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“This feels strange.”
“I’m not getting any work done!”
“I’m getting too much work done!”
“The kids are driving me crazy!”
“I can’t keep my eyes open after lunch!”
These are a few of the comments on my social media timeline in the last couple of weeks. Some of my friends and acquaintances have recently started to work from home and they’re productivity has taken a bit hit.
Having worked remotely for almost seven years, I know all too well the pros and cons of working from home. It’s really hard to stay focused and be productive.
Like for many of you, it happened with very little notice. The company I worked for closed its physical office on the island. The application development department, which I was a part of, had been hired by and only did work for the head office in Texas. So it was decided that we would continue to work remotely.
It certainly was weird at first. Not having to iron clothes for the work week took some getting used to (my Caribbean people know what I’m talking about). And I had to train myself to make a conscious separation between work and home time to keep my life in balance.
And then there were the family members and neighbors (and workmen even) who couldn’t understand that I was actually working and are not available to run errands, or change lightbulbs or do whatever else they thought is urgent at the time. One of my remote teammates even recounted how he had told a workman at his home that he was “at work” and the guy didn’t believe him.
Working from home full-time and not being self-employed, was and still is a concept that many people on my island don’t quite understand.
So if you’re a newbie, and you’re struggling to adjust, try these essential tips and increase your productivity while you work from home.
TIP 1: A SCHEDULE WILL INCREASE YOUR WORK FROM HOME PRODUCTIVITY
When you work from home, a schedule is one sure way to increase your productivity. If you already have an office schedule you may need to adapt it for your new environment.
A schedule helps to keep your mind in “work-mode” so that you can make the most of your working hours. Map out your work schedule every morning; make sure to include breaks and a lunch hour.
If it helps, take a shower and get dressed before you start your workday. Full disclaimer, I’ve never actually done this. Personally, I think one of the best perks of working at home is being able to roll out of bed five minutes before starting work (with just enough time to boot up you computer). But this is often recommended so if you think it will work for you, go for it.
tip 2: make sure to EAT WELL
Practice social distancing from the fridge. For some reason when you’re at home all day you tend to snack a lot. One way I worked around this was to only keep healthy snacks on hand, usually fruit. So every time I headed to the fridge the only thing available would be fruit. So that’s what I ate. Make sure to keep plenty of fruit, nuts, yogurt, and granola on hand.
Also, remember to drink your quota of water for the day. Sometimes when you feel hungry you’re actually thirsty.
Most of us know the eight by eight rule – eight 8 oz glasses of water each day, but studies show that your water intake needs can vary depending on your environment, sex, and physical activity. Figure out what’s right for you. If you drink more water, you’ll find yourself snacking less often. Remember that teas and juices count towards your water intake.
Take your lunch break! Make sure you put it in your schedule (mentioned above) and then actually take it. When you’re working from home it’s tempting to eat at your desk. Don’t do it! You need that mental and physical break and you also need eat well.
If you tend to skip your lunch breaks, try meal prepping. That way your lunch is already prepared and you don’t spend your half your break trying to decide what to eat and then having to prepare it.
tip 3: remember to TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS
Taking frequent breaks when you work from home actually increases your productivity. A time-management technique like the Podoromo technique can help you to stay on track with your breaks.
It uses a timer to break down your work intervals usually into twenty-five-minute sessions, with a five-minute break between each one. I like to use a longer version of this with forty-five-minute sessions and fifteen-minute breaks.
Don’t forget to take eye breaks as well. Follow the 20-20-20 rule -look away from your screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
Don’t forget to get up and walk around every now and then. Or try a quick stretch during your 5-minute breaks.
tip 4: EXERCISE is essential when you work from home
Speaking of exercise; it’s even more essential when you work from home. All you need is a 30-minute workout, three times a week. So make sure that you pencil in your gym time at a time you’re most likely to go (is your gym even still open?).
I had to switch my workouts from evenings to first thing in the morning because something ALWAYS came up in the evening. I either had to work late or I was too tired or one of the kids needed an emergency pick-up. Of course, going to the gym first thing interfered with the whole roll out of bed and start work thing, but it was necessary… I suppose.
Taking a walk or going for a run is also a good way to exercise. You’ll also get some much-needed sunshine after being indoors for so long.
But if your gym is closed or your movement is restricted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (as we are here), an in-home work-out might be your only option. You can find some effective home workouts using adjustable dumbbells, resistance bands and even your body weight.
Don’t forget that chores count as exercise as well. Ignore them while you’re working but during your breaks, set a timer and do ONE chore.
tip #5: SET BOUNDARIES
THE most important thing I had to learn while working from home was how to set boundaries. Boundaries on my time, on other people and even myself. It wasn’t clear to everyone, including myself, that being at home all day didn’t mean I was available.
I’ve already mentioned one way to set boundaries on your time – create a schedule. But having a schedule isn’t enough. You need to stick to it.
When your work and home environments share the same space, it’s hard to turn off. Resist the temptation to work past regular working hours or to keep responding to emails and messages after you’ve signed off for the day.
Next, make sure everyone knows what your working hours are. Display them on your “office” door or a place where everyone can see them. Use a “Do Not Disturb” sign during meetings or for the entire day if that’s the only thing that works. Let everyone know that during working hours you are “at the office”.
Ok, this one might surprise you. You also need to set boundaries for yourself. Why? Because you’re going to have to ignore the housework and all the other little things around the house that NEED (not) to be done.
Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean that you have more time to do the laundry or the dishes or mop the floors. You’ll have to ignore all that stuff to be productive and meet your deadlines.
tip #6: GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Last but certainly not least, make sure that you are getting enough sleep. Guard your personal space.
If possible, keep your work environment separate from your sleep environment. This wasn’t possible for me, and so it was doubly important for me to have a way to transition from work mode to home mode. If you don’t make the separation you might find yourself constantly in work mode.
I think the second best perk of working from home (after being able to roll out of bed and start work in five minutes), is the fact that you can take naps.
Research shows that taking an afternoon nap can actually boost your productivity. The recommended length of time is ten to twenty minutes. I know this might seem like a short amount to time but even a ten-minute nap can give you a boost of energy during the second half of your day.
Maybe those countries that practice taking a siesta really do know what they’re doing. If you can’t keep your eyes open after lunch, you don’t have to! Take a 20-minute nap.
Working from home can be a big transition and if you’re not careful your productivity levels can take a big hit. Try one or two (or all) of these tips and If you have some tips of your own, leave them in the comments.