The coronavirus pandemic has brought on a range of government restrictions and guidelines to help keep people safe.
One of them is only going to work if you absolutely have to. As a result, many companies have implemented voluntary or mandatory working from home policies; which means many workers are dealing with an unusual challenge – a sudden (and extended) shift from office life to home life.
To help you maintain productivity during COVID-19, here are our top tips on how to stay productive while working from home:
Recreate your commute
OK, so we’re not suggesting you literally commute to work and back. That would be counterproductive, not to mention downright dangerous during the current pandemic.
However, your commute does more than get you from A to B. It also mentally prepares you for the day. To make sure you’re getting the same level of preparedness at home, it’s a good idea to carve out an equivalent routine that’ll help ease you into your workday.
Outdoor activity may be a no-go right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carry out exercise at home that emulates your walk to work.
Other common commuting activities to incorporate could include listening to music, watching Netflix, reading, taking a free course, or if you’re extra organised, writing a to-do-list for the day. Whatever you used to do on your commute, set aside an hour to do it while you work from home.
The same goes for your would-be journey home.
Going straight from work-based tasks to cooking dinner or doing chores is a big leap – and gives you no time to switch off from work and unwind. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up burning your lasagne because you’re still busy wondering whether Tim from Accounts has replied to your email. No one wants that.
When you’re working from home, it can be all too easy to blur the lines between your work life and your personal life.
Before you know it, they’ve blended into one; you’re working on spreadsheets, on a conference call, cleaning the kitchen, and feeding the dog all at the same time. Seems impossible, right? That’s because it is.
Routine is an important part of work. And it doesn’t become any less important because you’re working from home. That coffee you make at 10am every day in the office? Do it at home. The lunch you take at 1pm? Put it in your calendar. That task you unconsciously do while chatting to your colleague on a Monday morning? Keep doing it.
Creating a routine will not only allow you to take breaks (and avoid inevitable burnout), it’ll also allow you to uphold the same level of productivity that you had at work. If working from home is a brand new experience for you, this could also be a great way to maintain some normality.
And at the end of the day? You actually go home (metaphorically). As tempting as it can be to lose track of time and keep working over your office hours, doing this in excess could have a negative impact on your mental health, not to mention the quality of your work.
So work set office hours (whatever they may be for you), have regular breaks, and switch off at the end of the day. Your productivity will thank you.
‘I am so ready to have a productive work day – just after I watch the rest of this TV show. Oh look, that’s a nice pigeon outside. I wonder if I could have a pet pigeon. I’m hungry. I should clean. Time to bake some cookies. Wait, what was I doing again?’
Sound familiar? If you’re easily distracted (or just a human), working from home without getting sucked into everything around you can be a tricky task.
After all, you’re used to home being a haven for free time and relaxation – not for work time. The challenge now is to distinguish between the two, and switch off from one while you’re doing the other. And the key is just that. Switch. Off.
No matter how good you are at multitasking, you’re not going to get your best work done when you’re trying to focus on Whatsapp, the TV, the news, and the pigeon outside all at once. No one is that good of a multitasker.
When it comes to maximising productivity, the first step is to identify your triggers – then do what you can do to minimise them.
For example, if you’re likely to get distracted by a messy living room, make sure you clean before you start work. If your phone is what keeps you from living your best work life, mute it. And if you’re often overcome with the urge to cook, surround yourself with pre-prepared food.
It’s practically flawless.
Stay on the grid
Working from home can make you feel isolated. It can also take some getting used to.
That’s why it’s absolutely vital to stay connected with your colleagues. Everything from one-on-one video calls and group conferences, to phone calls, emails, and IM chatting, will allow you to stay in touch with the people you work with remotely in the most in-person way possible.
And it doesn’t have to just be about work.
Whilst keeping in touch with your manager and colleagues about your tasks, duties, and accomplishments will help you to stay motivated, it’s not the only reason to communicate.
It’s also a good idea to emulate those ‘water cooler’ chats that you’d usually have in the office. Yep, small talk is important. So set up video calls to catch up on your weekends, arrange virtual pizza parties at lunch time, or even organise Friday night beers over video chat. It’s basically like the pub, just with less people and cheaper beer (silver linings).
Without these regular interactions that you’d usually get on a daily basis in person, your morale is likely to drop over time – with your overall productivity taking a hit too.
Focus on self-care
COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of the world – meaning you’re probably in a constant state of worry about your family, friends, and your job, all on top of whether you’ll ever be able to buy toilet paper again.
It’s normal for what’s going on around you to affect your mood. But this could also have a knock-on effect on your productivity.
That’s why it’s important to avoid getting so wrapped up in the news or stressed about your workload that you forget to take care of yourself. Self-care looks different for everyone, but the most important thing is that you pay attention to the signs, and do what makes you happy.
After all, the drastic switch from office life to working from home life can make you forget about the things you used to do to keep sane and healthy; you know, like eat, sleep, and exercise. And we’re not just talking about frozen pizzas and copious amounts of coffee.
We’re talking about lots of water, three solid meals a day, and, most importantly – fruit and vegetables. You know the drill.
Additionally, reminding yourself of what’s good in the world, or even just spending some time (outside of work hours) on your hobbies – will all help to maintain a positive mindset. There are also a number of wellbeing courses on offer, that are designed to boost your mood.
And if you have an off day? Don’t beat yourself up. Rest, reset, and try again tomorrow.