“This is the life!” I heard a friend exclaim after a few days working at home. For first-timers, it’s a significant shift in their lives. Not having to wake up early to shower, dress up and take that hour-long commute. That was months ago. Today, I could tell, the charm is gone for him.
Whether by choice or not, working remotely is different for everybody. Many love it, others don’t. However, according to a pre-COVID-19 OWLLabs survey, 30% of respondents would take a 10% pay cut just to work from home. Of course, not all jobs offer that flexibility.
As of June 2020, 42% of Americans are working remotely due to the pandemic, while 33% aren’t working at all. Only 26%, mostly essential employees, are working at their offices. When things get back to a “new normal”, remote work or a flexible hybrid will definitely become more common.
By now, if you’ve been working from home for a few months, you’ve hopefully settled into a productive routine. By adding to or tweaking your daily habits, you can accomplish more. Here are 10 tips on how you can get more work done from home.
But before reading on, I suggest you also check out our previous article on working at home for more useful tips.
Take Stock Of Your Personal Life
Do you feel free or trapped working from home? Do you enjoy or dislike silence? How you adjust to your new work environment affects your well-being, which in turn affects your daily performance.
I’m not just talking about your physical health. Even more important, your mental and emotional states influence your ability to accomplish tasks. These also affect your personal and professional relationships.
Take a moment for this little mental exercise:
Conduct a self-check. A few minutes of quiet time is all you need. What are you feeling at the moment? Helplessness and despair may be caused by news on the TV. Better turn it off.
You may be having a hard time focusing because something is nagging you. Figure it out before you work. Recognizing what you can and cannot change will make a big difference.
People worldwide, who are forced to stay inside homes because of the pandemic, often show cabin fever symptoms that include loneliness, sadness and fear. They may also become lethargic and have difficulty focusing. Are you experiencing the same?
Bingeing on Netflix or console games is how many people cope with cabin fever. This isn’t a mental disorder, in case you’re wondering. There are proper ways to deal with it. Meditation, breathing exercises, physical activity and short walks are some comping strategies.
(In case you’re wondering, I’ve been working from home for 15 years … but a daily walk, usually in mid-afternoon, is essential to my mental wellbeing and productivity.)
If these don’t all work, a bit of socialization will help. We’re all social animals who cherish the company of others.
Successful entrepreneurs are resilient during challenging times because they have high emotional intelligence. We published an excellent article on this subject and I suggest you also read it.
Evaluate Your Progress and Business Strategies
How has remote work affected your business operations? Are your sales or conversions steady and growing? These aren’t the only metrics you should focus on. Don’t forget your bottom line.
Online shopping has increased because of the pandemic. This isn’t temporary. You might be thinking that once the health crisis is over, everything will return to normal. Don’t count on it.
Many experts believe that online engagements, including shopping, will continue to grow. Online platforms are becoming more efficient and convenient. Have you made adjustments to your marketing strategies to handle greater online engagement?
Remote work will expand in all industries and become a permanent feature of many jobs. Companies are planning for more work-at-home functions. A new corporate culture is going to rise.
Are you preparing for this new reality? A big chunk of your target market may permanently become home office workers.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
According to the National Bureau of Economic Relations, people work 48 minutes more, attend more virtual meetings and send more e-mails while working remotely. In fact, many people are getting stressed out while working at home. This is not comforting news.
You may be driven to produce more results at home. Don’t be too obsessed with your goals. It can do more harm than good. Our previous article on remote work suggested that home office workers should know when to call it a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re single. Working until the wee hours is not healthy.
Slow down. You’re on your way towards burnout if you overwork. You may also be sacrificing quality for quantity. This brings me to my next tip.
Prioritize and Assign Time for the Most Demanding Tasks
Take care of the small stuff first to get you going. It’s best to get these done early in the day. Most of the items on your to-do list are likely small tasks. Cross these out and you’ll be left with a handful, which will require your complete attention.
Block out time for the more complicated jobs. I suggest you pick the hours when you’re most productive and, hopefully, full of energy.
