Due to the widespread COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are advised to work from home. This is to help flatten the coronavirus curve and to ensure that you will have fewer chances of contracting the highly infectious disease.
For many of us, working from home is a new concept because we are used to preparing for and commuting to work. We are accustomed to sitting in our office desks, toiling on our work computers, and chatting with our coworkers during the coffee break.
The work-from-home scheme can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how we handle it. Of course, one of its perks is that you won’t have to commute to work. That means no traffic, no fare, and no pollution. On the other hand, working in your living space can be challenging because your home is meant to be a sanctuary or a place to unwind after a hard days’ work. Naturally, your home does not give off an office vibe that encourages productivity. It has all the distractions, as well: spouse, kids, and the cute family pet.
If you are working from home for the first time, you will find out that the work expectations are still the same, but the work environment is not. It will not be an easy transition.
The key to working from home successfully is to create an environment that will allow you to focus on the tasks at hand.
Whether you are working from home for the first time or just need a quick refresher, here are some tips to become productive even when you are working from home:
1. ESTABLISH A MORNING ROUTINE.
Even if you do not commute to work and you will not get to see your workmates personally, it will be a good idea to approach each as if you will go to an office with actual people. Get out of bed at the same time, have breakfast and change into comfortable but presentable clothes. Yes, your colleagues will not actually see you (your waist down, at least), but these motions will clear your head and will help you get into a work mindset.
It will also give you the necessary mental distance between home time and work time which is what your morning commute used to play. Remember that you can increase your chances of being productive when you set an intention.
2. MAKE A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT.
It is important to establish your daily schedule so that your mind will not have a hard time getting into the work groove. Establish your start time, meal and mental break periods, and what time you’ll clock out for the day. This will help make sure that you are still on track of your workload. If you set regular hours, you will have an easy time organizing your day. It will also send the message to your co-workers, clients and your housemates that you have a semi-fixed schedule—just like you would in the office.
3. CREATE A HOME OFFICE AMBIANCE.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a spare room they can turn into a well-furnished home office, but you need a specific space that signals to your brain (and your family members) that you’re officially in a work mode. It can be a desk in a spare bedroom, a cozy chair and a coffee table, or even your bed with the door closed. Whatever it is, make sure that all the items you will need while working from home are at arm’s reach.
Having a designated work table will be very convenient especially if you are working with computers. It will also serve as a surface for you to place your glass of water or your phone, and to help you organize your things.
One of the exciting aspects of working from home is that you can create a personalized work area, something that you may not be able to do in your previous office.
The key is to create a cozy yet efficient space that will suit your working style and encourage productivity.
Don’t hesitate to add elements that will promote a calming and inspiring environment, such as plants (they are good for improving the air quality in the room), proper lighting, stimulating music, and inspiring knick-knacks (just don’t overdo it).
4. PUT YOURSELF IN A GOOD POSITION.
Do not neglect your posture! According to www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, even though sitting in front of a computer requires less muscular effort than standing, it still causes physical fatigue (tiredness). In addition, because of sitting, you have to hold parts of your body steady for long periods of time and this reduces circulation of blood to your bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which will eventually lead to stiffness and pain. If your workstation is not set up properly, holding these steady positions for long periods of time can put even greater stress on your muscles and joints.
So in addition to keeping your work area orderly, you should make sure that you workstation is set up properly to keep your posture in check to avoid putting greater stress on our body.
Propping yourself up with a few pillows will help you maintain your proper body alignment and to reduce neck strain.
If your computer monitor is too low, prop it up with a box or stack of books.
How to make sure your monitor is at the correct height? Ergotron.com says “Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at—or slightly below—eye level”. When you are looking at your monitor, your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen. Maintain a distance of at least 20 inches from your monitor—about an arm’s length distance.
5. IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATE TIME WASTERS AND DISTRACTIONS.
There are people who cannot concentrate on their work if the television is blaring, while there are those who cannot work in total silence.
Identify which category you belong to and act accordingly.
If you perform best in silence, it will be better if you find a work station that is not located in the high traffic area of the house such as the living room and the kitchen. If you can find a room other than the one you sleep in, much better (lucky you!). If not, then you’ll just have to ask for the cooperation of the people in your home and request them to minimize their noise.
On the other hand, if you are uncomfortable with deafening quietness, you will benefit from playing instrumental music. The genre is up to you.
Also, you have to inform your folks of your work schedule and that you are not to be disturbed when working. (You would not want your half-naked toddlers to streak across your computer screen during an important video conference with the big boss, do you?)
It was said in step 3 that you can decorate your office space however you want; just don’t go overboard with it.
In order to have a clear head to deal with your workload, you also have to have a clear workspace.
According to a study conducted at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, a disorderly environment restricts your ability to focus. The chaos also lessens your brain’s efficiency to process information. It is because clutter diverts your focus from important things and makes you and unable to process information.
So, whether you work in a home office, kitchen counter or in a corner of the living room; claim a clutter-free zone. This will help you focus on your task at hand and remain more aligned with an in-office experience.
6. GET OUT.
Just like when you were in the office, you have to take a break.
Do you notice that you are having a hard time focusing on a task at hand?
Or are you experiencing a writer’s block? Maybe walking around will help you.
In the research published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, it was discussed that walking has significant effects on creativity.
“A lot of people think that walking helps in creative thinking,” Oppezzo said. “But no one had really tested it before. We found that simply walking actually does improve creativity for everyone.”
So take a 10-minute walk around your house to freshen up and to encourage the flow of new ideas. Just don’t go beyond the fences of your property or compound to avoid violating the rules for home quarantine.
7. LOG OFF!
To ensure a healthy work-from-home routine, you have to set some boundaries.
It was discussed in step number two that you have to set a log-out time.
When that time comes, be disciplined enough to log-off for the day—and not just from your laptop.
Come up with a phrase that you will say to yourself at the end of the day. This will signal your mind that it’s time to stop thinking about work. (Mine is: “I have done my best for today and so, I am entitled to a relaxing evening.
If you happen to think of a last-minute idea or if you come up with a brilliant one after office hours, just jot it down, and come back to it tomorrow. Keep in mind that just because you have a 24/7 access to work doesn’t mean you should be logged in all the time.
By allowing yourself to have downtime, you will create a work-life balance that will ensure that your energy and enthusiasm for work will be sustainable.
Yes, we all need it, no matter where we are working.
There you go, employees-at-home. We hope that the tips we have given you will help you maximize your work efficiency and keep up your physical and mental health.
Do you have more ideas on how to improve productivity while you work from home? Let us know.