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Can You Be Productive Working Form Home?
You’re an employee whose company has just instructed you to begin working from home. Sounds great considering the current health crisis. You get to protect your family’s health and still keep your job. That’s great news. But is working from home as easy as it sounds? There are some significant challenges to working from home, but if you are aware of where the pitfalls are, you will increase your chances of success and your productivity.
The COVID-19 Coronavirus measures taken by public and private leaders will compel millions of US workers to work from home. Becoming a staff of telecommuters with your work team members has its challenges. For many companies and employees this is an opportunity to make the best out of a terrible situation. Work-at-home employees can be highly productive and efficient without the commute.
In addition to the health consequences, there are very real and very serious economic consequences that threaten our safety during the COVID-19 virus crisis. The closure of offices and other places of commerce has the potential to create long-term economic distress for millions of families. The ability for companies and individuals to continue to contribute to our economic activity is vital. Working from home may be a solution for many companies and employees to help sustain themselves and the economy.
There are many studies suggesting that workers can even increase their productivity working from home if they follow a few simple rules.
Here are some tips to make you a more productive worker from home:
Make a Plan to Work During Certain Hours
This is no different than going to work. You may not work from 9-5, but you should set the times that are dedicated to do work and stick to it. Many experts say that employees who work from home are highly efficient, beyond their workplace productivity. Set aside a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the early afternoon to dedicate to your work.
Setting a plan will also relieve you of the boredom that you may experience while adhering to the “social distancing” advice currently being offered by health officials. But be careful not to over-schedule yourself. Maybe start with three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon.
Create Boundaries Between Life and Work Life
The work-life balance is very important. We mentioned before that it’s important to set boundaries and schedules. Just because you’re home does not mean you have to work all the time. Avoid over-working and quit when your scheduled time expires.
Also, let family, colleagues and clients know what your work hours are. Communicating this clearly and unequivocally will help to set expectations and give you a better chance of people respecting your boundaries.
Create a Workspace
It’s important to create a home office environment that allows you to be productive during your work day. If this is the first time you will be working from home, make sure you set-up a workspace. Do not work from your bed or the couch. If possible, set aside some clear space in a quiet part of your home or even clear space on the kitchen or dining table. It would be preferable to find a space where you might minimize domestic interruptions.
Get Dressed and Try to Create Some Professionalism
Working from home can make us a bit comfortable, maybe too comfortable. It is not a great idea to work in pajamas, a robe or in your underwear. Work-from-home experts advise remote workers to follow similar routines as if you were going into an office. Shower, shave, make-up all help you with a sense of purpose and efficiency. Embrace your work time at home as a perk, who knows, this may be something you can do regularly if it works out.
You don’t need to don a suit and tie, but being fully dressed will make a world of difference as you attack your work load. Also, remember to take breaks, stand as much as you can and keep hydrated. These things will help keep you focused and alert.
Along the lines of “professionalism, try to create a to-do list for the day. This is usually best written-out and hung prominently by your work area.
More than anything else, try to avoid social media and television during the dedicated work hours. Social media is a well-known efficiency-killer. Hours will disappear like seconds if you’re not careful. If you want to engage in social media, step away from your work area and take a timed break.
Similarly, do not work with the television on, it has a similar effect as social media. Rest assured, whatever is happening on television will be repeated over and over again in the evening hours.
But what about kids and crying toddlers? OK, that’s an important “distraction” to address. There may be many personal things that will require your attention while working from home, it’s unavoidable. Just try to address one issue at a time. If your kids are anxious to do something and need your attention, give them a schedule and work around that schedule.
Work-at-home advisors generally suggest getting started as early as possible to maximize your efficiency and minimize distractions. During the current crisis, many schools are closed and the kids are likely to be home. Since we all know kids like to sleep a lot, try to get up as early as possible so you can get as much done before you encounter unavoidable distractions.
Stay connected with supervisors and co-workers online or, if necessary using collaboration apps such as GoToMeeting, Microsoft 365, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or FreeConferenceCall. Keeping connected will instill a sense of community and keep you motivated and focused. If you don’t have access to your work email at home, ask your supervisor to grant access. This may require you to download a few extra programs.
There are several free conference call services available. Ask your IT administrator to enroll your company.
Don’t forget to ensure your online security. While many of us have some level of online security at home, many don’t. Check with your company IT department and ask about security measures you need to take to ensure security while working online from home.
Be Practical About Scheduling Online Meetings
Try to schedule your online meetings in the afternoon. Morning hours tend to be better suited for individual work tasks.
We have discussed it before, if you schedule a video conference, think about possible sources of distractions and address them prior to your meeting. Since kids and pets don’t always follow the “quiet-time” rules, let your counter-parties on the call know you’re working from home and may encounter disruptions. This will go a long way to alleviate the tension of interrupting a meeting. However, major interruptions can be a deal-breaker. If you think you will encounter a major disruption repeatedly, either reschedule or relocate.
If you are going to have a video call, check surroundings and backgrounds. Remember to remove any personal effects or anything embarrassing items from the video shot.
Communicate at the End of the Day
One of the most important things to remember while you are working remotely with your colleagues is to communicate about the day’s activities. It’s easy to get off track while everyone is working separately. It is advisable to conduct a “post-mortem” call or email thread where you can collaborate as a team to ensure that you are all working with a purpose and in sync with each other. Having a work group check-in at the end of each day will ensure you are hitting your work targets.