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Putting the “work” into working from home: how to be productive
Are you working from home these days? Whether you regularly work from home or are just temporarily home due to the current social distancing practiced across the world with the COVID-19 coronavirus, here are some tips on how to set up your working space, the best tools to use if you are working from home and how to ensure you can still be efficient outside of the traditional office setup.
To start, here’s the bottom line: you can be productive while working from home. Without the distractions of office chatter, group lunches, long meetings and other regular office activities, you may find yourself more productive than ever before.
On the other hand, it takes more initiative to find that productivity. Also, sometimes people find working from home to be solitary, have trouble with communication or lose the feeling of being part of a team. Getting the right setup and using effective tools can help ensure that doesn’t happen.
First, set up your space
It may be tempting to work from your laptop in bed, or relaxing on the couch, but it’s hard to stay productive like that for long. Set up a working area that includes a comfortable, high-backed chair, a table or desk for your computer and a working environment that feels best for you.
Ensure you have a reliable internet connection, and access to all the files you need. If you need to work from home unexpectedly, with the COVID-19 virus, it might take longer to get access to your work servers. If this is the case, then transfer urgent files to a service like Google Drive to access them away from the office.
If your days involve a lot of calls, make sure you have a quiet environment in which to take them. It can be a serious distraction if the sound of never-ending construction from across the street drowns out your voice on calls. Plan your day and step out to go somewhere quieter if needed.
Do you work better with music or in complete silence? While feeling cold or warm? One great advantage of working from home is that you can set up your space in the exact way that makes you feel the most creative and productive. Take advantage of that and make your space work for you.
How to remain focused when working from home
Work for a set number of hours a day.
Pick a hard start and hard finish time to help structure that day. Decide when you’re going to take a lunch break and other breaks. Having a set schedule that you can refer to will help structure your day and improve focus.
Remove distractions as best as you can.
Turn off the TV and forget any ideas about multitasking chores that you need to do at home while also doing work. Sit down to work in the same way you would in the office and as much as possible, ignore distractions that come up at home versus in the office.
Find childcare if needed.
Working with kids at home? Think about having childcare lined up for your working hours just as you would if you were out of the office. The now-famous moment from the BBC when a daughter, followed by her brother, burst into her father’s live TV commentary is both incredibly adorable and emblematic of what it’s like to work from home with kids around.
If you are working from home only a few days a week, plan the week so that the tasks you do from home are more individual that would benefit from high levels of focus, versus other tasks that you need to collaborate with other team members.
Stay connected with your team
Now, more than ever, it’s not necessary to be physically present to communicate clearly and effectively. Aside from the usual ways of communicating with your team through email and phone calls, look into other avenues like video calls and instant messages and chats. Collaboration at a distance is easy with the right tools.
For communication: look into diverting all communication into messenger apps like Yammer and WhatsApp. Skype for Business and Zoom make video calls effective and accessible - arrange daily virtual stand-ups to ensure everyone is on track.
For file sharing: Use programs that will give you access to all necessary documents from wherever you are. Additionally, it will allow multiple people to work off the same document as needed, and avoid confusion on which is the latest version. Look into using tools like Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote.
For team updates: When you have multiple projects going on, and need to get constant status updates, use a team collaboration tool that allows people to mark what they have done, what’s pending and what else needs to be done. Tools like i done this and Trello allow for virtual team updates and keep everything neatly organised for quick and clear access.
Work smart, work hard
Working from home can be extremely productive, it’s just a matter of getting organised and making the commitment to do the work needed. Another key to success is being organised and self-motivated.