Working from home is probably an ideal scenario for a lot of people… right up until the cat throws up on your computer. And your neighbour, who you can only assume is building a time machine, starts firing up all sorts of power tools and noisy machinery.
For many modern professionals, working from home every once in a while, is a luxury that our respective companies afford us.
In the office office, your co-workers often pose the greatest threat to keeping you from getting some real, heads-down work done. They drop by your desk, engage you in conversation and invite you to lunch. The social benefits of a workplace are definitely nice to have, but they can become a challenge if you’re easily distracted.
At the home office, however, I find that it’s easy for you to become your own worst enemy. Because when you’re not surrounded by co-workers, you’re free to drop those pesky inhibitions. At the home office, no one’s watching. You don’t necessarily feel that same peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done. (Also, you don’t have to get out of your pyjamas or brush your hair or put make up on – I could go on but I’m sure you get the idea!)
I’ve compiled a bunch of great work-at-home tips and tricks for you all. 2020 has taken an unexpected turn and more and more of us probably find ourselves working from home at the moment.
1. Get started early.
When working in an office, your morning commute can help you wake up and feel ready to work by the time you get to your desk. At home, however, the transition from your pillow to your computer can be much more jarring.
Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Simply getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you’ll prolong breakfast and let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation.
2. Pretend like you are going into the office.
The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost. When working from home, do all the things you’d do to prepare for an office role:
- Set your alarm
- Make (or go get) coffee
- Wear nice clothes.
Did you know: Internet browsers like Google Chrome even allow you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars on the top — for example, a toolbar for home and a separate toolbar for work.
3. Structure your day like you would in the office.
When working from home, you’re your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out. To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. Google Calendar makes this easy.
4. Choose a dedicated work space.
Just because you’re not working at an office doesn’t mean you can’t, well, have an office. Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch — spaces that are associated with leisure time — dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work.
5. Make it harder for yourself to mess around on social media.
Social media is designed to make it easy for you to open and browse quickly. At work, though, this convenience can be the detriment of your productivity. Unless of course your roll focuses around marketing!!
To counteract your social networks’ ease of use during work hours, remove them from your browser shortcuts and log out of every account (especially on your phones). You might even consider working primarily in a private or, if you’re using Chrome, an “Incognito” browser window. This ensures you stay signed out of all your accounts and each web search you conduct doesn’t autocomplete the word you’re typing. It’s a guarantee that you won’t be tempted into taking too many social breaks during the day.
6. Work when you’re at your most productive.
Nobody sprints through their work from morning to evening – your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. When you’re working from home, however, it’s all the more important to know when those ebbs and flows will take place and plan your schedule around it.
To capitalise on your most productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right head space for them. Use slower points of the day to knock out the easier, logistical tasks that are also on your plate.
7. Save calls for the afternoon.
Sometimes, I’m so tired in the morning, I don’t even want to hear my own voice – let alone talk to others with it. You shouldn’t have to give yourself too much time to become productive in the morning, but you can give yourself some extra time before working directly with others.
If you’re struggling to come up with a reasonable work schedule for yourself as a telecommuter, start with the solitary tasks in the morning. Save phone calls, meetings, and other collaborative work for when you’ve officially “woken up.”
8. Focus on one distraction!
There’s an expression out there that says, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” The bizarre but true rule of productivity is that the busier you are, the more you’ll actually do. It’s like Newton’s law of inertia: If you’re in motion, you’ll stay in motion. If you’re at rest, you’ll stay at rest. And busy people are in fast-enough motion that they have the momentum to complete anything that comes across their desk.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find things to help you reach that level of busyness when you’re at home – your motivation can just swing so easily. But it’s important to have a list of jobs that you can throw yourself in to.
9. Plan out what you’ll be working on ahead of time.
Spending time figuring out what you’ll do today can take away from doing those things. And, you’ll have planned your task list so recently that you can be tempted to change your schedule on the fly.
It’s important to let your agenda change if you need it to, but it’s equally as important to commit to an agenda that outlines every assignment before you begin. Try solidifying your schedule the day before, making it feel more official when you wake up the next day to get started on it.
10. Use technology to stay connected.
Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off the larger operation happening in the office. Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make it easy to check in with co-workers and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture.
I think this point is so important at this current time. Stay connected, keep in touch, chances are, your colleagues are all feeling the same way you are.
Future Learn are offering a free working from home course. Click here to be redirected and give it a go.