For many modern professionals working from home will continue throughout 2020 and beyond. The landscape has changed; gone are the days of a cheeky lie-in and lounging around in your PJ’s before having a leisurely long lunch that fits my lifestyle.
Working from home actually means you have to work and be productive. Enjoy the flexibility working from home offers, but remember you are still a professional and yours is still a professional job and should be treated as such.
Luckily, we have researched this subject so you don’t have to, and we’ve put together some interesting tips and hacks to help you transform your situation into the most effective, but the enjoyable, working environment it can be.
Get up Early
I know this sounds obvious; get up at the same as you would if you were commuting into work. By leaping out of bed at the usual time you are creating a structure to your day, and telling your brain “I am an efficient and a present professional”.
It’s also true that most people have brains that work better after a good seven hours of sleep. Scientists say learning and production are most effective when the brain is in an acquisition phase; generally between 10:00 am for four hours, then again from 4:00 pm for six hours.
That’s what scientists say, but each person will be different. Personally I prefer getting up at 5 am, which I know sounds odd, but the house is quiet and so are my neighbours. That time of the morning is not to everyone’s taste; so work out your optimum time and try to stick to it.
Dress to Impress
Without sounding patronizing, if you’re working dress like you’re at work. It doesn’t have to be a power suit – no-one wears those anymore do they? But a clean top and trousers or if you normally wear jeans, clean jeans. No tee shirts that have seen better days with holes and food down them.
Dress like a slob and you’ll feel like a slob, and your work will suffer. That’s the truth!
Create a Dedicated Work Space
Floor space in any city is premium. But even if you live in the tiniest home a cosy corner should be created. This might mean juggling your furniture, but a small desk near a window is all you need.
Store all your work-related materials there and, if possible, try not to make it near your bed in case you’re tempted to jump in for a nap. Also, an unmade bed is not a great sight on an important conference call.
Keeping a balance is one of the most difficult facets of working from home because the work is ever-present. The temptation is to continue working even when normally you would be in the pub – so keep track that you are not working too much or too little by being uber organised. Use your laptops notes and reminders to prompt you.
Creating filing systems, schedules and to-do lists which are easy to maintain with all the diary apps and management programmes available, submitting work on time shouldn’t be a problem as long as you remember to enter the information in the first place. You’ve got that covered so what’s next?
Limit Your Social and Email activity
We have all fallen down the wormhole of social media. Spent hours looking at funny cat videos, no? Just me then! Limit your socials to tea breaks and lunchtimes and act like you would if your boss was watching. If lunch is usually an hour, take an hour. Emails are different, there’s a logic behind my next tip.
Establish a regular routine of answering emails only during a set period each day. This, of course, is separate from the important emails you initiate, which can be written at any time.
There may be the occasional exception, such as when you have an important email from your stakeholders – boss, clients and suppliers. For the most part, however, stick with the time frame so you can be more efficient with your work.
One of the most important rules of time management is to separate the important from the urgent. Only by prioritizing your emails and answering only the most important messages, can you dramatically increase your productivity: but again try to stick to your set time frame.
Answer in batches: it’s a bit like batch cooking, do it all at once to save time later. For example, if a colleague has sent you five emails all about different things, answer in one email taking each subject in turn and replying in bullet points. You may find three out of five points are about the same thing.
Take a Break
Even the most dedicated individual needs a break – working in small spurts is actually more productive and this will really help your mental and physical well being. It’s a fact that when you take a break you’re more productive not less.
Consider leaving the house at least once during the working day; to the garden, if you have one, or a quick nip to the shop for milk will help you focus. You can also take a break by altering your digital focus. Take time out to read your favorite blog, play some games online, or catch up on your personal email.
Tell Your People to Leave You Alone
Of course, you might be working from home but make sure any flatmates, siblings, parents or partners respect your space during work hours. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can be continually interrupted – do you hear me, mother-in-law?