How to work from home and remain productive

With the threat of a fortnight or a month of enforced isolation on the horizon thanks to Covid-19, more people than ever before will be working from home. Some people are going to love the idea while others are going to wonder how they will get anything done. This post will help you with that.

As someone who has worked from home for almost 13 years, I have refined a few techniques for maintaining concentration and enforcing productivity. I’m going to share a few of those with you today in order to help you manage if the country is forced into self-quarantine.

Home working is a state of mind

The first thing to know is that successful home working is just a state of mind. We all work on laptops, VPNs and mobiles and the technicalities of working from home aren’t that different than working in an office.

Where is does differ is in your mind. The crossover between home being the place where you relax and forget about work to suddenly being the place you work. It will be challenging at first as you have ingrained habits to overcome but follow the tips on this page and you stand a much better chance of adjusting and remaining productive during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 situation.

Managing distractions

Despite what you might think, there are no more distractions in the average home than there are at work. Sure you have the TV, dog, cat, kids and the occasional visitor. At work you have colleagues, the coffee machine, windows to stare out of and meetings. Nothing is as counter-productive as meetings!

So it might help to create the mindset that home working does not have more distractions than the office, because it doesn’t. The distractions are just different.

Create a place to work

If you have a dining room or spare bedroom, set up a comfortable place to sit and work. Set it in your mind that this is your office and that when you sit there, it is time for work. It’s a mainly psychological tool but with practical benefits. You create separation in your mind between your home and your home office and help create a mindset for work.

Setting up in front of the TV or close to where the kids play is not a good idea. TV will be distracting, the kids will be noisy and want attention and that is bad for your productivity.

If you sit in your usual spot on the sofa, your mind will automatically want to do the usual things you do on the sofa. Drink tea, scan social media on your phone and watch TV. That is not the way to begin home working as it sets entirely the wrong mindset.

Set times for work and breaks

Even though you’re home working, you should still start at a set time and finish at a set time if possible. Also schedule regular breaks and a lunch. It is easy to get out of the office work routine when at home and without colleagues to pester you to take lunch or a coffee break. That’s why setting a schedule can help.

Pacing is essential when working from home. You need to take regular breaks, get up and walk around and take your mind off work. Even if it’s just five minutes.

I tend to stand and stare out my bedroom window every 60-90 minutes. I have a nice view out over Plymouth Sound and it looks different every day. Not only does it ease the mind, it also gives your eyes a chance to rest. You just need 1-2 minutes, enough to rest the eye and relax for a minute before diving back in.

Whatever your boss or American TV shows try to tell you, working all day every day without a break is not sustainable. Pacing is everything.

Dress for work

I have never been one for a suit and tie as that’s so 1980, but dressing for work is different. Many freelancers can comfortably work in their pajamas but I can’t. I find dressing properly, even in casual wear creates a mindset of wakefulness and productivity.

Even if it is shorts and t-shirt in summer, dressing means work in my mind and it might help you too.

Communicate better

The one thing you need to learn as a new home worker is that your boss and colleagues cannot see you like they can in the office. That means you have to work harder to appear productive and make extra efforts to communicate.

If you use a chat tool like Slack, make sure to participate in conversations. Make sure you show as online in your apps and make sure to set yourself Away when you have lunch or a break.

Also be mindful that not everyone will enjoy working from home. If you know a colleague is feeling isolated or lonely, or are at home alone, make a little extra effort to engage them. It will all contribute to the team’s ability to manage the situation. It will also show your boss that you’re there and are working!

Share your workspace

If you have an office husband or wife or a very close colleague who lives nearby, you could share a workspace. If you have room at home and an internet connection that can cope, having a friend round to work together can share the burden. You can help each other remain focused, force each other to take breaks and generally work together as you would in the office.

This is a very useful way to help each other out and not feel quite so isolated. This could be especially useful if you don’t like being alone or have particularly close working relationships with certain people.

Find things for the kids to do

If the schools are closed too, plan lots of activities for the kids that can leave you blocks of time to work. Whether that’s giving them to the grandparents for a while, leaving them in childcare if that hasn’t closed too, coming up with fun home projects to do or buying them a new Xbox game.

Plan ahead for each day to make sure the kids have enough to do and won’t get bored. Nothing impacts your focus and productivity than a bored child!

Like most things in life, working from home is a state of mind. It will be difficult in the beginning as it’s all new and will require willpower and focus. As time goes on you will find it easier to handle and will soon have a routine set. Just in time to be able to go back to work again!

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