Along with the primary benefit of keeping employees safe, working from home also brings its own set of challenges. With more than two-thirds of companies expecting to extend their work from home policies long-term, remote employees must continue adapting to this new way of working.
Staying productive while working from home during a pandemic is difficult and requires daily effort. Let’s explore some attainable changes you can make to be more productive when working remotely.
Working from home is an opportunity to create healthy habits. You are in charge of your schedule each day more than ever before. Looking at an entire lifestyle overhaul is overwhelming and can discourage you from making changes.
Instead, start thinking small. Implement one small change and stick to it every day so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
This goes beyond your basic daily hygiene routine. While it can look different for everybody, one crucial part of getting ready in the morning is changing out of your pajamas. You don’t have to change into dress pants and a button down shirt. Even if you change out of your pajama pants and into sweatpants and a fresh shirt, it still creates separation both mentally and physically for the “working” portion of your day.
Maybe some days you completely do your hair or put on makeup, and some days you do as little as possible. Whether you’re putting in maximum effort or the bare minimum on your physical appearance, in the end you’ll feel more put together. This translates into your confidence and the way you carry yourself, even if it’s just on a video conference call.
Humans thrive in routine. It helps our brains and bodies know what to expect each day. Having a routine helps maintain healthy habits. Write out a schedule for yourself to help you stick to it. Schedule in small breaks throughout the day, a time for lunch, and when you will end work each day. You want your day to still resemble typical business hours in order to maintain some type of normalcy.
If you work with a team, take the time to share this schedule with them so they know when you’re temporarily unavailable. Knowing that you’ve shared this with other people will help hold you accountable to stick to your schedule, and it also creates boundaries on when they can expect to be able to reach you.
Your idea might inspire your team members to create their own schedules. Sharing productivity ideas with your team can help elevate the productivity of the entire team.
Pro tip: see our productivity tools to help you out
There used to be a more obvious boundary between work and home. When you left the office at the end of a long day, you were physically leaving your work at your desk. When you walked in the front door after work, you were mentally leaving work behind as you greeted your family.
Now commuting consists of going from room to room, and the excitement of seeing your partner after work may have dwindled because they are always home. Create separation for yourself and the other occupants of your home by having a designated work space that’s separate from everyone else.
If you need a quiet space for phone and video calls, put a desk in a spare bedroom or separate family room. If you are tight on space and absolutely have to use the kitchen table as a desk, make sure to close your laptop and put away work documents each night. Keep a file folder and notebook for all of your work items that can easily be closed and put away each evening.
Having work papers out in the open is a constant reminder of the work that needs to be done. It’s important to physically put your work away, so mentally you can have a break from it.
After you complete a task, take a short five minute break. These short breaks can consist of refilling your coffee, walking outside to check the mailbox, or letting the dog out for a quick bathroom break.
If you are working on a long-term project that will take more than one work day to complete, make sure you take breaks every couple hours, like written in the sample schedule above. Write these frequent breaks into your schedule so you will actually take them.
In order to minimize the ultimate distraction that is social media, put guidelines on yourself as to when you’re allowed to use it. Maybe you should only browse social media during your lunch break, instead of all throughout the day.
Turn off as many notifications as you can for each app, to decrease the amount of times it interrupts you during the day. Really think about what you actually would like notifications for.
Do you need a notification every time someone likes or comments on your posts?
Most likely not.
Think of each notification as an interruption to your workflow.
Use the feature on your phone that puts a limit on your social media use. Set the maximum amount of time you would like to be on social media per day. When you’ve reached that limit, your phone will send you a notification and lock you out of the apps.
The key is to make sure you adhere to these boundaries you’ve set for yourself, since you can bypass this feature and still access the apps anyway. After your time limit is up, you have to put your phone away and do something else.
Employees are saving time and money by not having to commute. Time that used to be spent sitting in traffic each morning can now be spent at the kitchen table having breakfast with your family. We are driving less, saving money on gas and wear-and-tear on our vehicles.
Working from home also creates an opportunity for healthy eating. Previously if you didn’t have time to pack yourself a lunch and you were trapped at your desk, you’d order takeout or fast food.
Now that you’re home you have the opportunity to make healthy meals and choose healthy snacks. You’re also not passing the coffee house each morning on your way to the office, which eliminates the temptation for a sugary beverage. This will save you some money at the end of the month as well.
Working from home can be full of distractions. We are tempted by all of our favorite comforts and pastimes, including watching tv, snacking constantly, and paying attention to pets and children.
During this time of excessive stress, it can be easy to choose what makes us comfortable instead of buckling down to work.
Remote workers can also start to feel stir crazy. We went from leaving our house every weekday to drive to work, to now staying in the same place all day. Employees can feel cooped up and in need of a change of scenery after working from home for months.
Employees need more communication during this time, especially from managers, to feel connected and productive. Managers should be frequently checking in on their employees, whether through phone calls or video calls, to make sure they feel supported.
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Remote workers also need to feel connected to each other. Scheduling consistent team calls can help your employees still feel camaraderie between them.
While there are many benefits to working from home, it also brings its own set of challenges that many employees haven’t dealt with previously.This unprecedented time is an opportunity for remote workers to make healthy lifestyle changes that can help them increase productivity.