We are dealing with difficult times right now. About 20% of the entire Earth's population is stuck-at-home due to these rough times. Only a lucky few can work-from-home. Rest are either being laid off or are on unpaid leave for months.
Working from home is the only option left to work safely. Hundreds of people are left working from home for the first time, but most of them are unsure how to do that. Numerous people associate remote work with sleepy leisure days, including lounging around in pajamas.
Although working from home offers flexibility, it's still is an actual job that requires complete attention. Transitioning from an office work culture can be hard, especially on your productivity and social life. However, take off your training wheels and read our advice on how to work-from-home effectively.
Set a Daily Routine
Routine is nothing but a sequence of habits, which helps us in productively power throughout the day. The Power of Habit, explains the importance of building a habit and keeping it.
Unlike the office, when working from home, there is no boss to watch over your shoulders. Thus, it's easy to fall in the rabbit hole of procrastination and waste time on social media. Things can add up pretty fast if you're not vigilant about your day-to-day activities.
Therefore, it's essential to have a daily routine, to maximize productivity by avoiding all the common pitfalls.
- Set the right mindset early on in the day. Start the day early, shower as if you're leaving for work, dress up, and log into work.
- It is VERY essential to have a to-do list for the day. Block calendar for uninterrupted work time, including log-off time, keeping your team informed. Don't forget to take breaks and not overwork.
- Set clear boundaries between work and family time, leaving plenty of time for maybe reading a book, playing with your kid or pet before you go to bed.
- Having flexibility, you have the freedom to set your work hours when you feel most productive. Sticking to specific work hours will help increase performance. Schedule different things by time blocks (not hourly). And maintain that regularly to make it into a routine.
Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, plan the day or the whole week to avoid burn-out, although there are jobs that require fixed work hours(like customer support). This being the number one trick every productive person uses to keep themselves on top of everything.
Dedicate a place/room in your house to be your workspace, rather than settling on areas that represent leisure time such as the couch; otherwise it'll be hard to do anything meaningful work-wise. Use that workspace only for work and nothing else. The idea is to trick the brain into transitioning to work mode.
If you feel isolated and lazy at home, another option is to work either in a co-working space, a coffee shop, or a public lounge with wifi. Although right now, we highly recommend not going out at all to keep yourself and others safe.
A workspace usually consists of both ergonomic furniture and software tools that help you work from home effectively.
Invest in a standing desk and an ergonomic chair, other pieces of equipment like an extra monitor apart from your laptop, a laptop stand, wireless mouse, and keyboard to create your workspace. And to get in the "zone," make sure to get a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. Take inspiration from a well-setup desk from one of our interviews in How I Work Remotely series.
Feeling connected to your team is essential, in the long run, to avoid isolation and depression. Also, the right stack of online tools that fit your work style makes a big difference in your productivity. Tools such as Zoom and Webex for video meetings, Slack for company-wide messaging, Trello or Asana for project management, etc. removes this distance barrier between team members and keeps them organized.
Switch to work apparel
Constantly feeling unproductive and always end up procrastinating while working from home, try dressing up. Wearing work apparel similar to the way you would if you were commuting to the office will trick your brain into thinking you're actually at the office.
This tonal shift in mindset will cause you to get to your peak performance quickly. Mindset is everything. Apart from the psychological effect, this would also keep you prepared for any impromptu video meetings during the day.
Dressing up doesn't mean wearing something particularly fancy; a separation between your bedclothes (comfortable clothes) and work clothes is acceptable to get you into the right mindset. Once you're in the work loop, change into comfy PJs, and continue working. In all, wear away all the laziness.
Brush Up Your Communication Skills
In a remote company, all the employees being distributed across the globe have different timezones, becoming a barrier in communication. It's unlike anything you've seen in a traditional office setup. You can't just walk to someone's desk and prose a question. You'd have to get a hold of them via Slack or even worse, email.
Communication can be a little difficult if not approached correctly from the get-go. It is crucial to clearly articulate your points with your team in work from home setup, and thus, it is necessary to master the art of async communication.
We ran a survey on Twitter and found: People want to communicate with their colleagues and want to have a chat just for the sake of having one. About ~20% of people only rely on Slack for communication.
