Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have shifted to remote work to sustain operations while complying with health and safety protocols. However, for many workers around the world, the sudden shift from daily commutes and working in an office to self-isolating and working from home was jarring.
If you find yourself struggling to return to your typical level of work, retain your focus on daily tasks, or even with motivating yourself to get through the day, you aren’t alone. This ultimate guide to working from home aims to provide readers with tips on how to ease into the new normal, manage their mental state, and boost productivity.
The Ultimate Guide to Staying Productive in a ‘Working from Home’ Setup
1. Create a Routine
Coming from a more rigid office work structure, it can be a challenge to adjust to remote work. Maintaining a daily routine can help you prepare for the day, both physically and mentally. A routine can simulate your previous habits and give you the much-needed structure for your workday.
Ideally, this routine should start from the moment you wake up, continue throughout the workday, and end the moment you clock out. Try following a full-day routine before deciding if you want to continue with only the morning routine. Take note of any gaps or struggles and adjust accordingly.
2. Keep a To-Do List
In a 2019 survey from outsourcing company Airtasker, 30% of remote employees reported that having a to-do list aided in their productivity. This may be because planning allows employees to keep track of deliverables and deadlines in a way that is more concrete and highly visible.
The browser and mobile apps like Trello are highly-customizable digital list makers that are easy to use and navigate. If digital lists aren’t as effective for you, traditional pen-and-paper lists work just as well. It’s a matter of finding a list system that best fits your habits and incorporating creating and updating your to-do list into your daily routine.
3. Eliminate Any Distractions
In the middle of work, you may find yourself scrolling through social media or browsing endless pages of non-work content. You may even find yourself running errands or handling chores around the house. While environmental distractions like noises can’t be avoided entirely, activities that deliberately take your mind off work can be.
Keep your phone on silent and avoid checking it unless you’re on break. Log out of your social media accounts if the notifications are too tempting. Consider installing anti-distraction software and tools to limit unnecessary browsing so you can focus on the task at hand.
Make sure to communicate with your housemates to schedule chores in a way that won’t disturb your work hours.
4. Take Regular Breaks
Here’s an all-too-common scenario: You work for a couple of hours but start to feel that you’re slowing down. You know you need to get this task done ASAP, so you try to buckle down and force your way through it. Instead, you end up spending more time frustrated and unable to complete your work.
According to the same Airtasker survey, the most effective way (37%) for remote employees to stay productive was to take breaks. Breaks give you opportunities to get up, walk around, grab a healthy snack, and do something unrelated to work. It is especially recommended when you’re feeling drained or distracted to resume the task with a clearer mind.
Try using time management strategies like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves focusing on a task for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break immediately. This ultimate guide can help you schedule your breaks and integrate well into your daily routine while balancing your workflow.
How to Avoid Burnout
Many things can contribute to burnout in a work-from-home environment: stress from current events or personal matters, lack of separation between the home space and the workspace, and even feelings of loneliness and isolation. In this ultimate guide, I mention some ways you can avoid burnout and stay on top of your mental health:
1. Set Boundaries
More often than not, your brain thinks of your home as a place of rest and relaxation. Therefore, working in that same space blurs the lines between leisure and productivity, creating feelings of frustration and lessening your focus.
It is crucial to set physical and mental boundaries to help better separate your work life from your home life. Select a particular area in your home as a designated workspace to make it easier for you to get “in the zone.” Discourage your housemates from coming into your workspace or interrupting you, if possible.
Finally, log off completely once the work is over. When you continue to work even when you’re off the clock, you overstep your mental boundaries, making it harder for you to be productive when you need to.
2. Relax After Work
In line with setting boundaries, relaxing after a day of work has its benefits. You create a good work-life balance and get relaxed enough to get a good night’s sleep, preparing you better for another workday.
After work, use your time for something you enjoy, like reading a book, playing video games, or catching a show on Netflix. It may also help to reflect on the day and thoroughly process your mood and emotions. Keep a diary for your day-to-day feelings to help alleviate any stress or worries you may have, and ensure that you start the next day with a clear head.
3. Take Media Breaks
While it’s essential to keep up with the latest events—even more with updates and developments on the current pandemic—it can get overwhelming. At worst, you may feel depressed or anxious and worry about yourself and your loved ones.
The best way to avoid these heavy feelings is to stagger your information through media breaks. Set a specific hour and amount of time for you to catch up with the current situation on news sites and social media. Once that time has passed, log out and take a moment to process the information or distract yourself.
4. Open Lines of Communication
Due to restrictions on non-essential travel and the need to self-isolate, you may find yourself feeling lonely and detached from friends, loved ones, and colleagues. Thankfully, there are digital tools that allow you to open lines of communication and combat these feelings of isolation.
Organize a video call activity with your loved ones: have a virtual dinner together, play games, or share stories. Additionally, consider taking time each day to check in with people that matter to you. Encourage your colleagues not only to have meetings but also engagements unrelated to work, over video calls to reduce the lack of human interaction.
Other people are surely feeling lonely, as well, so taking the initiative to connect can help everyone in the long run.
5. Put Things into Perspective
It’s natural to feel fear and anxiety over current events, and it’s healthy to acknowledge the feelings that arise from it. After all, it’s part of human nature to experience all kinds of emotions from different situations.
Once you’ve accepted the feelings you have over what is happening where you are (or even across the globe), the next step is to put things into perspective. Evaluate which situations are within your control and which ones can’t be changed or contributed to meaningfully. Let go of things beyond your control and work towards taking charge of those that are.
Finally, ground yourself by focusing on the constants in your life. The presence of your loved ones, the routine you share with your pets, even your job and work tasks. Even simple things that remain constant in these uncertain times can help you remain calm.
6. Surviving at Home
Adjusting to a work-from-home setup can be tough, especially in times of quarantine and restrictions on public gatherings and places. Making the necessary changes listed in this ultimate guide is important for your well-being. These are crucial steps to staying productive and stable in the new normal.