Working from home has become the new normal as most workers have been asked to stay at home in an effort to “flatten the curve” and contain the coronavirus pandemic.
However, many are finding that working from home has its serious challenges, particularly in terms of maintaining productivity. Working from home is not a walk in the park — especially if you have small kids (even teenagers) in the house the whole time. The reality is that it is hard: to make it work, you need an extraordinary amount of discipline, self-control and organization skills. Without these, productivity will remain low and you can find yourself struggling to complete your work assignments.
If you find that you spend more time trying to get work done than actually getting it done, then you may need to think of ways how to improve your productivity. Here are some ideas to help improve your productivity while working from home during this time of the pandemic:
Threats like coronavirus can create disruptions.
We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime. We are faced with a grave threat to our lives and livelihood. The fear and uncertainty the whole situation brings can be very stressful for many people. Accept that there may be days when it is much tougher to focus and work. We live in these tough times and it is important to recognize that it is ok to feel anxious, fearful and overwhelmed.
If you find that your stress level is preventing you to work effectively, find things that can reduce your stress. If the idea of teaching your kids who are off school is too daunting and stressful, maybe put a hold on homeschooling your kids. Look for other ways that you can give them some education without you being so hands-on. Remember, the key things that are critical at this time are survival and protecting your family’s well-being. So don’t be too hard on yourself and just do what you think you can do.
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Decide on your work space.
To the extent possible, keep a separate, distinct work area in your home. So much productivity is lost if you don’t have a dedicated work surface. You’ll constantly be clearing a surface in order to set up or you’ll waste time looking for your papers and work items because they could be here, there and everywhere. A dedicated table or desk means being able to get up from a project and know upon return that you’ll find it how you left it. Keep it organized with a vertical file to prevent stacks, and add an in/out wall basket to manage tasks.
However, if you are living and working in a small studio apartment, or share an apartment with 3 other people also working from home, this can be difficult. If you don’t have a separate room, at least define an area, and know that when you’re in it, you’re in “work mode.” Make sure your roommates and family are aware of this as well and discuss arrangements in case you will need to share the space.
Find a quiet place
Create an atmosphere that is conducive to work. It can be hard to remain focused when trying to work amidst distractions. If possible, find a quiet place in your house or carve out some privacy to help you focus a lot more, even if it means moving some bookcases to give you a small private nook. Having a quiet and private area can help you concentrate more and makes it ideal to do videoconferencing calls or telephone meetings. You don’t want to be in the middle of a call where the rest of the family is playing a game or the kids are talking loudly.
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Design your work space for productivity.
How your office looks plays a role in productivity. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most overlooked business hacks for improving output.
Start with your lighting. Harsh fluorescent lighting is not inspiring. In fact, it can increase the risk of migraines and anxiety. Natural lighting is technically the best lighting for productivity, so try to leverage it as much as possible. Maybe set up your office by a large window that can flood your chosen workspace with pleasant natural light.
And don’t forget your back! Lower back pain or worsening back issues can happen from sitting for hours in an unsupportive chair. Grabbing an extra dining room table chair or occasional chair is not a good idea for long-term use and definitely affects your productivity. Invest in a real office chair that offers an ergonomic design. It should allow you to adjust the height of the chair to suit you and the height of your work surface, as well as allow the back support to adjust forward and backward.
Also, think of the background for your video conference calls. While natural light is good, avoid having your back to the source of light or you will appear back-lighted to the people you are on video conference with.
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Get all the tech that you need
Your productivity when working from home starts by having the right equipment that you need to do your work. If you are an employee forced by lockdown restrictions to work from home, tell your employer or IT department the equipment and supplies that you need to do your work, communicate with the rest of your team and conduct videoconferencing. At this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person meetings are not possible and most of your business will be conducted online or through videoconference.
Do you need a computer with a camera? Do you need a laptop with faster CPU and processing time than the one that you own? Do you need faster Internet speed? What software do you need and do you have them?
To the extent that you can, use company-issued equipment. Security features and protocols of company equipment are often stronger than personal devices.
It is also critical that you learn the apps and software that you will use to avoid some of the hilarious work at home fails spreading in social media.
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Have a plan on how to fix your gadgets and tech
As great as technology is, it can be a right pain when it stops working properly. This completely slows you down, which will reduce your productivity. If worse comes to worst, you may even have to stop what you’re doing completely to try and figure out how to fix the issue. Check with your employer – or IT contractor, if you have one – on the measures that will be done when you need your IT issues fixed quickly so that you can get back to business.
Structure your time
With so many things going, it’s more important than ever to structure your day. This is especially true if you are a parent trying to navigate life during a pandemic while homeschooling the kids and keeping them safe and calm.
Decide the best time to work, and when to be with the family and the kids – while accepting that your children may need you even at times when you are supposed to be working.
Give some time for yourself, too, even if you are very busy. It will actually help you keep your work or business on track! You can wake up early to start working before the kids wake up, then take a few hours off to work and spend time with your kids and enjoy lunch, and go back to work again. While going to the gym is out of the equation now that non-essential businesses are closed due to the pandemic, take a walk around your neighborhood while following the guidelines for self-distancing. Or do some reading or yoga in your backyard or deck to help you take a break and enjoy some “me”-time.
Now that you are working from home, you will be spending a lot of time in your home office or makeshift work area. If you want to be as productive as possible, it only makes sense that you get yourself comfortable.
Ensure you have a well-made and comfortable office chair to avoid any back pain. Lower back pain or worsening back issues can happen from sitting for hours in an unsupportive chair. Grabbing an extra dining room table chair or occasional chair is not a good idea for long-term use and definitely affects your productivity. If possible, invest in a real office chair that offers an ergonomic design. It should allow you to adjust the height of the chair to suit you and the height of your work surface, as well as allow the back support to adjust forward and backward.
You should also get a supportive mouse mat. If possible, get an adjustable desk, and anti-glare screen covers for your computer.
Control your daily time wasters
What distracts you the most? Everyone has some time wasters, whether it is the TV, social media, cell phone, games, or even email. It is so easy to lose track of time when you get sucked in your Facebook or Instagram feeds. Or you may find yourself unable to stop watching videos on YouTube.
Identify what it is that distracts you the most from work so you can think of ways to eliminate them, whether by using productivity apps, timer in your browser or just writing what it is that you want to accomplish per day. Set a deadline and a start time and for each task.
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Working from home is almost always associated with being in your pajamas the whole day. That’s possible, but not really advisable. You don’t want your boss and colleagues seeing you in your Ninja Turtles pajamas at 1 pm during your all-team videoconference call.
You should be comfortable when you’re working from home, but you also need to know when to draw the line. Dress appropriately especially if you will have a video conference. It is important to convey your professionalism and establish your credibility.
Also, wearing something more professional can put you in a “work mode” and in a more productive mindset.
Organize Your Work Space
Increased productivity is tied to organization. With an untidy, unorganized and messy work area, it can be difficult to focus on what you are doing. How well you do or don’t track projects, materials, paperwork, to-do lists and manage your time is going to be reflected in how will your business is doing. If you want to see your productivity and revenue increase, then you need to be organized.
To improve productivity, tidy your office, install some storage, and get your files organized. If you have a spare room or if the area that you want to use as your home office space has a lot of your belongings in it then, you should consider clearing your belongings into storage.
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