Many of us have been working from home during the pandemic, and whilst remote working has plenty of benefits, it also has its distractions. Other people in the house going about their business, for example, or the empty washing machine calling out to you, the urge to go for a walk when the sun comes out and of course home schooling/childcare … Need I go on.
Whilst some employees are gradually returning to the workplace, many are still expecting to be working from home for the foreseeable future and possibly on a permanent basis. If this sounds like you then here are my tips to help you stay focused and productive in your home workspace.
Get ready for work
Whilst it may seem both appealing and relatively harmless to rock up at your computer in your pyjamas, it may not exactly get you in the optimum mindset for a productive day at work. Even though you may wish to dress a little more casually than perhaps you would at your employer’s, it’s beneficial to keep to a similar routine when working from home. Another plus is that you won’t feel embarrassed to use your webcam in Zoom meetings…
Having set working hours will help you get into ‘work mode’. It will also help you retain a firm boundary between your personal and work life, something that can be more difficult for homeworkers.
Reach for the headphones
If you don’t have a separate office to reside in when working from home, you could be subject to the noise of your white goods working away, the people you live with milling around or traffic noise/barking dogs/any other forms of disturbance outside.
Some people work better when listening to classical music or their genre of choice, others prefer their surroundings to be perfectly silent. Either way, a pair of headphones will solve the problem. Play your favourite music at a volume that naturally drowns out any other noise without being intrusive or, if you work better when things are quiet, opt for noise-cancelling versions.
To procrastinate or not to procrastinate?
Working in an office with your boss and colleagues in line of sight makes it easier to stay focused on your work. Left to your own devices at home, however, it’s easy to spend half-an-hour doing your online shopping, surfing the web, sorting the washing or just mindlessly staring out of the window.
This is a scenario that’s more likely to play out if you have a task on your to-do list that isn’t as enjoyable as others or which takes more brain power.
Procrastination isn’t helpful – it just prolongs the agony. One tip is to write out the following day’s tasks in order of enjoyment, with the worse task first on the list. If you tackle the task you hate the most when you’re rested and before mindlessness and boredom sets in, it will be much easier to stay on track later in the day with tasks you don’t mind working on, or are shorter and easier to complete.
Turn off notifications on your device
When you do manage to get stuck into a work task, the last thing you need is something pinging away in the corner, telling you there is a new message or notification. Few things will be that urgent that they need to be addressed right now, and if they are, that’s what the phone is for; everything else can wait to be read, acknowledged or responded to when you’ve finished the task in hand. There are a range of apps available that can pause such interruptions for a specified time.
Make sure you take a mid-morning break and a proper lunch hour when working from home. It’s important to look after your physical wellbeing, and it’s unhealthy to remain sitting down for a long time without a walk around or opportunity to stretch.
Build in time for rewards
It’s entirely likely that you’ll save time in your day, now that you’re working from home – time that you would have otherwise spent commuting to work. Whilst your morning commute time gives you extra time in bed, your evening commute could be broken down into smaller chunks that you could use throughout the day for well-earned downtime.
You could listen to a short podcast after your lunch, slot in a walk with the dog mid-morning or insert a couple of ten-minute meditations into your working day – whatever works for you. Whilst you may think that working solidly is a good idea as you will finish earlier, this may leave you feeling stressed and burnt out; working in blocks of time with intervals to stretch your mind and/or body, will ensure you feel more fulfilled, calm and rested at the end of the working day.
Mentally switch off
When it’s the end of the day and you’ve organised your to-do list for next time, tidy up your workspace and completely log out of your computer. If you can shut the door on your work, it’s even better.
You wouldn’t drive to the office to jump back on your computer for ten minutes if working at your employer’s – and you shouldn’t do this at home, if you want a happy, healthy life. When your working day comes to an end, make sure it’s just that, and resist the temptation to log back in during the evening – or the early hours of the morning, if you find you can’t sleep.
Once the lines between home and work begin to blur , it’s difficult to reinstate them. Imagine your workspace as a separate physical entity you’ve physically left when you’ve worked your hours. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever fully clear your workload; doing more than your required hours, just because your work is there and you can, won’t realistically get you further ahead in the long run…and it could prove detrimental to your mental health.
Put yourself first and switch off, both physically and mentally.
These are just a few tips to help you maintain productivity levels and to ensure a healthy work routine. Do you have some more you could add?