How to work productively from home
Published on March 25 2020
We are now in the situation where many people who don't usually work remotely now work from home, and it can be hard to concentrate. Of course, if you are like me, I am immensely grateful for the fact that I can work from home.
Everywhere in the world, there are people who can't work these days, people in countless crucial professions where, if they don't show up, they don't get paid. As everything shuts down, these people are losing their livelihoods.
But for all of us who are working from home:
If you have trouble concentrating, give yourself transitions. It's hard to go from the latest COVID-19 headlines to the intense concentration needed to work on that report, so take a step in between. Once you've reviewed the news, start working on tackling something work-related, but with little effort, such as answering simple emails, reading an interesting report, etc. That will help divert your attention from the news to your work. Then, after you've readjusted, try tackling that high-intensity project.
Create a suitable workspace. Perhaps you are working from home, as well as your spouse and children who will also be at home, and your home is not set up to accommodate that situation. Consider moving furniture and repurposing some spaces so that anyone who needs a place to focus can get it.
Give yourself work hours. This is important for your productivity, and it is also helpful for anyone else who is at home with you. Let other people know when to leave you alone so you can get your work done. And more generally ...
Have a plan. Especially when you work alone, you must keep a more structured daily schedule than usual. Usually, our time and the structure of our day are influenced by other people. You will experience that your day lacks the normal structures you usually have. People may have a hard time dealing with that. Your schedule should include multiple breaks throughout the day, whether it's to play with the dog or check your social media.
Pay attention to the look and feel of your video. Now that many of us will be connecting via video, take some time to prepare. Appear professional, consider what people will see in your background (and order distracts you), consider lighting and angle, and keep sounds (clicking a pen, tapping a table) to a minimum.
And one thing is certain for all of us....
Be patient. This is not the time to get angry because a co-worker has a barking dog, a crying baby, or an upset child. This is not the time to be snarky when someone doesn't quite understand how to use technology correctly, doesn't know how to upload a file to Dropbox, keeps asking how to share a screen. And if you are that person, with the barking dog or unfamiliarity with Zoom, be patient with yourself. This is an unprecedented situation, and you're doing the best you can. These bad moments won't last forever, soon enough everything will fall back into place and we'll get back to our regular lives. And what life prepares for us depends on where we go now.