As we adapted to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become the new usual. While it spares you the commute and comes with a few perks, it’s not always easy to adapt to remote working. Navigating feelings of isolation, struggling with work-life boundaries, and having more difficulties to stay focussed are common effects of having part of your home become your office.
So how to work from home effectively? Here are our top tips on what you can do to keep the benefits of remote working while staying productive (and sane).
We’ll cover how to stay organised, keep communication flowing with the rest of your team, balance work with personal time, and preserve human connection with your colleagues.
Build the work environment that will make you productive
Most of the time, one’s ability to work effectively comes down to the quality of their work environment. A distraction-free environment where you can sit comfortably and that is separate from the space you use during your leisure will be most beneficial to reach the level of focus you need to achieve your usual workflow. Home settings are especially challenging to work into as you may need to share your workspace with housemates or family members. Follow our checklist of steps you can take to limit distractions to a minimum and feel professional:
1. Designate an office-only space
If enough room is available, the ideal would be to have an office with a door you can close to separate yourself from the rest of your home and its occupants. However, if you can’t use a distinct room, just aim not to have your workspace in the same room as spaces you use to rest–e.g., your bedroom or living room area. Indeed, using these spaces could blur the boundary between your work and personal life–thus making you think of your free time while you work and making you think of (or stress about) work when you’re trying to relax.
2. Pay attention to ergonomics
Work-life boundaries are not the only reason why working from your sofa can be detrimental to your health! A bad body position and inadequate gear can make you tired quicker. Opt for a desk chair where you feel comfortable and use earbuds for long calls (instead of holding the phone for an hour). If you spend a considerable amount of time on the phone as part of your work, consider investing in a hand-free headset to feel at ease.
3. Obstruct distracting noise
If your work environment is noisy, consider investing in noise cancelling headphones. Alternatively, you can listen to a white noise or natural sounds playlist.
4. Mind the video calls
Have a look at what your background looks like when you turn your computer camera on and try to arrange objects to make it distraction-free. Ideally, a plain background would be most professional.
5. Dress to feel professional
Pyjamas are comfortable–we’ll grant that. But they may not be the kind of ‘comfortable’ you need to focus and feel professional. Instead, opt for loose clothing that you would wear in an office.
Making sure information is transmitted clearly
Switching to remote working can degrade communication in a team. This is when you realise how much you rely on glancing into a colleague’s office to check whether they are busy before you interrupt them. Consequently, as a remote employee you may feel that it would be too intrusive to ask for clarifications from your manager when you have doubts about a task. Follow our working-from-home communication tips to ensure details are not lost:
1. Establish how and when you can contact colleagues
With many professional platforms now available to reach people, you may wonder what you should be using to contact colleagues or managers. Ask them if this is not clear! You’ll be relieved to know what to use as a default tool and in case you need extra help quickly. Also ask whether you can call them at any time so that you know you’re not interrupting them when you do–especially if you live in different time zones.
2. Clarify expectations
How often are you required to catch up with your manager or colleagues? Ask for clarifications if you’re not sure whether you should send your work to your manager or how often. In general, a good remote communication rule is to send a message to your team when you start and leave work so that they know if you’re available to answer work-related queries.
3. Be prompt and keep your work organised
Working from home tends to raise expectations in terms of responsiveness. Indeed, since colleagues cannot see you working, if you don’t respond to an email quickly they may think that you’re not at your desk. Try to return emails, calls, and voice mails promptly. If you’re asked to work on a task, confirm that you’ve received the request and let your colleague know when you reckon you will start working on it. If your role doesn't require you to deal with urgent demands, you could schedule times in the day for you to process inboxes and let your colleagues know about your organisation to relieve expectations of responsiveness.
Keeping Work and Life Separate
Create boundaries to preserve both your focus and free time
Having your office and the space where you engage in hobbies in the same place can blur boundaries and make you feel unproductive and/or burned out. Follow these tips to keep more of a balance:
1. Create a routine
Going through a routine every morning will help you mentally prepare for work. It may be a cup of coffee or tea that you will bring to your desk table, or sitting and looking at the news for a few minutes before you start your day of work. If you can, going on a walk before you start working is an excellent way to mark a transition between your personal life and time at work. You can do the same when you finish work, to create another transition in replacement of a commute.
2. Set yourself working hours
Even if you have flexible working hours, try to set yourself daily working hours or a weekly timetable. That will allow you to keep clear time limits in mind as to when you should be ending your day and moving on to your free time.
3. Schedule short breaks
When working from home, taking breaks to leave your desk can feel like cheating. But keep in mind that this is what you would normally do in an office. Moreover, sitting alone in front of your computer can easily make you lose track of time, which is why we recommend scheduling your breaks with an alarm. During a break, don’t just look at your phone but make sure you get up, walk outside if possible, and get some more water to stay hydrated.
Keeping in Touch
Don’t drop the casual conversations!
Working from home can feel alienating since it reduces the contact you have with colleagues. While chit-chatting with workmates is not needed to get the work done, it plays an important part in your wellbeing as it helps you feel connected with them and belong to a team. Send them a friendly text when you start your day to ask how they’ve been and catch up with them on the phone if you used to do it before an in-person meeting! These are simple ways to stay in touch with them.
We hope this helps you stay productive and well while working from home! For an insight on what type of working style you can expect in the future, have a look at Digital Recruitment Trends: Remote Working is the Future?.