What sparked my idea to write this article was when my coworker ping’d me on Skype asking for advice to help them focus while working from home. This led to me writing this article capturing a list of tips that have been working for my peers and myself to work at home more efficiently. Disclaimer: I just want to say that everyone’s job is different, and every person is unique – so find what works best for you and meets your needs.
1.Get ready in the morning as if you are going to the office
If you normally wake up at 8am to get into the office at 9am, stick with your regular routine – wake up at 8am, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. Being dressed in different clothes may help create more of a mental divide between being at home and working from home. Your mentality is the key to increasing productivity.
For instance, after my morning routine, I am more energetic and refreshed which helps me sound more lively for my morning meetings.
2. Have a designated and organized workspace
Having a dedicated workspace solely for getting work done aligns with my earlier point about mentality. The physical environment where you will be sitting (or standing up if you have a standing desk of some sort) – will be the area where you can focus and do your work.
All of us have procrastinated before. For those working in a messy environment, it is an easy habit to use cleaning as an excuse to put off getting work done. Therefore, if you start with a clean and organized desk – you will not use cleaning as an excuse!
3. Avoid working in your bedroom
If you can, try not to work from your bedroom. With your comfy bed only a few feet away from you, the temptation of lying there can lead to unnecessary “breaks” (such as a “short” sweet nap – what begins as a 5-minute nap can end up being a 2-hour break). Try different areas of your house – such as a home office or the kitchen table. If you share a house with your family, try to be mindful of your surroundings and the volume of your voice.
4. Make to-do lists
Before I start my workday, I make a to-do list of what I want to prioritize. I write each item down in my notebook and star high-priority tasks. Throughout the day, I strike-through what I have finished, which gives me a sense of accomplishment. This approach increased my motivation and overall productivity throughout the day. For example, if I know I have numerous items left on my to-do list, then I will push myself to work harder to cross off as many items as I can.
In addition, try to tackle the easy tasks first. An example of this would be following-up with Person X. You can easily cross it off your list early in the morning and it will most likely be in their mailbox by the time they are online.
5. Take breaks throughout the day
Whether you are on your laptop from 9am to 5pm or 8am to 11pm, make sure you take breaks! To be productive and focus on the work you are doing – please give your brain occasional breaks. Try to space your breaks out in between your meetings to grab a snack, drink some water, or go to the washroom. Do not forget to stretch your legs! It is important to remember to have balance in your life to manage the work from home lifestyle.
6. Eat your lunch away from your work laptop/phone
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. I know many folks tend to eat while they work. However, if you can, try to enjoy your food. Eat a nice hot meal and watch some Youtube videos! It gives your brain a break from work and it allows you time to eat at a normal pace. By having set boundaries, this will help you keep a mental divide between being at home and working from home.
7. Keep your team up-to-date
By keeping your team in the loop, it creates trust and transparency for everybody. Below are some examples of how to stay connected with your team. Whether you are a team leader or a team member, it is important to build trust when working remotely so both parties can focus on getting their own work done.
Group chats (Slack, MS Teams, Skype, iMessage, Whatsapp, etc): Team group chats are great for many reasons.
- Create team synergy – I find that depending on the size and personalities of your team, you can create great team synergy.
- Quick responses – I know some folks who are backed up in emails and are more responsive through IM chats.
- Less formal – it’s a place where you can tag people to ask them a simple question such as “who’s in charge of XYZ”.
Emails: For meetings where my manager is not able to attend, I summarize my notes from the meeting and let them know what key points/action items came out of those meetings. This creates a sense of transparency and trust by keeping them in the loop.
Stand-up meetings: Working from home should not mean that you should lose your team synergies. I work in an agile environment where I have daily stand-up meetings with my team to update them on my progress for my project. Stand-up meetings are supposed to be a short in-person meeting to sync up with your team. However, when we are not in the office, we have the choice to dial-in.
8. Signing off
Whether you are signing off at 5pm or 11pm, the moment you decide that you are done for the day, you should try to resist going back to your work laptop/phone. A few of my peers have not been willing to disconnect and have worked long hours leading them to burn out. If you are working long hours at home, it will feel like there is no escape.
If you can, I think it is important to be completely signed off. Everyone only has so many hours in the week, so do not forget to take time for yourself. Additionally, remember to spend time with loved ones (e.g. family, significant other, pets). When you sign off, pack up your work and focus on self-care. Get enough sleep so you can rest your mind and your physical well-being.
Overall, I think being in a healthy and well-rested mental state will help increase productivity when working at home. Some of my peers work remotely often and are constantly plugged-in without taking breaks, this will ultimately result in a person burning out or not being able to escape from work – even at their own house. I hope you find what works best for you, it might take a couple of tries but you will find an approach that suits your liking. I am curious to hear the thoughts from others, please let me know in the comments what helps you be more productive at home!
Connie Quach currently works at Deloitte Canada in the Technology Consulting field. She is a BBA graduate from the Schulich School of Business at York University with a specialization in Marketing/Organizational Behaviour. During her free time, she loves to travel and post pictures of food!