While working from home (#WFH) has gained prominence over the past few decades with the proliferation of the Gig Economy, strides in technology and increased flexibility from corporations, nothing seems to impact this growing working environment more than the threat of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As the narrative of this pandemic unfolds, we’re seeing an unprecedented sense of urgency around placing measures to mitigate the severity of COVID-19’s impact on life and business around the world.
Thousands, possibly more, are likely to join the ranks of at-home workers. Adjusting to these changes in environment will be a challenge. If you find yourself in this situation, you will have to identify your struggles with WFH and find some solutions to remain productive.
Several years ago, I shifted from an office job to full-time #WFH. During this time, the two main issues I encountered were 1) remaining productive and 2) less social interaction. The following is a shortlist of tips and tricks that helped me overcome these challenges.
1. Get dressed.
It is incredibly easy to save time and remain comfortable by skipping the shower and staying in PJs. However, I feel more productive when I shower and get dressed. I haven’t run the numbers to quantify this claim, but it seems to be true. Maybe it is because I feel more professional or maybe it is because the get-ready time mentally prepares me for the day of work. Regardless, I try to follow a routine as if I was going into the office.
2. Create a separate workspace.
Over time #WFH began to encroach on my home life as I found myself opening my work laptop on the couch while watching TV to multitask. Without creating separation between where I work and where I live, I found myself working at all hours and in all places in my home—and it wasn’t even productive work. To solve for this, I designated a space for work. Even more importantly, I designated some areas, like my couch, as work-free to ensure I had boundaries that help to preserve times and places for relaxation. Also, don’t forget your toolbox to make sure you have everything you need when you go into your workspace.
3. Stay connected.
The social isolation that comes with #WFH is real. When the daily interactions with coworkers—greetings in the morning, discussion of weekend plans, banter before and after meetings—went away, I found that I missed the connection they provided. To solve for this, I prioritize interaction with others throughout the day. I regularly schedule lunches with friends. I err towards video calls to get the benefit of face-to-face meetings.
While office life is already pretty sedentary, I found it was nothing compared to the lack of movement from full-time #WFH. If I was really focused on a project, I would barely move throughout the day—just the occasional trips to the bathroom and kitchen. Make sure you get up and move regularly. Go for a walk. Take out the dogs. Get to the gym. Work these activities into your schedule ahead of time.
5. Protect your hours.
Many people who regularly #WFH believe they work more hours than their office peers. I believe this is partially due to Parkinson’s Law – the amount of work to be done expands to fill the amount of time you have to do it – made famous in a great 1955 article in The Economist. Instead of focusing on spending as much time as you can working, find focused periods of time to complete tasks the most efficiently. Take calls on the move. Allow yourself short breaks throughout the day to remain productive. But, make sure those breaks don’t turn into a 2-hour nap. I try to cap my breaks at 15 minutes – time spent reading the news or going for a walk. Finally, cut yourself off with a timer or a winding down ritual at the end of the day.
6. Stay focused.
It is very easy to get distracted at home. Distractions may come from your kids, dogs, or social media. These distractions reduce productivity, make you feel unprofessional, and make your day last longer because eventually, you have to get the work done. Know your distractions and work out a plan ahead of time to minimize them. For me it is my dogs when they bark. I use music or white noise to keep them from hearing sounds that would make them bark. Another trick I use is to turn on my focus song (Red Hot Chili Peppers – Song That Made Us What We Are Today) and focus on a single task for the 13 minutes of the song.
7. Eat well.
I easily fall into the trap of eating what is available. If lunch isn’t prepared or I don’t have fruit and vegetables cut ahead of time, I’ll move onto the junk food. To combat a too convenient indulgence like this, I always try to have food prepared ahead of time. I prepare my lunch in the morning at the same time I make breakfast to kill two birds with one stone and because I know breaking to prepare a midday meal is an easy way to fall back into unhealthy snacking.
Tying it all together
Just like when I worked in the office, I have days when I’m super productive and days that it seems it’s impossible to get everything done. I don’t always follow each rule each day, but I try to come back to these when I’m struggling with connection or productivity.
What do you think? I’d love to hear what works best for you. Shoot me an email: Joe@seekcompany.com