We regarded the idea of working from home for many reasons… right up until the COVID-19 pandemic invaded our life. It was nice to sit in your home office once in a while but being cooped up at home all day long is too overwhelming. While companies around the globe support social distancing and make work-from-home mandatory, thousands of people are going stir-crazy staying productive at their job.
In one study, 66% of people thought their companies were actually prepared while 34% of people admit that their companies were not ready for the change.
The transition has proved harder than expected. Everyone from a newbie to a work-from-home veteran is still getting used to their new work life. All of them are trying to spot that fine line between ‘successful’ and ‘stressful’ work-from-home. Now, as someone who enjoys working in sweats as well as pajamas, I have some super helpful insights on how to work from home, the right way. So, here’s a quick rundown on ways you can set yourself up for success when working at home.
1. Start your day off with small routines
The first thing you need to do on your first day (and every other day) working from home is structure the day with a routine. Remember, the purpose of the schedule is to help you maintain your sanity throughout the day and get work done.
Pro Tip: Pretend like it’s another day going into the office. Make sure that your schedule includes all the things you would do to prepare for an office role.
2. Work when you're at your most productive
Yes, you can keep working all day long. But your performance will be a lot better if you know the time of the day you're most focused. Once you figure that out, manage your work around that time so that you’re at your peak productivity.
Pro Tip: If you don't really know your peak productivity hours, just use a time tracker like Trello or Clockify to track what you're doing in a day and how much time you're taking to get everything done.
3. Do the tricky stuff first
Most of us have the habit to pick the easiest task first and then procrastinate all day over difficult things. But this habit needs to be changed. Listen to Mark Twain—“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Pro Tip: Use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. List your top 5 tasks for the day, rank each task as per their importance and urgency, and start with the task that is both ‘Important’ and ‘Urgent’.
4. Don’t fall for multitasking
Multitasking is a dangerous myth. And you are more vulnerable to it when you are working from home. When you have your work deadline on one end and your household chores on the other, it’s a common choice to manage multiple things at once. After all, who’s watching? But trust me, when you split your attention between two tasks at once, you aren't actually getting anything done the right way.
Pro Tip: Seek a quiet place to work at home and schedule a time for individual tasks (personal as well as professional).
5. Get access to all the tech you need
Have the right set of tools in your work-from-home arsenal. Working from home often makes you feel isolated and overwhelmed. The only way to avoid that from happening is to work with tools that make it easier for you to check-in and work with coworkers from anywhere. Speaking from my personal experience, here is the list of tech one needs to work at ‘home office’ as efficiently as ‘office office’.
- Instant Messaging: Tools that let teams connect and get to know one another for both professional and team-building purposes. Suggestions: Ping, Slack, Google Hangout, and Workplace
- Task Management: Tools that make it easier for teams to assign and follow up on tasks. Suggestions: Trello, Remember The Milk, GanttPro, and ToodleDo
- Audio Conferencing : Tools that facilitate real-time interaction and faster decision-making anytime, anywhere. Suggestions: grptalk, GoToMeeting, and Cisco Webex
- Video Conferencing : Tools that add a personal touch to everyday hurdles and team meetings via HD voice and video calls, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing. Suggestions: Skype, Join, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams
- Note-Taking : Tools that allow you to emphasize and organize information in one place. Suggestions: Evernote, Google Keep, and Microsoft OneNote
- Tracking/Reporting : Tools that generate data for calculating every individual’s daily productivity and efficiency. Suggestions: Harvest, Toggl, Timely, and Zoho Analytics
Pro Tip: Don’t trust the one-size-fits-all approach. Focus on your specific needs while making your pick.
6. Don’t hesitate to take a break
Overwork isn't heroic. Nothing good comes from overworking yourself—in fact, that is exactly where things start to go wrong. The best thing to do is take a break, relax and come back stronger. You need to be careful enough to know when you are working hard and when you are suffering from burnout at work.
Pro Tip: Use The Pomodoro Technique. Just set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, take a short break for 5 minutes. Go for a walk, stretch your legs, have a cup of coffee, or just have some water cooler talk with your fellow colleagues over Ping or Slack chat.
The bottom line is… In this new Covid-19 reality where working together under one roof seems like a distant possibility, work-from-home serves as a great opportunity to keep business running as usual. Sure, there are challenges and not all of us are in favor of working at home Monday through Friday, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And there is no need to stress out. Just keep your head clear, have the above ideas put to action (and stick to it), and you will love working from the comfort of your couch.