7 Covid-19 Tips to Help You Adjust to Working from Home
Power Your Productivity to Invigorate Your Work/Life Balance
Whether because of COVID-19 or by your own design, when you’re working from home you’ll be faced with many challenges. If you get your head round these, you’ll soon be taking full advantage of the benefits of working from home. Advantages such as setting your own routine, working when you perform best, fewer disruptions while you’re working, and, perhaps best of all, no more dreaded commute all mean that you control your work/life balance.
Having been there, done it, worn the T-shirt, and written the book (literally), I thought I’d put together my seven top tips to help you adjust to working from home. You never know, at the end of this global nightmare we’re all living through, you may even decide to ask your boss if you can stay working from home – or seek an opportunity that lets you do so.
1. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Don’t think you can work from the comfort of your settee or on your dining table. You need a space where you can lay your work stuff out without fear of it being moved or having orange juice spilt over it.
If you’ve got a spare room that you can call an office, that’s great. If not, put a desk in the corner of your dining room, living room or bedroom. Then set the rule that this is your workspace, and not to be touched by others. Sit in a proper chair (an office chair if possible) to make sure you keep good posture. If you have a room divider, use it to accentuate the difference between your workspace and your social space.
2. Find Your Personal Productivity Cycle
One of the biggest advantages of working from home is that you get to set your own timetable (within reason). This means that you can do your work when you are most motivated. The real trick is to find when that is for you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with working at different times of the day – I’m very much a morning person, but you might work best in the afternoon or evening. Also, you’ll find that you do different tasks more effectively and efficiently at different times. Use your natural body clock to its best advantage – you’ll get more done in less time, and have more spare time to do the things you love most.
3. Take Frequent Breaks
It’s essential to take frequent breaks to eat or drink away from your workspace. Your brain needs recharging. Again, experiment to find your best rhythm. To be more productive, take more breaks – that’s something your boss probably won’t say in the traditional office setting.
4. Manage Your Time Effectively
So, you’ve got your workspace and know when you work best and that you must take regular breaks. Now, put all this together to manage your time effectively:
· Prioritize your tasks, using the Eisenhower Matrix
Spend more time on important tasks before they become urgent. If you do this effectively, you won’t have urgent tasks (at least not of your own making). Try to delegate tasks that are important but not urgent. And those tasks that are both unimportant and non-urgent? Trash them (for more info on this, see distractions below. Also make sure you watch this three-minute video to become an Eisenhower Matrix Maestro.)
· Batch similar tasks
By batching similar tasks, you don’t need to switch routine or refocus more often than you need. So, for example, sort through all your emails in one hit, or compose and send all invoices in a single time slot.
· Set your daily routine
Work with your natural rhythm by dividing your days into ‘work chunks’. There’s a couple of systems I use for this:
- The Pomodoro Technique splits your day into 30-minute chunks: 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. After four of these cycles (called ‘Pomodoros’) you take a 15- to 20-minute break. I find this system is great for admin tasks.
- For tasks that take longer, set aside 90-minute time slots, followed by a break of five to 10 minutes for a recharge. For me, I tend to rise early and work in 90-minute slots until lunch time, completing all my bigger tasks. Then, in the afternoon, I switch to admin mode and work in lien with the Pomodoro Technique (subject to my priorities in my Eisenhower Matrix).
· Avoid multitasking
Multitasking doesn’t work. Period. Multitasking destroys your concentration and your productivity.
5. Eliminate Distractions
In a traditional office, you are distracted all day. Your boss giving you new work. Emails that you must answer. Colleagues popping by your desk to say ‘hi’. You won’t suffer these distractions at home, but there will be distractions, nonetheless. Here are a few actions to take to stop these distractions ruining your productivity:
- Add an app like StayFocusd to stop you sneakily scanning social media accounts. Ban yourself from opening emails using StayFocusd until it is the time you want to, as well.
- Take the batteries out of the TV remote control and put them in a drawer in the kitchen.
- Set time aside to do your household chores, such as gardening and decorating.
- Contract with others so they know not to disturb you or call you during your working hours.
- Finally, to make sure you don’t answer unwanted calls, turn off your mobile.
6. Use the Tools Available
The benefits of all the productivity techniques and strategies above can be magnified even further by using the tools that are available to you. These tools include:
- Task/project management tools like Trello or Asana
- Communication tools like Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp
- File sharing tools like Dropbox
These will help you focus on your tasks, communicate more effectively with your remote colleagues, and collaborate on work more efficiently.
7. Stay Connected to Others
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when working from home is social isolation. The lockdown laws around the world may be giving most of us a sense of this – and the techniques to combat it.
Don’t underestimate the effect on your mental well-being that your new social isolation can bring. In the traditional office environment, you have people around you. That annoying disruption when a colleague takes stops by your desk for 10 minutes will be missed.
The secret here is to make time to connect with your work colleagues. Arrange for a virtual lunchbreak once a week. Timetable a five-minute chat on Skype with a different colleague each afternoon. These types of meetings shouldn’t be about work. They are your chance to maintain the essential social connection that helps to keep you grounded and mentally fit.
Adjust to Working from Home and You’ll Adore Your Work at Home
Even though it was my choice to work from home, it still came as quite a shock to the system. The challenges you’ll face are the same that all people who work from home face.
As I adjusted my methods, routines and ways of working I found that my productivity improved. And as my productivity improved, I found I had more time to do the things that I love most. Don’t get me wrong – I made lots of mistakes on my journey. These seven tips will help you to avoid those mistakes.