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Working from home can be a freeing experience. YOU are in control of your work-space and you create your own schedule. And despite some commonly held myths, a recent Stanford University study has shown that working from home can actually boost productivity and save companies money! When implemented correctly, companies report fewer distractions, greater employee satisfaction and significant cost-savings (to the tune of $2,000 per employee).
However, working from home can cut both ways! At work, co-workers are your greatest source of distraction. At home, it’s you! There is no-one looking over your shoulder to help keep you on task or to push you to work harder. It is up to you to avoid distractions and focus on your priorities. Here are a bunch of awesome tips to set yourself up for success and avoid the potential pitfalls of working from home
1. Have a dedicated work-space
Let’s be real, if you don’t set up a dedicated work area and actually set time aside to do work you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s key to separate where you work and where you relax, so don’t treat your bed or couch like an office! Find a nice quiet spot with lots of natural light, preferably as far away from your bedroom and living room as possible. It is important to be able to “leave your work behind” both physically and mentally at the end of the day. Do not carry your work over into the evening or else you’ll risk burning out very quickly.
2. Get started early
Forget using your work-from-home arrangement as an excuse to sleep in! If anything, wake up earlier and seize the day. The early bird gets the worm, and working at home just affords you even more time to accomplish what you want. By waking up before everyone else you’ll have more quiet time to mentally prepare yourself for the day and get some work in before anyone starts bugging you. Not only will you be more productive, but you’ll also be more tired by the end of the day, which will lead to a much better sleep! And getting into a good sleep routine is one of the best things you can do to boost your immune system and improve your health.
3. Create a “commute”
You’re probably thinking: did I just read that correctly? I’m working from home so I DON’T have to commute! The point here is to go through the motions and to create a transition period between personal time and work time. Set an early alarm, take a shower and make yourself look nice, grab some coffee, change into nice clothes and scroll through the morning news. Most of us typically have some sort of commute which affords us the opportunity to gradually transition from our home life to work life. It allows for some time to mentally prepare for the day so that by the time you’re at work, you’re ready to hit the ground running. And a commute back home allows for a gradual come-down from the work day to process what happened and relax before we tackle whatever home issues/chores await.
4. Have a routine
Don’t just wake up, put on your bath robe and laze on the couch while casually scrolling through emails. It is all too easy to get into this habit and let the time slip away when working from home. The best way avoid drifting and getting caught up in distractions is to create a routine. Pick a standard wake-up time (the earlier the better), go through the motions of your “commute”, and stick to your daily work plan while taking regularly scheduled breaks. When planning out your work, pick the time when you’re most productive to tackle the hardest challenges (peak productivity is typically around 10am in the morning).
5. Have a plan and set priorities
As the proverb goes, if you don’t have a plan, then you’re planning to fail. There is more than a grain of truth to this saying. If you don’t have a goal to strive towards, it’s almost impossible to achieve anything. And the key to creating a successful plan is to get into the habit of creating SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals. A good action plan with attainable goals will help you be prepared, reduce your stress levels, and help you evaluate whether or not you achieved what you set out to do. It is also a good idea to set priorities for each day so that if you get side-tracked or bogged down, you’ll know what to focus on and can come away from the day having accomplished what matters most.
6. Ensure you have the right tools
A work-space should be comfortable and fully equipped with everything you need to maximize productivity. You’ll want to make sure to have a fully adjustable workstation that will adapt to your needs throughout the day. Here are a few additional productivity-boosting tools and gadgets that you might want to consider:
- Ergonomic chair – Not just for Gamers! Don’t let your posture suffer.
- Wide-screen monitor – No more squinting at text or tabbing between windows.
- Wireless mouse – Logitec MX Master is the best work-mouse on the planet.
- Wireless ergonomic keyboard -Microsoft’s Sculp Ergonomic Keyboard will keep the carpel tunnel away!
- Webcam – Unlike laptops, most desktops do not come with a webcam. Great for high-quality video-conferencing.
- Noise cancelling headphones – Bose Quiet Comfort II are amazing for conference calls, music or just tuning out the noise.
- Smart speaker – Amazon Echo is a great virtual assistant, and ideal for playing a few background tunes.
- Surge protector – Protect your electronics from going kaput.
- VOIP – Internet-based landline phone. Save money on your phone bills, or just keep as a back-up if the phone line goes down!
- Scanner/printer – These aren’t obsolete yet! A good multi-functional printer is a god-send for productivity.
- Clock – Set deadlines, take breaks, and know when to call it quits!
- Back-up hard-drive – Don’t lose all of your previous work! Back all your files up on this 8 Terabyte drive.
7. Get face-time with colleagues
Don’t discount the importance of good ol’ water-cooler chat and socializing with colleagues. Showing up for work is one thing but actually interacting and bonding with your co-workers is something entirely different. You might think: who cares if I socialize with my co-workers, go to that company get-together or engage in small talk. The answer is your colleagues and your boss do. Employees who have the most face-time are seen as more responsible, dependable and harder working. Which translates into more favourable evaluations from your boss and top consideration for promotion opportunities. Getting that face-time can be tough when working remotely, so it is vital you turn on your webcam and engage in those video-conference calls, after-work virtual socials and even partake in the team’s instant messenger group-chat.
One of the main obstacles to working from home is clear and effective communication. Good communication is vital for a business to be productive and effective. It also improves team building, boosts growth, reduces conflict and increases employee engagement. To overcome remote communication issues, here are a few tips:
- Set up communication protocols: Set up guidelines for when and how to communicate. When are emails appropriate versus a video conference call? Will you be using Skype or Zoom?
- Use a collaborative workflow program: A program such as Trello or Microsoft Planner help keeps everyone accountable and responsible for their own tasks.
- Have regular video-conferencing calls: It is much easier to communicate and convey messages when you can see the faces of those who you’re talking to.
- Make an extra effort to get to know your team members: It takes a concerted effort to get to know your colleagues and develop relationships when working remote. Set up a group chat for “social” purposes. Schedule bi-weekly or monthly “virtual hang-outs”. Engage in the small talk at the start of a virtual meeting.
9. Take breaks & get out of the house
It is essential to take care of yourself when working from home. Ironically enough, remote-workers tend to work longer hours and take fewer sick days, which can lead to burnout and lost productivity. Plan out your day and schedule frequent breaks. If you feel yourself losing steam, don’t hesitate to step away for a bit and do something else. Exercise is a great way to clear your head and very easy to fit in when working from home. Do some stretches, go for a walk, or hop on the stationary bike. If you can go outside, do it! Get a bit of fresh air, soak in some vitamin D and do some exercise all at the same time.
10. Set an end time
Just as important as getting started early and sticking to a routine is knowing when to call it quits. When working from home, the lines between work time and personal time can easily be blurred. At the end of the day, turn off your computer, put away your phone (or turn off notifications) and go focus on yourself and your family. Don’t take your work with you into the evening unless absolutely necessary. Be clear with your team when you plan to leave for the day and stick to it. Don’t say “bye” and then stick around for another hour, even if it is just to socialize.