Since early March, 2020 millions of office employees around the world were asked to work remotely from home. But even before COVID-19 coronavirus disrupted the planet, remote work had gone from rare to a standard component of many job functions.
The days when working from home created an image of the lazy employee in pajamas are rapidly disappearing. Technological advances and employers looking to lower costs have resulted in more people working outside an office than ever before.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 43% of employed Americans log at least some out-of-office, on-the-clock time. A full 31% of those who work remotely at least some of the time spend four or five days a week out of the office.
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Working from the home office affords many benefits to increase performance, business continuity, and achieve greater work-life balance. Here is working from home tips you can do right now.
1. Keep yourself to regular work hours
Setting a schedule not only provides structure to the day, it also helps you stay motivated. Start the day as you would if you worked in an office: Get up early, get dressed, and try to avoid online distractions once you sit down to work.
Here are the important factors to consider when you’re setting an at home work schedule:
- When your boss needs you to be available
- Communication with your coworkers and customers
- Time of day when you are most productive
This doesn’t mean that you need to work 9-5 every day. You should work at the times of day when you’re most productive. Make sure you give yourself permission to have downtime. If you have to work extra hours on a project, give yourself some extra free time later on to compensate.
2. Shower & Dress for Success
This may seem only obvious and hygienic, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to convince oneself that it’s better to just jump right into work first thing, than to take even a short amount of time to bathe.
Note: We are not suggesting that putting on a “formal outfit” or “jeans” is a must, but even a swap from last night’s PJ’s to practical outfit at some point in the day goes a long way to making you feel like a functioning professional.
Beyond psychologically getting you in the right mindset for work, you’ll be ready to handle any kind of video chat or check-in with a teammate. You’ll be prepared to get work done, and you will be mentally and physically prepared for the day.
3. Plan your workflow
When working from home and you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, it can be challenging to keep track of what you have to do throughout your workday. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities, tasks, and deadlines.
Start your day by reviewing priorities for the day. When you make your task list, stick to it. It’s tempting to just leap into your email, but with a little extra focus, you can move the needle while working from home.
When you are planning, consider the following:
- Do the highest priority tasks first.
- Plan your day around your own natural cycles–do the hardest work when you have the most energy throughout the day.
- Plan yourself rewards and breaks throughout the day.
4. Don’t Work in the Living Room
Perhaps this truly is a temporary situation for you, and you’ll be back in the office in no time. The single greatest part about working from home is being able to set your office up exactly how you want it.
Get comfortable work mood. It might be tempting to work from your couch, easy-chair, or even from your bed, but this could take a huge toll on your productivity. Try to always work from a consistent room, desk, or chair, to tell your brain that it’s time for work, not relaxation.
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You are likely to feel more alert, more confident, and more organized. Try setting up a desk where you always work. Set yourself up with a comfy, supportive chair, a spacious desk, and consistent workplace tools. Make sure to personalize your space. After all, you will be spending a lot of time there!
5. Develop Your Work Weapons
Don’t forget about the little things too. Buy the best mouse, keyboard, and headset you can get: They’re your work weapons. Pay for the strongest internet connection you can afford: Don’t ruin a video chat because your kids are streaming Netflix.
6. Log Out of Facebook or Your Preferred Social Media
There’s nothing and no one stopping you from constant social media newsfeed scrolling while Working from Home, but temporarily signing out of social media has a positive effect on your discipline.
Instead of clicking right in to an endless stream of social media content, you’re greeted with a log-in screen, and reminded that you’re supposed to be doing work, not refreshing the Facebook again or looking at your favourite influencer on Instagram.
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7. Set Boundaries With Your Family And Friends
Being efficient working from home is all about setting boundaries to stay focused. This also means setting boundaries for kids and your spouse or friends. Try to encourage them to leave you working without distraction while you are working so you can stay focused.
You may find that other people who work in different jobs have a tendency to believe that “working from home” means “not working at all,” and will call or text you at random with calls or invitations to join online games.
A polite “I’ll be working until 5 and can chat later!” or “Call you back on my lunch break” usually works. The same goes for your outlook on the work day: Try not to let working from home mean working all day and night. This is not the time to completely burn out.
Also remember to avoid the temptation to work when it should be family time and remember to exercise and get enough sleep.
8. Exercise & Stretch Regularly
Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increases happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for productivity.
Regularly stretching helps you maintain great posture. At a minimum, stretch throughout the day so you don’t get sore or hinder your quality of life.
You can also leave yourself motivational sticky notes by your bed, so they are the first thing you see and read in the morning. We recommend exercising in the morning when you have fewer objections and a longer payoff throughout the day.
9. Music Will Get You Inspired
A great advantage of working from home is that you can’t distract your colleagues. Go ahead and play your preferred music loud and proud, if that’s what gets you focused. Or try a more soothing soundtrack, with nature sounds, instrumental music, or even by leaving the windows open to let the sounds from outside come in. If you’re doing repetitive tasks, an audiobook or podcast may even be what you need to keep in the mood.
Try a few things to find what works best for you.
10. Meet And Exceed Your Employer’s Expectations
It’s pretty obvious whether or not I’m doing my job. The virus has forced many employers to be far more trusting than perhaps they generally are. And under normal circumstances, it’s one of the biggest stigmas of remote work: The fear that you’re just going to sit on the couch watching TV all day.
If you’re working for a manager who isn’t completely comfortable with overseeing off-site workers, see if you can structure your actual job so that it builds trust on its own.
You should also make sure your boss knows you are in fact consistently meeting and/or exceeding his or her expectations. You may work 9, 10, 12 hours a day, but it won’t matter if your boss doesn’t know it or you don’t get the anticipated results!
How will you communicate your efforts and results to your employer? Don’t rely on them to evaluate this. Your performance, or lack thereof, may not come up until there is a need for a scapegoat or something goes wrong.
Work From Home Principles to Remember:
- Make a schedule and stick to it
- Focus on what you’ve accomplished at the end of each day to keep yourself motivated
- Create a dedicated workspace and let your family know that you are unavailable during work hours
- Try to work all day without regular breaks — your productivity and motivation will suffer
- Isolate yourself — go the extra mile to meet up with colleagues and peers to talk shop
- Neglect to check in regularly with colleagues and bosses — it’s important to make yourself ‘visible’ even if you aren’t in the office
Remember you’re not simply working from home—as many have noted, you’re working from home in the middle of a global health crisis. The new work win may be that you simply get through the day doing the best you can.