Tips on How to be Productive when Working From Home
The concept of substituting a desk in a communal office with a desk at home has gained significant momentum in recent years. When you are crawling along in heavy traffic or crammed into the 7.20 am commuter special, the prospect of stumbling out of bed much later than you did today and taking a few steps into the office without the need for putting on the office uniform and war-paint is very, very tempting.
One of the inhibitors of early attempts at remote working was a feeling of isolation among the remote workers, and a fear of loss of control among employers.
Things have moved on though, with the ubiquitous availability of a stable and rapid Internet, and Instant Messaging applications like WhatsApp and Skype. Isolation is now self-imposed, and an employer can keep tabs on the workforce anytime, wherever they are. A common method is to use collaborative online tools to overcome the problems of having employees on different sites. Add in Video Conferencing and the need to have everyone in the same building falls away.
The downside of working from home is that you are in familiar territory, and there are many opportunities for distraction. Either self-inflicted or imposed.
Some considerations, based on the need to cultivate an attitude of mind that remains professional:
- Keep it clean and tidy. You don’t bother showering and want to work in your pyjamas until lunchtime. Attending a sudden video-conference looking like you were dragged through a hedge backwards is not a career-enhancing move. Be like the TV newsreaders behind their desks. Smart as a new pin in view above the desk, comfortable below it. It also fosters a business mindset.
- Mind the clock. If the conference is scheduled for 9am, be ready and waiting at 9am. Shambling into view at 9.15 is as equally disrespectful over video as it is in person.
- Set a daily schedule. Professional sets a schedule of work time, play time and domestic time and sticks to it. Do the same. Best tip – don’t start domestic stuff first thing in the morning. By the time you’ve made the beds, tidied up the kitchen and had your morning coffee, it’s lunchtime and you’ve not started work.
- Set a “clocking-off” time. Because you are at home and there isn’t a janitor chasing you out of the building, it is very easy to just carry on working long after you should have stopped.
Another issue is that of family and friends.
- At home does not equal on holiday. From the outset, you need to make it abundantly clear to your family and friends, that even though you are at home, you are still at work. You are not automatically available to drop whatever it is that you are doing to run errands, do the dishes, collect the kids from school, have a chat over coffee. You are actually at work. Some pundits say it takes at least 30 minutes to return to a “work” frame of mind and pick up where you left off after a break, so if you are frequently doing non-work related things, your productivity will be sharply reduced. This is probably the most difficult and politically sensitive issue you will encounter. Unless carefully and sensitively handled, you will have friction with your significant other.
- Have a “Home Office”. Designate an area in your home as your office, and tell everyone that is where you work. If you can close the door, even better. Put all your work stuff in here and make it a space that encourages a work mindset. Tell everyone that when the door is closed, you are not to be disturbed. In most countries, there are tax advantages in designating a part of your home as an office.
One suggestion, not entirely tongue in cheek, is to put a shed in the garden and use that as your office. When you leave the house for the shed, you have left to go to the office, just as you did when commuting, so the transition for you and your family might not be so difficult.
Having kids around really complicates matters. On the one hand, if you arrange your daily schedule carefully, you may have more time with them without unduly affecting your productivity. If you don’t act proactively, they can really pour the sand into the productivity gearbox.
The sound of a small child howling, however, you look at it will disturb and distract you. You might have a working schedule, but little feet will ignore it and barge into your office anyway.
You need to speak with your significant other, with Granny and Grandpa and perhaps also with a nanny/babysitter or daycare centre to arrange proper care while you are working.
Bottom line though. Most people would prefer to work at home that suffers the daily trudge into the office.