If you have always worked from home, there is less disruption to your routines in these days of social distancing. For everyone else that has only just started (and those that will join soon), it is a challenge.
Well before the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced even more people to start working from home, 41% of employers offered remote working as a “perk” (According to this 2019 report)
If you’re finding this a challenge, you are not alone. A quick look through social media these days will show you dozens of people working from home who are complaining about not being able to get anything done.
From your adorable kids seeking attention to the mouth-wateringly stocked fridge tempting you to make the fifth trip in one hour, there are lots of things that make working from home very challenging. So what should you do? Here are some proven tips.
Create a home office
If you don’t have a dedicated office space at home, it is time for you to create one. It is the only way to insulate yourself from the distraction in your home. The ideal home office should be positioned where you won’t interfere with your family’s daily routines (so the dining area is out of it).
Working from your living room couch or the kitchen is unrealistic as there’d be tons of distraction that will keep you from completing your tasks. When you create the office space, make sure the chair and desk are comfortable enough to allow working for hours.
The best home office space should also have a physical boundary that keeps people out and also keep you in until you are done working. So, no direct eye line to the TV, or connection to the fridge. You shouldn’t also have to see house chores that need to be done as they are a perfect reason for your mind to wander.
Even when you have proper boundaries within your home office, it is still common to find people intruding into your home office space or generally not understanding the fact that you are working from home. It is your duty to discourage such intrusions. Just like no one would barge into your office at work, the situation should be the same while working from home.
However, it is important that you communicate the situation as affectionately as possible. Remember, most of the “intruders” don’t mean any harm. They just need help with understanding your situation.
Stay in touch with the tech experts
If you are working from home temporarily, you may need more than just your laptop to get work done. Talk to your company’s IT experts to ensure you have the right or approved tech setup. For example, you could need a better camera or microphone than you currently have on your computer for high quality video conferencing.
Also, you may need certain software to stay safe while working outside your company’s secure network. To prevent your network from being hacked, these software are just as important as the security measures implemented during the configuration of the website. Don’t forget to get all the necessary passwords, login keys, etc. that will come in handy as you work from home.
Software such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc. have made it super-easy to stay connected to your colleagues. You can also communicate over the phone if necessary. Knowing that you are connected with your colleagues could be all you need to work effectively and stay productive.
Another great reason to stay connected is that isolation can be challenging for mental health. This is more pronounced if you live alone. The sudden loss of human interaction can take a toll over time, so staying connected to someone can help alleviate that loss. Video calls are not the same as face-to-face communication, but they come pretty close!
Have fun during those calls. DJ Haddad, CEO of Haddad & Partners, says that joking around with your colleagues is a great way to maintain the in-office camaraderie while working from home. Talk about everything else you’d ordinarily discuss around the office water-cooler as often as possible. It is an excellent way to deal with anxiety and also ensure you don’t get bored.
Create work hours and stick to them
If you really want to be productive while working from home, you need some routine. Failing to map out fixed work hours will force you to work for longer periods and generally damage your work-life balance. Also, let’s face it; you’ll never get much done if you always think you’ve got the whole day to complete your tasks.
How long until you find out that you’ve left work undone and you are already “tired” for the day or about to have dinner? Remember, there are lots of things competing for your attention while working at home, so you need discipline.
Settle the childcare demands
If you have children at home while working, you need to create a plan for taking care of them—otherwise, it could severely hamper your productivity. Hiring a sitter in the COVID-19 era may be difficult, but in the future, that could be a good plan.
If that isn’t feasible, you can ask for help from family members. If your spouse also works from home, you can create a timetable that allows you both to take turns dealing with the childcare demands and still get your jobs done at the end of the day.
Cancel the noise
Noise from your family members, neighbors, the dog, traffic, etc. can be distracting when you are working from home. Get noise-canceling headphones to keep it all out. You can also play soft music to calm parts of your brain and concentrate. Admittedly, this doesn’t work for everyone. If you find the music distracting, plugging your ears could be enough.
Get a standing desk
A standing desk will help you to alleviate lower back or hip pain and ensure better health. However, you don’t have to stand all day while working at home. You can switch from sitting to standing (and vice versa) every hour. When sitting, ensure you are practicing good posture.
Implement the ROWE mindset
ROWE stands for “results-only work environment”. It involves ignoring the amount of time spent on a task and simply focusing on the result achieved. This solution for working from home is a recommendation from Tim Jones, CEO of Precision Nutrition. The idea is that when you are not worried about the time spent on a task or a project, you will achieve a lot more.
Use the commute time that you save to recharge yourself
In the book, Time Off Book authored by John Fitch & Max Frenzel, says that the time you spend on your daily commute should be used to get your juices flowing. It is not an extra hour to scroll through your social media feed.
Just do anything that can help you relax. For some people, this is exercise, and for others, it is yoga. It could also be that you’ll feel more relaxed if you move your alarm clock an hour forward to get a bit more sleep. Find what works for you, and stick with it.
Set a time schedule for the distractions
It is not easy to shut off social media, emails, and even TV for hours at a time. Unfortunately, when you get into these distractions, you could find yourself digging deeper into the rabbit hole and by the time you realize, you’ve lost an hour of valuable work time.
This is why you should set a schedule for the distractions. You’ll always have the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on something. Did they find the cure for COVID-19 yet? Did Mr. X send that email? Nettie Owens, of the Momentum Millionaire Network, suggests setting a hard schedule to assuage your FOMO—say 15 minutes for every two hours of work.
Don’t forget; there are other distractions that are not digital. You should also include these into the equation. Laundry time, snack time, checking on your family members are all offline distractions that can also eat into your time while working from home.
Don’t stay awake deep into the night
It is easy to get lost sucked into the “one more episode” trap because you feel you can just move your work hours and get some more sleep. The reality, however, is that it never quite works this way. Your body is already used to a specific sleep routine.
If your normal wake time is between 5-6 am, pushing it forward by a couple of hours because you stayed awake for too long will not work. You’ll end up waking at around the same time, feeling miserable with red eyes and headache. You can’t work at full tilt in that condition.
Don’t develop cabin fever
Since you are spending more time at home, you need to get outdoors as much as you can. You don’t need to leave your property-especially in the face of the COVID-19-induced lockdown around the world. If you are taking a video call that doesn’t require sitting in front of your computer, you can take it outside.
Just spending time out on the lawn or garden of your home can be great for dealing with anxiety or stress. After your work hours have elapsed, put away your work-related gadgets and unwind. Watch a movie, read a book, enjoy a meal with the rest of your family. Don’t forget to use social media and video conferencing apps to connect with your loved ones as well.
Working from home certainly offers the kind of flexibility that many people wish they have, especially in this time of a global pandemic. By taking the steps above, you can enjoy all the benefits that come with it while staying healthy physically and mentally.
About the author
Rithesh Raghavan is the co-founder of Acowebs, an online store for eCommerce plugins with 15000+ satisfied customers across the globe. Having a rich experience of 15+ years in Digital Marketing, Rithesh loves to write up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development.