Business advice
    12 March 2020

    James Francis

    Tips for working from home (or anywhere)

    Working from home takes discipline and structure that is often easier to muster in an office. But it’s also very liberating, so here are a few tips to help you get the most out of it.

    Many people are working from home, and while it is a temporary solution for some, others have been doing it permanently. In fact, a new study by Stanford University shows that people who can work remotely are more productive. 

    But if you had worked mostly from the office before, you might find it’s not as easy as it may seem. If you are not careful, your productivity might suffer, as can your personal time and interests outside of your job.

    Working from home takes discipline and structure that is often easier to muster in an office. But it’s also very liberating, so here are a few tips to help you get the most out of it.

    Create a clear schedule

    Every home is filled with distractions. Your own bad habits can get in the way, and others won’t respect your work boundaries either. To remedy all of this, create a schedule. It doesn’t have to be detailed - spend some time every week to revise and improve it, and focus on the discipline to stick to it.

    Make sure your boss is onboard

    Have your boss or manager discussed what they expect from you? Working from home isn’t just about switching desks. It will impact what tools you can access and how your workflow behaves. Whoever you report to should understand this - for example, they should define how they will communicate with you without you needing to hover over your email all the time. They should also make clear how they’ll measure your performance.

    Keep in touch with others

    Working at home means isolation from colleagues. While it’s great not to hear about someone’s boring weekend or their awful playlist, humans are communal. Our happiness has a lot to do with social interactions. Catch up via a phone call, on Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp with your colleagues as this will help you have direct contact with them while maintaining social distancing.

    Create a video conference space

    You are likely to do video conferencing every so often, so prepare a space for that. Find a place with a pleasing background or blank wall, but avoid a window as that will create glare. The spot should also be located away from noisy areas. And remember to brush your hair before taking the call!

    Find your best times

    We all peak at different times with different activities. Maybe you are best at getting rid of emails at 6am, or perhaps you write your best reports late at night. Working from home lets you exploit those moments, so look for them and adjust your schedule to match them.

    Create a To-Do list

    An office is a structured environment, which means you can sometimes coast along and still get things done. But that doesn’t happen if you work on your own and many tasks can fall through the cracks. Create a to-do list and use it to be realistic about what you can get done in a day.

    Make a dedicated space to work

    You can’t work on the couch. It’s terrible for your back and prone to create many distractions. Create a home office - even a temporary one with a flip table. Maybe commandeer the dining room. Chase everyone out. This is your space to focus and work.

    Kill those social media distractions

    A typical person can’t concentrate for longer than 20 to 30 minutes, and at those moments, we start yearning for distraction. Alas, social media is really just a click away. So nix that habit. You can install productivity blockers such as LeechBlock to stop sites from loading during specific periods. And do not work in front of the television. Get up every 30 minutes and have a stretch, then get back to work.

    Stop checking your email

    Email is essential. But when you work alone, you can become too reliant on them. This is not good for productivity. Check your email only two or three times a day. If you must check it more often, set clear rules on when.

    Turn off notifications

    Every time your phone beeps or vibrates because of a new Whatsapp message or email, you get distracted. It can make you feel busier than you are (and exhaust you sooner). Kill those notifications and learn to only check them periodically. When working at home, you have more control over your time. Don’t let notifications rob you of that advantage.

    Keep work and personal activities separate

    Ever since the Blackberry (remember that?) made it fashionable, we’ve been checking our emails on the go. Now we also check work Whatsapp and Slack messages, which are incredibly useful because they save time. But that doesn’t mean you should look at them all the time - especially not at dinner or when you’re relaxing. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re more effective. Your brain needs those boundaries to recuperate.

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    James Francis