2020 is a year of unprecedented things. COVID-19 (coronavirus) has already infected more than 2 million people worldwide and it is not slowing down. Because of the mandatory quarantine and social distancing, many people are working from home for the first time in their lives.
I have worked from home 3 days a week for 8 months out of the last 12 months. It was like switching to a full 5 days a week mode from 60%. Some people now have worked days or weeks from home, so this post will unveil 5 actionable things to work from home productively and more efficiently.
Working from home is not new
It is said that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity while working from home. I am not sure how much of that should I believe. Anyhow, working from home for people in tech people might not be something totally new but for other parts of the business, it is unfamiliar territory. Let’s jump into the tips on how to make your work from home more productive:
1. Have a dedicated workspace
Create a dedicated workspace with a work desk at home. It is best to not work from anywhere like the couch or bed. It gives you a physical sense of you are at work and this is the place to work. If you are used to an extra monitor get is organized. Especially for people who write code, I think it is great to have another monitor. Invest in other things too, like a comfortable chair. Try to find a quiet space with enough light and good air circulation.
2. Know your tools and tech
It goes without saying that a slow internet connection will ruin your work from home experience. If you can get a faster internet connection, this is needed for all the video conferencing calls and meetings you are going to have. Depending on the tech and software you use get used to the tips and tricks of those software products. For example this push to talk feature in Zoom was very useful for me. Other things like turning your camera on and knowing how and when to use screen sharing are also very helpful to be more productive and stay efficient.
3. Set boundaries and have fixed hours
Working with family around is not easy. Set clear boundaries and let other people in the house know you are working. Especially when you have a meeting it is best to inform family or housemates. Ok, now you are saving an hour or more because you are not commuting to work. This does not mean you should work 10 or more hours. Like the fixed workspace, try to get work done in your work hours. Don’t start at 8 AM and finish at 7 PM. On the other hand, don’t indulge in social media or TV and work very less. It is a balancing act as you are home you have to set your boundaries well.
4. Take a break/exercise
Midday or end of the day don’t forget to do some digital detox, maybe take a walk or just take a break. If you are alone schedule some time to talk with someone over the phone or on a video call. You might say it is lockdown and going out for a walk is not an option. Well, a person in Sydney ran a marathon on the balcony so be creative on how to take a break and/or exercise. It is important for your physical and mental health.
5. Watch what you are eating
Last but certainly not the least, keep an eye on what you are eating. Because you are at home 5 or more days a week, that should not equate to over-snacking each day:). Yes you will be eating more than being at the office. Balance it up with a fruit/veg only lunch or something light. The best thing would be to have a specific time set aside for eating and not eat at your desk to clear your brain fog.
I found the video below really helpful from someone working from home for years. The best take away from this 2 and half minute video by James is “4 by 4”, get 4 big things done by 4 PM.
You can find a long discussion about remote work between Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) from Basecamp in this video. They have been doing remote work for 20 years :). Jason kinda starts with levels of remote working then they discuss lots of other topics like the importance of written communication for instance.
It all boils down to discipline, routine, and consistency. You will have to be disciplined about what you do, follow a routine consistently. A fixed routine on when to start and end work, where to work, when and how long breaks will be will help you. Trust and communication are vital for remote working. Managers should have trust in their employees and employees should over-communicate to make sure things are crystal clear. Take advantage of the “new normal” and make full use of the work from home and using your free time well.