When lockdowns were announced in countries around the world and the majority of the workforce was asked to work from home, most people rejoiced. They could quarantine safely in their homes and spend more time with their family.
But now, it has been more than four months since the lockdown started, and people are still working from home. Social distancing norms are still in place and most companies are planning to stay remote till the end of the year.
But with limited access to public spaces, restricted travel, and no face-to-face interactions with colleagues, employees are facing burnout and isolation which is directly affecting their performance.
It can take a bit of practice, but it’s possible to nail remote work. Here are our top 15 tips to work from home successfully.
15 Tips to Make Work From Home Better!
1. Choose a dedicated workspace
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you can’t have an office. You can set up a home office to create better boundaries between your work and personal life, which will also help you in improving productivity. You can either set up your workspace in a spare room or a less used part of the house. Make sure to use a desk and an ergonomic chair that fits your height perfectly.
2. Pretend like you are actually going to the office
Commuting to the office every day gives us the mental dissociation we need between our work and home life. When you work in an office, the morning commute can help you in waking up and feeling ready for work. However, going directly from your bed to your laptop can be way more difficult and oftentimes unproductive.
Use your mornings wisely and pretend like you are going to the office: Set an alarm, make some breakfast, and change out of your pajamas. You can also use this time to read a book or listen to a podcast.
3. Structure your day as you would in an office
Working from home gives you the flexibility to create your own schedule but that does not mean you should work for 6 hours non-stop just to finish everything on your plate. You won’t be able to sustain your productivity for a long time and eventually start burning out.
Instead, structure your day as you would in an office: Work for a few hours in the morning, take a lunch break, then come back and work for a few more hours. Take a coffee break or go for a walk outside if you start feeling tired in the evening.
4. Close your home office door when working
If you are lucky enough to have a separate room for your home office, make sure you shut the door. In case you work from your living room or common space in your home, position your desk in a way that you can’t see any distractions (or pending house chores like a sink full of dirty dishes or piled up laundry). It’s also ideal to wear headphones to tune out any distracting noises.
5. Work when you are at your most productive self
Nobody can stay equally productive throughout the day. It’s just not possible.
Identify when you are most productive and use that time to handle harder tasks so you can give them your complete attention. Use the less productive times of the day to finish off the easier, manual, or logistical tasks that don’t need a lot of creative energy or brainstorming. You can also divide your to-do list into complex and simple tasks so it’s easier for you to pick one according to your productivity levels.
6. Schedule calls around the afternoon slump
It’s common to start feeling lazy and lethargic right after lunch. Picking up important tasks that need deep focus at this time will only lead to no results. Instead, you can use this period to schedule phone calls and video meetings to re-energize yourself. Talking to your team members, especially when you work alone from your home, can be all the motivation you need to get back to your work in full force.
7. Don’t take on more than you can handle
When you are planning your daily to-do lists, it’s pretty easy to go overboard. People have a tendency to overestimate their productivity and end up adding more tasks on their to-do list than they can handle. The result? You feel guilty for not completing all the tasks at the end of the day when it wasn’t even possible for you to finish everything anyway.
Instead, create more realistic daily goals and take on more work only when you can handle it.
8. Set ground rules around the house
If there are other people living with you in your home, you need to set ground rules during work hours. In case you have kids, have a clear conversation with them about what they can and cannot do while you are working. At the same time, divide up all the home chores and create a schedule for them that doesn’t hamper your productivity.
9. Restrict your social media during the day
It can be tempting to pick up your phone and check social media for ‘just five’ minutes. But those five minutes can quickly turn into 15 and when you end up doing that several times in a day, it leads to a huge loss of time and productivity. By restricting your social media usage, not only can you focus on your work in a better manner, but also finish tasks faster.
You can use a plugin or an extension to restrict social media websites on your laptop during work hours. There are also phone apps that allow you to track your daily social media usage which can give you a very clear overview of how much time you spend on different social media apps.
10. Use white noise to focus
If you are someone who needs music or at least some sounds around you to focus, the absence of office chatter can make it difficult to work. To replace that, you can use white noise apps with ambient environmental sounds to focus on your work in a better manner. In case it gets too loud in your house, investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones is also a great idea.
11. Clear your workspace
Clean your workspace and desk completely and declutter it at least once a day, preferably when you are done with the day’s work. That way, you will always have a clean and organized desk in the morning which will boost your mood and improve productivity.
12. Decide on a definitive closing time
It can be challenging to disconnect and walk away from the laptop at the end of the day when your work and home life happen under the same roof, but you need to do it in order to maintain a better work-life balance.
Create an ending ritual to get yourself ready to disconnect from work. Message your coworkers that you are closing work, and review your task list to see what you want to start with the next day. In case you use the same laptop for both work and personal purposes, it’s a good practice to sign out of the work account and only login back again in the morning.
13. Plan your meals in advance
Cooking three meals a day can be tiring for anyone. But cooking three meals a day during a pandemic with little takeout options while working 8-9 hours every day is a whole another challenge.
Whether you live on your own or have kids, it’s always best to plan and prep your meals in advance so you can minimize the total cooking time. You can use weekends for planning and prepping the weekday meals in order to save time and actually use your mealtime to eat.
14. Leave some downtime for yourself
Working from home with little to no downtime can eventually burn you out and severely affect your work. To avoid that, create your own schedule. You can pick up a hobby, read a book, go for a run, or just watch a TV show–the idea is to do any non-work related activity that calms and refreshes your mind.
15. Limit your daily news consumption
To say that we are living through unprecedented times would be an understatement. Every day, the news gets more dire and we are somehow trying to survive through it. If you don’t want to look at news related to the pandemic, you can block specific topics on your news apps. It’s good to stay informed, but if you find the news overwhelming, there is nothing wrong with creating some space. You can set aside a time in the evening to catch up on all the news of the day.
Remote work is the future
Working from home for more than three months might not be what you planned, but you can still make the most of it. You can also use remote work software to streamline projects and automate repetitive processes to save time.
It might take time to get used to the new normal, but with a few adjustments, you will eventually get there. Focus on creating a happy and productive space that makes you feel proud of the work that you do.