Working From Home? 11 Tips to Become Super Productive in Home Office
When faced with a change in how we work, it’s important to look at how we can still keep our focus on work related goal, and keep our personal goals. This is particularly important when we shift from being in our regular work environment where we are used to getting up at a certain time to commute to work, being accountable to our bosses, or teams, to working from home where pyjama pants are an enticing work wear option (don’t do it...we will share why).
Here are 11 tips to help you with being productive, and ensure that you have healthy boundaries between work life and home life when those two spaces merge into one.
1. Maintain your work day routine
From a very young age, we are taught routine and structure to help us with healthy habits - sleeping, eating, learning and eventually, work. Little micro changes help signal to our brains that we are shifting into a new task. Think about how kids put on a school uniform, they know that they are going to learn for the day, and that the environment they are entering in to will have certain rules and rituals that might be different to home.
As adults, same goes for our routines.
If we are in the habit of putting on gym gear and going to do a workout before going to office in the morning, it is still important to keep these practices happening.
As tempting as it may be to sleep in right to your work day start time, grab your laptop and check emails from the comfort of your bed, maintaining your work wardrobe helps in “code switching” (the signal to your brain that you are changing task and outcome focus).
If you are finding yourself with an extra hour because you no longer need to commute to an office, look at it as an opportunity to maintain your fitness, or get some domestic tasks done before the official workday starts.
Same, when it gets to the end of the day, change out of your office gear and get into “relaxation” mode, pack your laptop away and switch off.
2. Have a dedicated work space & work practices
In a traditional office environment, consideration is given to natural lighting, ergonomic chairs, air flow, heating and cooling. Have a look around your house and see where you have the best natural light coming during the day, and work to set up shop there.
Have access to all the tools that you need, and work to keep your workspace neat and tidy (think clean desk policy). If you are working with confidential information, be sure to file it away when you are finished with it - either electronically or physically.
3. Communicate expectations and ground rules with anyone who will be home with you
This can be challenging for both kids and adults, so let's tackle adults first, and if you have kids at home, there are some tips further down.
With adults sharing the same space, you may need an alternate space for when anyone has a scheduled conference call. Ideally, you want this space to be quiet, have good wifi, and if using video, good lighting. A visual reminder such as placing a coloured sign on a door to say “meeting in progress” can help stop another homebody from waltzing through in the background.
If you have friends who have been living the “stay at home” life and see this as an opportunity to ring you on the hour for a virtual coffee, think about how your boss would respond if you were in the office. You still have outcomes to achieve, so if you need to put your phone on silent, let them know they are important by setting up virtual lunch dates instead.
4. Use technology to stay connected with co-workers
Online entrepreneurs have been taking full advantage of technology to work collaboratively with location dependent business partners and teams, so why not grab a few tips from their playbook?
For face to face meetings, zoom is a great way to set up virtual work dates. Just like sitting in a cubicle, you can use zoom to work with your co workers, and see their faces at the top of your computer screen. Collaborative whiteboard sessions are still possible for brainstorming; it’s a great opportunity to get creative with technology.
Cloud based technology means we can still share files, work on documents and spreadsheets at the same time, and give feedback and comments.
It is important to set boundaries while we are all connected online, which leads us to our next tip - planning and prioritising your day.
5. Plan out your day, or your week in advance
Stopping and looking at what needs to be completed, and making sure that you don’t succumb to shiny object syndrome around the home is important to staying productive. Having a white board at home with key tasks to be completed each day, or project milestones that need to be achieved over a week can be a great visual point of focus.
Stay on task, by closing down additional tabs, turn notifications off on your computer, and block out time in your digital calendar to help you shift from one work project to another.
This includes scheduling team meetings, calls, and keeping those normal work structures as consistent as possible.
Block out lunch breaks in your calendar as a recurring task to help you keep traditional lunch time practices (yoga, anyone?)
6. Make it harder to access social media
Check out how much time you spend scrolling on social media by going into settings/battery usage on your phone. If you suffer from FOMO and your phone is a distraction zone, apple users can set app limits, or there are great apps like circle or moment that you can use (and even set up for your family) to limit screen time on particular apps.
Whether you are an Apple or PC user, there are apps like Freedom which will block you from accessing social media sites for chunks of time. If it means your focus improves and you get a “well done” from your boss, it might just be the solution that you need.
7. Take short breaks
Short breaks actually help us with productivity, as our eyes, bodies, and brains need a refresh roughly every 40 minutes.
If you worked for a larger organisation, you may have software installed that prompts you to get up and move, or do a stretch for a minute.
The great thing about working from home is you can use a mini break to stretch your legs, refill your water bottle, or call a colleague at a designated time for a five minute project update.
8. Prepare meals the night before
Think about healthy snacks and lunches you may normally go out and eat with coworkers. Doing a little prep the night before can ensure you still take a lunch break, have access to healthy snacks instead of reaching for the biscuit tin.
Place a jar of home made trail mix at your desk, have a fresh water bottle ready to go and an apple so that you don’t find yourself wandering to the pantry and having a work break binge on whatever you can find. Try doing this for everyone in your own home so you can manage your consumption.
9. Stay social with work colleagues
It’s still important to spend time team building and nurturing relationships with colleagues. Technology and a little creativity are a great way to do this. If you were in the habit of having morning tea together for birthdays or for end of month sales results on a Friday, keep those practices going.
Make something small, organise a virtual show and tell while you all celebrate, or get creative with having a bright shirt day on your conference calls.
If Friday drinks were something that happened with a work social club, look at apps like Kahoot to run an online quiz so you can still find ways to have fun and bond virtually.
10. Wrap up your work day at a set time
It can be very easy to allow work creep, especially if you find yourself “in the zone”. After all, you are already home, so continuing to work can be tempting.
Make your end of day a time to close your computer, and get a wind down ritual happening - including swapping the business pants for trackie pants.
Get outside for a walk with your family or your pet if your local legislation permits, book yourself into a virtual art or cooking class online, be sure to develop good habits to switch off and set personal rewards for your achievements.
11. Stay positive
At the end of each day, reflect on your wins, and what you have accomplished or learned.
If something didn’t quite go to plan, look at it as an opportunity to make some adjustments and test them out in a new day. Invite your coworkers to share one positive experience each day.
Working from Home with Kids
If you are working with kids at home, set them up for age appropriate activities in line with your work routines. Older children will find it easier to understand, and the same “getting dressed for school” for the day principals will help them stay on task.
Younger school aged children may need the assistance of a parent to complete tasks, so be mindful of your how you lead your self and them through this - it’s a new way of working for everyone.
Look after your mental health and well being so you can manage emotions that may be triggered, and check in on each other to see what is working well and where help is needed.
Most of all, communication will be important - both online and face to face with people in our space. Make conversations constructive and open with anyone impacted by your change in work routines, including your line manager, partner, a trusted peer, the children’s teacher and the kids. We are all navigating new ways of working.
Remember, feeling that change is scary but normal. If we choose to look at it as an opportunity for creativity, and remember we are all in this together, we can end each day feeling accomplished and happy.