Social distancing, quarantine, pandemic, state of emergency...lately, real life feels like a disaster movie. Things we took for granted and used to be the norm of the society we live in, have been turned upside down.
Things like getting ready in the morning to go to work, grabbing a coffee on the way and sharing time, space and conversations with colleagues. Having a drink after work, before hitting the gym and getting ready for a new day.
If working remotely was already a trend, the COVID-19 crisis has turned it into a necessity for companies all around the world. At this moment, entire teams have to figure out the best way to manage their time and work from home. This can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience, especially if you didn't have a lot of time to prepare.
Since the majority of us is in the same boat, and will be for quite some time, here are some tips and recommendations about how to stay productive when working from home, without sacrificing a healthy work-life balance.
Always look on the bright side of life
Following the lead of Monty Python's classic, you should always look on the bright side of any situation:
- You don't have to spend hours stuck in traffic and public transportation, every day - it's good for the environment.
- You can save money in fuel and food - it's good for your finances.
- Your stress levels decrease - it's good for your health.
- Your work schedule is more flexible - you can manage your working hours more appropriately.
- You can improve your communication skills with colleagues and clients, as well as with family and friends - it's good for your relationships.
The challenges of working from home
Despite the advantages, staying productive when you work from home also has its challenges. It requires some practice and a significant amount of discipline and focus:
- You may feel more isolated, with little or no opportunities to socialize.
- There will be more distractions than at your workplace - kids, pets, house chores, etc.
- You will have the tendency to overcompensate, working more hours than you usually would, because you're always "at the office".
- Confinement can have a bad effect on your mood and your motivation.
Good practices for maintaining productivity when you work from home
1. Create a designated workspace in your home
Try to find a comfortable spot to work, as far away as possible from the sofa or the bed. You want to create a “NO RELAXATION ZONE", where it's just about the work you need to get done. It's very important to separate your work space from your personal space.
You can always shop online and invest in a comfortable office chair, a desk or appropriate lighting, anything that could help turn that space into your home office.
Another good idea is to take advantage of any windows with natural light - it will help improve your mood, your energy and your focus.
2. Take advantage of technology to manage and to communicate frequently
Countless mobile and online apps - most of them available for free - can help you run your business from home and keep in touch with your work colleagues, your boss and your clients. Have a look at project management tools like Slack or Trello.
When possible, make video calls - emails and phone calls have their limitations. Face-to-face conversations save time and provide for clearer communication - you can use services such as Zoom or Hangouts.
Video calls can also help you fight the feeling of loneliness and social isolation.
3. Keep a more flexible work schedule
We're facing extreme circumstances, and therefore, it's perfectly normal that you won't be able to keep the usual office work schedule.
It's not an excuse to work less. Instead, it's about adjusting to working from home, and not limiting your productivity to a fixed work schedule. If you're expected to work 8 hours a day, you can always figure out a better solution that works best for you and distribute those hours, instead of working from 9am - 5pm.
4. Keep your daily routine
This means: wake up at the time you usually do, have a shower, get dressed. Act like you would on a normal working day. Avoid staying in your pyjamas or a sweatsuit all day long - it will be much more difficult to get into work mode.
Besides, if you receive an expected video call from your boss or a client, you will always be prepared and look professional.
5. Create structure and boundaries
It's very easy to get distracted when you work from home. For that reason, it's important to create a structure - a list of daily/weekly tasks, for example.
You can always adjust the list, according to the tasks you managed to get done or not. However, it will be a reference point to keep the focus on your work.
The Internet is, without a doubt, a big distraction. If you don't trust yourself with social networks and other time-wasting websites, apps such as FocusMe or Freedom can give you hand to create some boundaries.
6. Take care of yourself
Quarantine has forced us all to restrict our freedom of movement. But that doesn't mean that we have to give up on physical activity altogether.
The lack of exercise can cause back pain, leg pain and weight gain. If we don't feel well, we won't be at our best level to keep productivity and focus.
Seize all the moments you have, as short as they may be, to take the dog for a walk, to stretch your body and to do some exercise. There are thousands of apps and online videos to help you keep active at home and eat healthier.
The option to work from home is a privilege, especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many don't have that option and risk getting infected every day to keep us safe and to provide us with the goods and services we need.
This doesn't mean that it will be easy or pleasant, but it will certainly be an opportunity to develop professional and personal skills and to (re)discover our resilience and sense of community in difficult times. Stay motivated and stay safe!