How to be productive when working remotely
Working from home sounds great doesn’t it? No more long journey on a crowded train, no more long hours stuck in endless traffic jams. Yet it is very easy for our work and home boundaries to start to overlap. As the months go by it feels that work and home blur into one and each day is like “groundhog day”. So, when working from home what can we do so each day feels different? Also, how can we look after our well-being so that we remain productive? Here are seven tips to help you do just that:-
1. Separate your home and work environment
If you have a spare room or study use this as your office and work there. Having a work zone and a home zone helps you to separate your home life from your working life. Creating a working environment helps you to focus and concentrate on your work enabling you to be more productive.
2. Set a daily schedule and have a ‘to do’ list
Draft a schedule that sets out clear objectives for the day ahead. This will help you to stay focused and achieve your deadlines. You can use a paper list, app or computer program like Trello to create your “to do list”. Tick off your tasks as soon as you have completed them.
Set your schedule and stick to it. Each morning complete your normal morning routine and have a start and finish time for your work. Try to break up your day into periods of work and non-work. Schedule your workday around when you are most productive. If you are a morning person, try to get up early and complete your work. If you work better late at night, then do your work then if your home life and job allows. Having clear guidelines for when you work and when to call it a day helps many home workers maintain a work-life balance.
3. Have regular breaks and reward yourself
Having regular breaks helps to maintain your concentration and boosts productivity. Ensure that you have a full lunch break away from your phone, computer and any other work related matters. Breaks could be used to do something you really enjoy. Planning your work day in this way can help you from feeling overwhelmed. Think of ways to reward yourself at the end of each task or day. This can help you to feel refreshed when you do return to your work.
4. Dress for work
When working from home it can be tempting to stay all day in your pyjamas and feel comfortable and cosy in your night time wear. Or on getting dressed you may just slip into the nearest comfy clothing that there is without much thought. Dressing for work helps us to switch our minds from home to work and puts us in the right head space to work effectively.
5. Give yourself a break from technology
A recent survey of UK tech professionals reported that ‘always on’ technology was one of their highest causes of stress. You must not let your phone or email rule your life. Being available 24 hours a day will only make you feel tired and be less effective for when you do really need to be on top form.
If possible don’t be available outside of your normal working hours and turn off your work phone and email notifications. Maybe put your work phone on charge in another room. If someone calls you, you will hear it. If their call is urgent they will leave a message and you can subsequently decide whether to immediately call them back.
6. Stop worrying!
The same survey of UK tech professionals listed worry of losing their job as another major source of stress. Obviously, the current Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented and is very worrying and stressful for us all. Nevertheless, whatever we may be worrying about, worrying does us no good as worrying can make us feel stress, tired and unproductive.
If the worry is work-related, try to identify if you are problem solving or ruminating. Problem solving is good use of your time, while ruminating could be a waste of your time. Ruminating happens when you think again and again about some issue without coming up a solution or have any new insight. For example, if you are awake half the night worrying about a particular issue, you are ruminating . You should recognise this and try to stop worrying. When ruminating, you tend to stay in a negative emotional state and sometimes doing something enjoyable can help to change your negative frame of mind.
That is why having a hobby or eating healthy food or listening to music can help to refocus your thoughts to become more positive. This can also help you become more alert, productive and able to handle the challenges that you may be facing.
7. Create a relaxing ritual
Create a relaxing ritual that tells the brain that the working day is over. For example, getting changed and having a shower as soon as your work day has ended signals to the brain that you have finished work for the day. Undertaking household chores like washing up or cooking can also help – as long as you do not usually see them as work!
Working from home is a very different experience from commuting and working in the office. If we are not careful, each day can drift into another and we can lose our energy, motivation and productivity as each day seems the same. By establishing clear routines and patterns of behaviours, such as dressing for work and having a work zone in our homes where we complete all our work, helps us to differentiate our work and home lives more effectively. By having a schedule and a ‘to do list’ we feel we are making progress each day. Also by taking regular breaks and rewarding ourselves , this helps us not to feel overwhelmed by our work.
These are unprecedented times and there are no easy answers. However, by adopting the tips above, we can help ourselves become more efficient in work and more relaxed in our down time. Which in turn will help to increase our sense of well-being.