COVID-19 has touched countless aspects of our lives, including the way we work. Many people have had to adjust to working from home instead of going into the office, which has created its own list of challenges. At the top of this list is learning how to be productive within one’s home environment – and if there’s anything the past few months have taught businesses and their employees, it’s that this is no easy feat.
Uncover the tips needed to be more efficient while working from home below:
Tip #1: Establish Boundaries
Even from home, it’s easy to be interrupted, especially in the midst of COVID-19. Chances are, you’re not the only individual working from home. With other family members present, you never know when someone could pop-in to your space and break your concentration.
To avoid interruptions, create boundaries with the other members in your living space. Similar to the college dorm room experience where roommates are encouraged to discuss their living patterns, boundaries are important for a home work environment.
Individuals should establish clear “hours of operation” – or their typical work day routine. During these hours, family members should be cautious of knocking on your door and inhibiting your productivity. And yes, close the door. An open door invites siblings, roommates, and even pets to wander in and attract your attention.
Boundaries will limit internal frustrations and ensure your focus doesn’t stray too far from the tasks at hand.
Tip #2: Define Your Own Space
In addition to boundaries, a designated workspace can help one accomplish tasks and maintain a clear head.
The benefit of a workspace that is your own is two-fold: 1) You have a space solely devoted to your obligations and 2) your family has a space solely devoted to theirs. This arrangement acts as a show of respect, as both parties have to understand the difficulties of the times and the possibility that home work days may become part of the business world’s “new normal.”
A designated workspace will be where you can concentrate and get peace and quiet. There’s a reason home offices were created years ago – they serve as the perfect getaway. And the best part? You can make it entirely your own.
You can decorate the space with motivational pieces or even a comfy chair. Choose to sit facing the window for inspiration or mental breaks. Put some sticky note reminders on your table or hang a dry-erase board calendar on the wall for quick edits and accountability.
The main factor when designing your workspace: Make sure it suits your style and is conducive for getting work done.
Tip #3: Know When to Take a Break
Doing too much can wear you down and make you feel burnout, especially when your only escape is to another part of your home.
To avoid these factors, try to schedule your work day. Although your schedule might look different and be a bit unorthodox since COVID-19’s arrival in March, some form of a schedule will help with productivity. Begin your day at the same time throughout the week, and schedule your breaks.
Scheduling breaks in between large amounts of work alleviates stress, allowing you to think clearly. It’s proven to be quite effective when compared to taking unplanned breaks, as they waste more time and make it difficult to get back to work.
Whether you’re in a physical workspace or a home office, it’s important to take time for yourself. Reward yourself by creating your own daily deadlines. Once you accomplish Task A by a certain time, take a planned break to reorient your mind before beginning the next task.
A planned break can be as simple as getting a fresh glass of water and leaving the room for ten minutes or as complex as doing a mid-day workout to get on your feet!
Tip #4: Eliminate Distractions
Distractions. We’ve all been distracted before, and we all know how detrimental it can be. Some prefer to work in complete silence, whereas others can’t work without background music or a television show on.
Music with words can be distracting, especially when typing a paper or proofreading an assignment. No one wants typos in their business plan or PowerPoint presentation, which is why classical music could be an alternative for those not looking to work in silence. The tempo will keep you locked-in and moving forward, without letting a catchy lyric accidentally make its way into your Word doc.
De-cluttering is another effective way to eliminate distractions. It’s easy to let your eyes wander when your workspace is unorganized. Scribbled notes in blue ink will end up jumping off scattered pages. Don’t let them call your name. Reorganize your workspace, and stay on task.
A tip is to de-clutter at least once a week. Work it into your schedule, and see how your attitude shifts when you enter your workspace. Instead of seeing a cluttered mess and stacks of tasks to complete, you’ll see an open canvas and a clean slate to begin tackling today’s to-do list.
Tip #5: Set Goals
Staying on top of your goals helps to keep you organized. By establishing objectives, you can guide your focus and direction for the day.
You will feel more motivated writing down a list of what you know you need to accomplish. You already know you need to do these tasks, but there’s something about putting pen to paper that makes responsibilities concrete and deadlines manageable. (Keep in mind, you don’t need to finish everything at once. It’s better to pace yourself, as you will feel more in control and not overwhelmed.)
What’s more, goals help you to achieve your highest potential. Goal setting provides targets to reach for and, in turn, accountability to accomplish them. It increases your productivity and encourages you to keep moving, even when you're at home.
Some of the best ways to start setting goals are to keep a sheet of paper next to your laptop or to write them out on a whiteboard. Easy access to writing down your goals makes it more likely that you’ll actually pick up on the practice.
Setting reminders on your phone takes goal setting a step further, as it allows you to put a time next to the task for when you want it completed. Each time a task is finished, you can check it off and physically see the responsibility and pressure fade away. All that’s left is the feeling of accomplishment.
No matter what tip it is that catches your attention of these five, the key is to know what works for you and to stick to it. The best advice for creating a productive work environment is to take pieces from each of the sections above and create your own system.
Happy working from home, everyone!