Almost every other organisation today gives the option of working from home. While the debate can rage on about whether it increases or decreases our productivity, working from home is undoubtedly convenient for the employee, who doesn’t want to brave the crowded commute, or is under the weather, or has an emergency at home to deal with.
Several people today work exclusively from home, and make it work for them, for they are accustomed to it, and have cracked the code to maximize productivity without stepping outside the house. However, since the concept is relatively new, not everyone can safely work past the roadblocks.
For every freelancer out there who aces his/her daily work goals while working from home, there are probably two full-time employees who while away their time replying to emails in their inbox, or got distracted by social media, when working from home. Working from home can come with its own share of pitfalls, and can make you feel woefully inadequate at the end of the day.
But worry not; sticking by some simple rules and practices will make your ‘WFH’ stint a lot more fruitful:
Be Honest with yourself
Do not allot all your pending projects and tasks on the one day that you decide to work from home. Be honest with yourself about why you are working from home, what purpose will it accomplish, and how much time will you realistically give to each task. If you know for a fact that you won’t be able to cover more than four tasks, do not go in with the assumption that you will do six – simply because you are working from home. Prioritize your tasks according to urgency, and do not get lost in clearing your inbox, or updating your resume, or others things that can be pushed to later.
Have a designated workspace
Have a corner in your home where you would sit (read sit; not lie down) and work. It sounds fun to carry your laptop from the bedroom to the balcony to the kitchen, but scattering your work everywhere will do you no good. This particular space should be comfortable and relaxed, and should hold your office files, tools, and resources, for them to be handy when needed. Restrict work and work-related things to one space, for not only will it be easier to focus and be more efficient, but it will also be easier to step away, take breaks and disconnect when you need to.
Prepare yourself when you have nowhere to go? Confused? Don’t be. This step is basically means that you clean up, change into a new pair of clothes, exercise lightly before beginning to work. Your brain needs to feel that you are working in order to work at its best, and working right after you wake up, in your pyjamas, isn’t going to do the trick.
Ideally, undertake every important and significant ritual you do before you begin working on a regular working day in office. Do not keep any to-do chores from home in the vicinity for they are likely to distract you when you begin working.
You take coffee, smoke and lunch breaks in office, right? Why should working from home be any different? While studies like these might break down how long you should work and take a break, schedule your breaks in a manner in which they (or their lack of) does not hamper your productivity. Make sure that you do not lose your connection with humans and work in isolation; for that can have the opposite effect of what you might want to achieve. Go to the cafe or coffee shop nearby, or talk to investors, colleagues, or friends on call. Very importantly, do no consume calorie-laden food that will make you feel full and drowsy.
Devise a check-in system
Devise a system, human or otherwise, to help you realise that this much time has gone by, and this is what you have left for the day. Working from home, simply means working in an informal setting, BUT usually for the same number of hours. If you don’t want to end your day wondering where your time went, set hourly alarms, or a call with a colleague when a task is finished. The idea is to help you retain track of time, and change, alter your work plan accordingly.
This is why prioritizing and scheduling your day, as mentioned in the first step is essential; for it helps you decide how much time will be taken up by what task – thereby making the assessment of its fulfilment easier.
Keep distractions at bay
Here comes the tough one. You should ideally turn off notifications for all social media, and never turn on the television. If you can, work offline, without click-bait articles or ‘amazing’ online offers to distract you. There are ways to work around this even if your work revolves intensively around social media, by automating posts and blocking ads. Do not spend endless hours in browsing catalogues of e-commerce websites, or do not think that watching one single episode of your favourite show will do no harm. We live in times where information is aplenty and attention spans shrinking, and you will consciously have to dodge the many distractions that will crop up.
Review your day
Just like you (should ideally) take stock of what you did in a single work day at office; make sure you review your to-do list when you call it a day while working from home. It is essential for you to understand where your time went, and if you were able to accomplish everything you had set out for.
Chances are either you will feel the satisfaction of clearing major chunks of work, or will feel surprised at to where your time went. If nothing, this review will serve as a cold reminder of how you should schedule, prioritize and manage your next WFH day better.
At the end of the day, you need to respect your own time and energy, in order to make Work-from-Home work for you. What are some of the things you do, in order to stay focused while working from home? Let us know in the comments!