Adapted from Inbound Logistics
When you begin working from home, you may feel a sense of freedom wash over you. Telecommuting means more free time and no stressful commute. However, after a few days, you may start to feel isolated, uninformed, and less effective than usual—especially if you’ve been asked to work from home because of a traumatic event, like the coronavirus outbreak.
Here are six ways you can maximize productivity when working from home:
1. Stay Connected
One of the most important things to do when you’re working from home is to stay in contact with your team as well as any clients with whom you work. The lines of communication should remain as open as when you’re in the office—if not more so. Consider starting your day off sending a “good morning” greeting to your colleagues to let them know you’re at your desk and to keep morale up.
Staying connected also keeps you up to date on your company’s priorities, which may shift rapidly during uncertain events. Staying on the pulse of the evolving needs of your manager, vendors, and clients will position you to react in real time. The social pressure to perform will also help you be more productive.
Here are a few resources to help you stay connected to your office:
Don’t underestimate the power of the human voice.
Your work email is a great way to send formal or longer-form messages.
Seeing the person you’re talking to personalizes conversations. RingCentral, Google Hangouts Meet, Skype, and Facetime are great options for video chatting with your coworkers.
Less formal than email, instant messaging is great for quick questions and back-and-forth communication with one person or your entire team. Slack, Google Hangouts Chat, and WhatsApp will keep you securely connected.
Webex offers free insight and tools to get you and your company through the COVID-19 pandemic. They can help you create engaging webinars, deliver interactive online training, facilitate team collaboration, and much more.
2. Keep Meetings Effective
Part of staying connected is continuing to hold regular meetings. If you are calling or video conferencing from home, take some extra measures to maintain professionalism.
Make sure you have a clear connection through whatever technology you employ and that your space is quiet and interruption-proof. If you’re video chatting, make sure that your background is not distracting (e.g., pets or dirty laundry).
Kick off the meeting by checking how your teammates, vendors, and clients are doing. Keep the meeting effective and professional by creating an agenda before it begins and ending with an action plan for how each person should move forward.
3. Create a To-Do List—and Stick to It
Working from home can come with many distractions. This is particularly true if you’re feeling anxious during the COVID-19 outbreak, when you might want to obsessively check the news for updates. Creating a checklist will help you stay focused.
Write your checklist at the end of each workday so that you can easily jump into your tasks in the morning. Prioritize your tasks so that you do the most critical ones first, and try batching tasks by type to increase your productivity flow.
Workers waste about 40% of their day because of disorganization—a simple to-do list will add more structure to your day and your responsibilities.
4. Devote a Separate Space to Work
Don’t work from your bed! If the science that it makes you less productive isn’t convincing enough, keep this in mind: It actually decreases your quality of sleep. It’s not just about your bed—if you work at your kitchen table, where you normally eat and socialize with your family, you may also feel distracted (hello, snacks!).
You will be most productive if you have a dedicated space that is solely for work. It tells your brain that you are in professional work mode. It also allows you to close the door (even if figuratively) to work at the end of the day.
Not everyone has access to a home office, but even carving out a little nook in the corner of a room can be enough to trigger your mind that you’re in work mode.
5. Maintain a Daily Routine
Two extremes can happen when you work from home:
You can feel too comfortable and distracted, and therefore you aren’t effective.
You can become a workaholic who never leaves the “office,” checking your work email right up until you fall asleep.
Neither of these scenarios is good for your career. Although many Americans consider busyness a status symbol, workaholism decreases productivity and creates a slew of health problems.
Best practice for working at home is to maintain the same schedule you keep when you’re at the office. This means waking up at the same time you normally would, exercising if that’s part of your routine, eating breakfast away from your computer, and if possible taking a walk outside before beginning your work.
By the same token, 90% of employees find that lunch breaks rejuvenate them. Take your lunch break away from your workspace to be more productive, and make sure to sign off at the end of the day.
6. Get Up from Your Desk
If possible, try to leave your home at various points of the day as if you were commuting or picking up lunch. If you cannot leave home, leave your workspace for breaks and open the shades or windows to soak in some natural light.
It’s important for your mental health to get a change of scenery and important to your physical health to stretch your legs.
About 71% of people feel more focused when they do an hour of standing time, while 66% feel more productive. CBS News reports that a change of scenery will make workers more productive as well.