Working from home (WFH) is now becoming a necessity. But, working from home, contrary to popular belief is not easy. It actually requires a lot of emotional and mental focus to stay productive. Here are some tips to help you be productive when you WFH:
Keep “work” space separate – The need to have a specific are where you are “at work” is very important. Our brains respond to our environment. We have programmed ourselves to know that home is a relax area, or our bedroom is where we sleep. WFH requires us to reprogram ourselves to work in those same areas; it is very hard to do. If possible, set your “work area” or home office up in another room entirely from where you normally relax. If not, take steps to separate the area where you will work.
Have a plan – Organization is key to building new routines. Working from home is new, we don’t have any routines or procedures. Perhaps your organization has given your guidelines (when to logon remotely, meeting times, production schedules, etc.) but without proper planning, it is very easy to mismanage your time at home. Having a plan keeps us focused on tasks and accomplishing goals, so we are less likely to become distracted.
Dress for work – while working in your pajamas is kind of fun, the reality is that when you prepare yourself to go to work, even when you are home, it helps you mentally shift gears to work mode. Additionally, when you are working, if you are dressed for work, it is easier to stay focused on you job.
Don’t work from the couch/bed – The temptation is great to just lug your laptop around and sit on the couch. You should be sitting at a desk/table in a good chair. Positional laziness translates into actual laziness. Have your designated work area as similar to your real work area to facilitate continuity of your work.
Don’t do housework/chores/honey-dos during “work” time – We all have a myriad of things we can do at home dishes, laundry, projects, etc. It can be very easy to work on these responsibilities rather than focus on your employment tasks. That isn’t to say that with careful planning you cannot accomplish both, but it is very easy to become overcommitted to home chores and neglect the job you are being paid to do.
Know your distractions and minimize them! – The temptation to be on social media at work is very high, in fact a majority of workers engage in some social media time while at work. When you are at home, this time can easily multiply leading to lost productivity. Dealing with family issues is another big distraction. Kids (and spouses) know you are home and may want to spend time with you. This is a double-edge sword of WFH: you appear to have more time with your family, but you really don’t because you have a fiduciary responsibility to your employer to be productive. Make sure you have clear rules for family interactions, like only on breaks with specific, pre-set time limits.
Social Contact – we are social creatures. We enjoy, some people actually crave, that water-cooler talk. We need to keep our social interactions alive, so use technology to communicate with your co-workers, when you can’t do it in person. Be aware this can become a distraction if not done with limits on time and context. Such as, socialize for a bit after speaking about work; don’t just make a social call.
Get up and move around – One advantage of working from home is when you take a break, you have lots of thing you can do. Often at work we get up, walk around, talk to people, get things off a printer, go to the mail room, go to someone else’ office, etc. without realizing it. Without those things we end up becoming too sedentary. Walk around your house, take a break and go outside. Take some time to get the blood flowing and you will refresh yourself and be able to renew your focus.
For Leaders whose team(s) work from home, a few things to consider as well:
Establish clear WFH Policies – Have clearly established guidelines covering things like: how time will be tracked (if at all), proper use of company equipment (laptop, phones, etc), any reimbursement for personal items used, reporting procedures / times, etc.
Expectations – While you should always have clear expectations for performance, when you add WFH, it becomes very important that your team knows what is expected. As the line between “my time” and “work time” is easily blurred, having clear and written expectations allows team members to work more autonomously, and yet still have sufficient guidance to plan and be successful.
Guidelines for on-the-job injuries – It is a generally a good idea for WFH teams to understand what would or would not be a workers’ compensation claim if they are injured working remotely. Providing good guidelines for team members to know when they are not covered also helps them to remain focused on work.
Be Flexible – A big part of the reason you are allowing your team to work remotely is for them to have more control over their schedules. Be understanding and flexible in allowing them to figure out their schedules, capabilities, etc. This may take some time for them to establish a routine to become productive. Allow them to work this out, while consistently providing feedback to bolster their confidence and keep them on track.
Don’t doubt your commitment – Transitioning to a successful WFH environment is not going to happen overnight. (Even if you have to implement it overnight) It is going to take time for team members to develop productive habits and routines. They are going to struggle at first, you are going to struggle too. Do not doubt your commitment. They will reflect your attitude towards the whole endeavor. If you doubt it will work, it probably won’t. Remain positive, be encouraging and trust them; don’t give up, you and your team can make it work!