To be honest, the new normal of working from home is not all that new for everyone. In this digital age, many already live the remote life and have developed a specific rhythm that works for them. However, the current social distancing shift and general social climate has added an intensity that can make it difficult for even the most seasoned remote worker to remain focused. So, what handy productivity tips for working from home also cover little to no social interaction? And, of course, there are still the newbies to consider: How do those who are used to a typical nine-to-five environment set themselves up for success?
In addition to the natural stress and anxiety that can come with the current situation everyone has found themselves in, there are also the everyday distractions that a living space can bring: messy corners that need tidying up, laundry, a dog that needs walking, televisions blaring in the background, a comfy couch tempting you to nap instead of check emails, etc.
In speaking to productivity experts and career coaches, apparently the key here is to create boundaries for yourself that allow you to stay focused but also give you room to rest and take a breather (and even socialize!). To-do lists, optimized work environments, regular team conference calls, and a solid exercise plan are all crucial things to consider when building out your new WFH game plan. That said, there are some additional granular steps to take as well to make the transition easier.
Ahead, a few experts offer some key tips for making the days ahead as productive and pleasant as possible. Take notes.
Work From Home Tip: Get Up Early
Despite the inclination to sleep in now that you technically don’t have to commute to or even dress for the office, Antonia Hock, global head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, who serves as a mentor and life/career coach to her team says rising an hour or more early from your start time is crucial. “So you have time and space for mindfulness or to do something you enjoy versus something you have to do,” says Hock of her reasoning. “How you spend your first hour of the day will determine how your day unfolds.”
Work From Home Tip: Dress For Success
When working from home, it’s easy to stay in your pajamas all day (or in glorified pajamas). But, Stephanie Lane, HR manager and lifestyle coach says “research shows that the clothes we wear affect our mindset and can really make a difference in our productivity levels.So if you find yourself working from home, put on your work clothes so that you can keep maintaining your focus and motivation.”
Work From Home Tip: Make A Workspace
“It can be difficult to work from home if there are other people in the house distracting you,” says Lane. “This is especially true if you don’t have a private office in your home to escape to. But the truth is that some peace and quiet is essential for getting work done, so you might have to improvise. Figure out how to make a space where you can work alone, even if it means bringing a folding table or a snack table into your bedroom to work. It might not be ideal, but at least you’ll be able to concentrate and be productive.”
Work From Home Tip: Make Sure You Move
While your typical workout routine and/or gym membership may be on hold at the moment, keeping that habit, er, habitual is non-negotiable. “When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, squeeze a workout or go for a walk outside,” says Hock. “For me, weightlifting really focuses my mind, clears the negative energy and helps me recenter. These days, you can find a good and efficient workout on YouTube if you don’t have a park nearby.” You can also check Instagram and your go-to fitness studio’s site, as many are offering live streaming, at-home workout programs and sessions.
Work From Home Tip: Stick To Your Office Routine
Certified life coach Mona Green, says it's tempting to give ourselves a little more leeway with how we work when we are home than when we're at work. ”This often means we stay in our PJs, work with the TV on, and check our phone more often than we would ordinarily,” she explains. “This inevitably blurs the lines between the 'work' and 'home' settings in our brains and can have a massive effect on our productivity. Rather than make the day more enjoyable and efficient, you usually end up extending it.”
Green suggests pretending you’re at the office and acting accordingly. “Things like showering first thing, keeping a clear schedule, the TV off, and other distractions like your phone to a minimum can help you keep your day structured and your mind at ease.”
Work From Home Tip: Reframe The To-Do List
While you already might be jotting down daily or weekly to-do lists, Green suggests rethinking your process and how you prioritize. “Start by writing down everything that needs to be done that day,” she says. “Looking at the list, ask yourself, 'of all these things, which one makes the others easier or obsolete?' and put that at the top. This will help you prioritize your day to guarantee maximum efficiency and help you focus on what really matters first.”
Work From Home Tip: Take Micro-Breaks
Holland Haiis, Productivity Expert for the How Life Unfolds campaign, says coming up for air frequently is key to work-from-home success. “Whether it's printing out a long form doc to read on paper to cut screen time or taking a walk around the block, taking breaks is important when you don't have access to water cooler chats."
Work From Home Tip: Check In Daily With Your Team
Getting some human interaction is not only still possible but vital as you navigate this social distancing season. “Meetings are rough, but during stressful times like these, knowing that you've got the support and trust of your team is important,” says Haiis. “Set a 15-minute daily video check-in with your team to keep close contact.” You can also plan virtual group happy hours or workouts to keep everyone connected!
Work From Home Tip: Easy On The Snacking
Yes, taking breaks and staying hydrated and fed is incredibly important but, just like in an office, reaching for sugar-filled treats too often can perpetuate stress and distraction. “One of the most common ways of distracting ourselves from the work we need to do when we are at home is to raid the pantry or fridge,” says Green. “Just remember, not all snacks are created equal...those high in processed sugar will probably feel great when you're eating them but will likely leave you feeling an energetic slump later on. You don't consistently raid the refrigerator at work so why would you at home? If you want to stay alert and productive, carve out a time to snack, yes... just make sure to do so intentionally.”
Work From Home Tip: Pick A Stopping Time
Alexis Haselberger, productivity, time management and leadership coach, references Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time allotted. “When we lack physical boundaries between work and home, it's important to create time boundaries,” says Haselberger. “Picking a stopping time will ensure that your work doesn't bleed into all aspects of your life and that you are more productive because you've defined your period of time to get things done.”
Work From Home Tip: Play Some Music
And, most importantly, add some fun to the day via inspiring tunes. “Create a playlist of songs that get your energy up,” suggests Hock. “To help me attack my day and stay energetic, I am currently moving to a playlist of hip-hop and ‘70s music."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.