How To Work From Home More Efficiently
With the entire world basically shutting down for the next month due to the pandemic that is COVID-19, most businesses that are able to are closing their offices and sending their employees to work remotely.
It’s a strange time in our nation’s (and every nation’s) history & economy, for sure, and millions of people who have never worked from home before suddenly find themselves wondering what this new normal will look like and how they can still do their job well/how they can still motivate their employees to do their jobs well/ how they can still network and serve clients well. Even teachers are being trained in online teaching, since schools may be closed for the remainder of the school year or beyond. It seems like the majority of the U.S. may be working at home indefinitely. This is a possibility that is scary for many, but we’d encourage you to look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow your skills as an employee/employer!
Empirical360 is a digital marketing company. We’re used to working remotely. While we enjoy being in the office together as a team, there were typically several days a week before the outbreak that one or more of us would be completing our tasks from another state, from our living room, or from the offices of one of our clients that we were visiting or shooting video at. We know how it works. We know the unique challenges* it can present. We know the benefits. And we also know the best way to ensure you’re being as efficient as possible!
***Note: none of us have kids at the current moment, which present their own set of distractions and challenges (we just have dogs, who are all pretty good about chilling without supervision). For more advice on how to balance work and childcare during work hours, check out this guide from Buffer or google some more related tips!
Here are some best practices from working from home more efficiently.
1: Get dressed
It’s extremely tempting to just roll out of bed and get straight to work in your pjs or sweats, but studies have shown that the kind of clothes we’re wearing directly affect our attitude. Sweats and pjs are the kind of clothes we wear for lazy days, so you’re going to be more comfortable and sluggish and less prone to complete the day’s assignments. Sure, your coworkers are only going to get a headshot view of you over Zoom calls, but putting on the kinds of clothes you normally wear to the office will motivate you and put you in the right mood to do work.
2: Set a routine and start on time
Making a set routine is key for self-discipline. Don’t just assume that you’ll be able to get your work done based on whims; there’s something about working from home (and the coronavirus crisis in general) that is distracting and makes it a little harder to accomplish your goals than an office space! If you feel a little lost, this is the perfect place to start. Write down a daily routine, with time allocations. Set a wake up time. Sleeping in will not do you any favors for productivity! Science shows that most people work better earlier on in the day. Shower, get dressed, eat a healthy breakfast – this should be what your initial morning routine includes, for example. You should schedule breaks and your lunch break, also.
3: Make to-do lists/task lists if you’re not given one
Project management platforms like Asana and Monday are used by many companies to assign work and hold employees accountable, but if your company is not using project management software, and you don’t really have specific goals to accomplish while you’re working from home, make them yourself! Create a list on Google Sheets, if you need to, just so you have some roadmap for your day of the work you need to get done. It will help you stay focused, and also help you know what you achieve every day.
4: Create a space
Really, this may be the most important one on the list. Create a place where you can work, somewhere comfortable but clean and organized. Ideally this will be separate from the rest of the house, though that’s not always possible. If you have a guest room, you could convert it into a temporary home office by putting a desk in the corner or removing the bed completely. If you don’t have a desk or the means to get one, a kitchen table will be fine, but somehow make it your own during work hours (take everything off of it like centerpieces, for example). In the same way that it’s no good to work at a messy desk, it’s no good to work in a messy space. Organize your documents and your workspace so that it encourages productivity. And sinking into a couch that’s too comfortable may cause drowsiness, not the work intensity you need.
5: Minimize distractions
Block your social media apps during work hours, or place your phone in another room entirely (so long as work contacts can still get in touch with you easily). It’s especially hard to disconnect and just focus on work right now, since everybody wants to know the latest on the coronavirus and check in with friends. But it’s a major time waster, and if you wouldn’t scroll through Instagram for an hour at work, you shouldn’t do it at home when you’re on work time. Don’t turn on the tv, and don’t turn on music if you don’t normally work with it. If your messy house and pile of dishes from last night’s dinner is driving you crazy, clean it before you begin work (not on work time, but set that as part of your schedule). Try to take away anything that could prove to be a distraction to you while you’re working from home.
6: Take a real lunch break
This is important too! It can be easy to just dive into work mode, get caught up with everything we have to do, especially if we feel behind, and forget to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Taking a real lunch break, away from home (or, perhaps with this coronavirus, outside near your house or at least somewhere away from your work corner) can help you avoid burnout and exhaustion, and help you focus better in the afternoons.
7: Take other breaks
Think about all the time you spend at work talking to your coworkers, taking bathroom breaks, stretching or taking a brief walk downstairs, etc. Work these things into your day! It’s healthy to take breaks. It’s not healthy to just sit at a computer all day and not get up once. Your mind and your body will grow frustrated. Get up and go outside (it’s still safe to do that!) Take a walk around your neighborhood, call an elderly neighbor to check how they’re doing, or go read a chapter of a book for ten minutes. Just something to refresh!
8: Talk to your coworkers/supervisors/employees
If you’re a social person (at work and/or in general), social distancing and working from home can seem lonely and boring. Make sure to take the time for team Zoom or Facetime calls, or use Slack to communicate (it’s instant and you can send gifs, unlike email!) These interactions don’t have to be long, but they do help you feel not so disconnected. It is especially important to communicate often with your coworkers if you are working with multiple people on one project and need to check in on progress. If you’re in charge of other people, check on them periodically throughout the day just to see how they’re doing and ask if they need anything!
9: Keep strict boundaries between your work/personal time
Work life and home life should be separate. This is just necessary for a healthy life balance. But this is hard to do if you work from home! Achieving this balance will take trial and error, but shutting down your computer at 5pm and leaving it in your workspace at the end of the day is a good place to start. Set boundaries for times that you’ll answer emails and phone calls after that, if your job allows. Change out of your work clothes and into comfier clothes, just like you would if you came home from working at the office. And try not to let talk about your work life overwhelm your personal life. Then, enjoy your personal time! Lean into all the reading you can do during this social distancing time, and if you live with your family or friends, spend time with them doing things that are meaningful to you. Learn something new, an instrument, sign language, a new cooking recipe, etc. Relax and take a bike ride or watch a movie. You’ll be more refreshed and ready for the next work day if you’ve taken your evening to enjoy for yourself.
10: Learn from each day’s failures and successes
Adjusting to a new normal is hard for everyone, and the first few weeks of working from home may discourage you – don’t let them! Instead of getting down on yourself for the inevitable distractions and unproductivity you may face, learn from each day’s routine and mistakes, and celebrate the work you do well.