Setting clear communication expectations
It's easy to disregard 1:1's with your manager as just another meeting; it can still be one of the most important ones for your career to understand about your goals, upcoming projects, aspirations, daily tasks, OKRs/KPIs, etc.
Communicating well with teammates often mean: expressing your concerns, suggestions on the upcoming task, collaboration on some task, etc.
Be ready to switch gears as each situation commands a different approach. Convey what you mean clearly and concisely, either via instant messaging, video calls, or email.
Be respectful and create a separation
Async communication is the key to remote work. Over the top communication is also not acceptable, like in cases where a slack message is enough, there is just no need to jump over video calls for small things.
However, in meetings like 1:1s and team meetings, embrace video calls as a chance to connect with your colleagues. Since there are less in-person social interactions in remote work, these would help alleviate feelings of isolation and anxiety.
No Netflix rule
It's so enticing to binge-watch Netflix the entire day, or surf social media on a breezy Sunday. Despite your strong will power, you'd find yourself sneaking in a tab of YouTube in the background.
Taking fun breaks is essential, but watching entertainment shows can quickly turn your day into an unproductive mess on a workday.
We took this onto Twitter, and the results shocked us. Not only most people just browse Instagram, Facebook, etc. but an unusually large percentage of people like to relax and take a power nap.
How to stop media consumption during work hours?
Our brain craves instant gratifications; it isn't our fault that we can't seem to get away from it. Instead of bullying your mind into submission, employ strategies such as putting the phone on a high shelf, leaving your laptop while being on the work laptop, physically removing yourself from situations, etc.
Avoid any additional family distractions by informing your family about work hours and making sure they respect it. Other distractions, such as household chores like laundry, meal preps, etc. could also hinder working from home. Planning a daily schedule won't let your miss out on work as well as on family time.
Do this instead:
Relaxing is never seen as a viable option in the office going cohort. Ever. It's obvious: you can't relax during work hours! You'd either hang out at the Watercooler for a little chit-chat or play a game of Ping-Pong. But ~37% of people on our survey confirms that relaxing or taking a nap during the work hour is alright. Just do it gracefully and reasonably.
Exercise regularly and eat healthy meals
Working from home doesn't mean compromising one's physical health. Our survey showed that only 30% of people strive to remain fit and eat healthily while telecommuting. It's worrisome.
Staying healthy is not rocket science. Add a slot for exercise, be it Yoga, Weightlifting, or Cardio, and just do it. Meditating before bedtime is also advisable. Sitting for long periods is the new smoking. Doctors recommend taking breaks frequently and going for a walk. Moreover, we listed our best picks for a standing desk, prefer it to avoid sitting at all.
On top of this, the habit of continuously snacking is leading to weight gain among telecommuters, since the kitchen and refrigerator are nearby. Have healthy meal preps done a day before to reduce the chances of unhealthily snacking or overeating. Make sure to schedule a time for regular exercise, have healthy meals and snacks, and remember to drink lots of water
Get some sunlight
Staying focused during work hours is crucial, but getting too involved might do the opposite. Working for prolonged hours can decrease your productivity and hurt your posture.
Rather than just surfing the net, use these breaks to get away from your desk. Incorporate small spurts as a time to stretch in your daily routine. Plan scheduled short breaks to boost productivity and creativity levels, such as reading books or listening to podcasts. Treat breaks as incentives; this will get your work done faster since you have a reward to look forward to.
Add social interaction to avoid feeling depressed, isolated, and gloomy from staying inside all day. Go out to get some sunlight and walk with your dog and interact with people. Connect with your colleagues for fun meetings, play with your kids, and have peaceful family time.
During these unfortunate times, though, we recommend not stepping out of the house and spending time with your family indoors. You can still open some windows to let sunlight in and spend unusual time in your patio or backyard as a break from work.
The benefits of working from home for employees go beyond avoiding the commute and feeling relaxed. During this time, it has become more of a necessity than a choice actually to stay at home and work.
We know it takes more than a wifi connection and a home office to work from home effectively. Start applying these tips and tricks to streamline your schedule and increase your productivity.