It’s an excellent idea to take care of chores, including attending to your kids, if any, after finishing the more important tasks. It’s hard to get back on track if you’re tired and unfocused.
According to a Fishbowl survey this year, almost 10% of employees don’t wear pants during a Zoom meeting. Nearly 30% of men don’t shave and 54% of women stopped wearing makeup. So what’s the big deal, you might ask?
Getting dressed isn’t just for virtual meetings. Wearing the proper attire is more of a mental habit. It gets you in the appropriate mindset. Swap your PJs for comfortable business casual. This will send a signal to your brain that it’s time to work.
Social media is full of videos of people caught in inappropriate clothing. While these were hilarious, prospects and business associates might not find them funny.
Don’t be one of those caught in an embarrassing moment by the camera. Wear a complete professional outfit when necessary. Better yet, turn off or cover your camera when you don’t need it.
Add Variety To Your Routine
Even assembly line employees change shifts monthly. So, get out of your comfort zone. You’ll argue that you’re very productive now, so why rock the boat?
However, when you’re on autopilot or cruise control, your output remains the same – or not. Break the monotony or each day will feel like the one before. When it does, boredom sets in and your performance suffers. Here are some ideas:
- Instead of making breakfast, drive or walk to your favorite deli, restaurant or local coffee shop.
- Try working in a different area of your home. Maybe catching a glimpse of some nice trees from a window will give you a little inspiration.
- Stand up while typing or browsing. It might make you more creative.
- Listen to music. Have you tried the Focus At Will focus music?.
- Chat more often with your significant other. Feeling connected is so important during these times.
Experiment or, may I say, A/B split test. Small tweaks to your routine can enliven what could be a dull day.
Set Up Informal Virtual Meetings
In our recent article on remote work, we suggested that people remain in touch with their colleagues. However, don’t limit yourself to formal meetings, when your boss calls, or when you need to talk to a co-worker.
Remember those times when you gather at your office’s pantry or around the water cooler during breaks? You and your colleagues weren’t just talking about the news or sports scores. It was also an opportunity to remind someone you’re expecting a report, ask a colleague’s opinion or share relevant information.
Why not set up a casual virtual gathering? Even change the App you use. Aside from Zoom, try Google Meet, Skype or GoToMeeting. An informal meeting is also an excellent venue for brainstorming. People are more relaxed and honest.
Create Productive Time Blocks
When a client requires your assistance, you practically drop everything. This is one matter that requires your immediate attention.
I’m sure you know other urgent tasks could suddenly crop up during a day. Not to mention emails to answer, meetings, chores, your children’s studies, and a myriad of other things.
Suddenly, the day is done.
Instead of losing the day and not getting done as much as you thought, carve out a productive time block. Set aside a two or three hour block of time where you intensely focus on your work. No email, no meetings, no distractions.
Since 2-3 hours is a long stretch, break it up into 25 minutes each, with a short break to walk around, drink some water, stretch out, then back to it.
Let your clients and your family know that you will not be available during this time. It’s the one block of the day where you focus intently on getting the hard work done.
Don’t Be Stingy On Technology
Probably the worst thing that can happen during a vital Zoom meeting is your computer breaking down. Have a backup always ready.
Get all the office equipment you need. This means having a fast PC or laptop, printer, scanner and even a copier. It’s wise to invest in an all-in-one printer. These are inexpensive. While we’re on the subject, have enough office supplies.
Check your ISP speed to make sure it’s more than what you need. It’s better to spend extra on a plan from a dependable provider. If you work for somebody, ask your company to provide you with your technical needs. But don’t request stuff you won’t actually use.
Happy Hour Only After Work
Another Fishbowl survey revealed that 42% of respondents, working at home, admitted to taking liquor while on the clock. Advertising and marketing agency employees had the highest percentage.
We’re talking about people from big firms like Bank of America, Amazon, Tesla and Google. We all know the effects of alcohol on productivity, so it goes without saying to wait until the work day is over.
It takes a lot of motivation and commitment to get tasks done at home. Whether you’re single or married, the challenges of remote work aren’t insurmountable. All you need to do is take the first step and begin with number 1 above.