go for a walk around the block.
8) Stay sociable
Used to chatting with your clients on a daily basis? Missing your daily coffee catch up? Well, thanks to modern-day technology self-isolating and remote working don’t mean we have to be antisocial- if anything we are connected in more ways than we were before! So take advantage of this technology. Call or video call colleagues rather than send them an email, set up a once a week team chat via Zoom or Skype and utilize other technology (mentioned below) to keep everyone in the loop. You should also check in with clients you haven’t spoken to in a while to check they are ok.
9) Work in bursts
A normal working day can be broken up with several different tasks: team meetings, lunch breaks, training courses, or break room chats. When these ‘breaks’ are taken away it can be tricky to avoid working through without a sufficient break or being too easily distracted. To prevent this, structure your working day to include 45-60 mins of focused work followed by a short break. This is an effective way to break up the working day, maintain your concentration levels and keep productivity levels high.
10) Limit exposure to the news
Undoubtedly right now one of the biggest distractions is the news. Every 10 minutes there seems to be some new development, often one that isn’t positive or can seem overwhelming. You may have found checking COVID-19 updates has become a bit of an obsession. Whilst it is important to stay informed, choose trusted new sources and limit your screen/social media time so you don’t become absorbed in anxiety. If you have set your devices to receive news alerts, it might be a good idea to turn these off during the working day. You can also try downloading the ‘Selfcontrol’ App- which blocks access to distracting websites (such as news sites and social media platforms) for a time period set by you.
11) Plan your meals
When you’re at home it can be tempting to constantly snack throughout the day rather than prepare proper meals- leftover Easter Eggs count as breakfast right? Well no, it is important to have sufficient, healthy meals planned for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You may find it easier to prepare these in advance as you usually would, or if not use your lunch break to rustle up something quick and nutritious in the kitchen. This will not only make you feel better but provide you with the energy you need to continue working, especially around the 3 pm slump.
12) Set up good management practices
Having good management practices in place can definitely help when working remotely. Use the Google Suite to your advantage or if you are managing a remote team, keep track of your staff and check in with them to ensure they have the necessary tools to carry out their jobs effectively.
Some of our favourite remote working tools include:
- Slack for instant messaging
- Trello a cloud-based app for project management
- Skype and Zoom for voice and video calls
- WeTransfer and Dropbox to send large files securely to other members of your team
- Evernote to scan documents and send directly from your smartphone
A personal Facetime to individual employees or colleagues is also a great way to keep up morale and make sure nobody feels disconnected. Even though you may be physically away from your team, encouraging collaboration and driving team performance is still key.
13) Is your home technology up to scratch?
Does your Wifi need upgrading? Laptop on its way out? Now is the time to make sure you have high-quality equipment in place so the practical processes of working from home aren’t overly complicated. You can check the average speed of your internet online and if it seems to be struggling, consider an upgrade. Make sure your home router is away from any metal objects that may disrupt it and placed somewhere central not obstructed by furniture. Likewise having good quality chargers at hand will ensure everything from your laptop to iPad to smartphone are sufficiently charged throughout your working day.
Do you have any top tips on working from home that we have missed? We would love to hear your thoughts!