How to work productively from home during a lockdown

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Whether you work from home every day, a couple of times per week, or if the lockdown means this is your first time, it can sometimes be difficult to stay productive. Beyond the obvious of getting out of your pyjamas in the morning and learning how to use the mute button for calls, these tips can help you get the most out of your time working remotely.

Being efficient while working from home can be a real challenge. There are tons of distractions, less accountability, and less communication than when you’re working in the office. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. COVID-19 is presenting challenges for all workers right now.

As Paul Statham, CEO at Condeco Software, says: “Coronavirus is accelerating working from home, a trend that was already happening in many businesses and organizations.”

It’s stressful enough to process the big changes happening to our economy and society, but there’s probably a lot happening within your own home too.

How can you make the most of your remote working hours?

You can’t be as helpful to clients or loved ones when you’re emotionally, mentally, and physically tapped out and without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, it can be easy to lose focus or burn out.

1. Set up an office at home

Our first piece of advice would be to dedicate a specific zone in your home for work. Indeed, not working at an office doesn’t mean you can’t have an office. Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch – spaces that are associated with leisure time – dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work, as far as this is possible. If you can separate yourself from the rest of the house by a door, even better.

2. Plan your day

Another tip would be to plan your work in advance. Indeed, spending time figuring out what you’ll do today can take away from actually doing those things. Plus, you’ll have planned your task list so recently that you may be tempted to change your schedule on the fly. As you would at the office, it’s important to let your agenda change if you need it to. But it’s equally as important to commit to an agenda that outlines every assignment before you begin. Try putting together your schedule the day before so that it feel more official when you wake up the next morning to get started on it.

In your planning, consider the following:

  • Work on the highest priority tasks first
  • Plan your day around your own natural cycles – do the hardest work when you have the most energy throughout the day
  • Plan yourself rewards and breaks throughout the day

For this purpose, you can use Google Calendar, Trello or a simple paper ‘to do’ list for the day.

3. Communicate

Speaking of schedules, it’s important to communicate your plan not only with other people you may be working from home with, but also your usual co-workers. This will ensure, for instance, that your family or housemates can put their headphones in during your call or turn off the TV and. It also means your colleagues will know you won’t be available while you go out for some errands – especially if you work in another time zone.

4. Socialise

One of the biggest challenges of remote working is dealing with loneliness and isolation. From times to time, try to call a peer or someone in your network. Make sure you stay in contact on a personal level as well as a professional level. You can do this without taking up a lot of time – just share the things that are most important and encourage your co-workers to do the same. There’s a reason that so many resources exist to keep us connected; we all need each other to feel human. So empower yourself by reaching out.

5. Set working hours

It’s also key to set up an end-of-the-day hour every day to replace the action of packing up and leaving the office. You don’t have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the workday is technically over can help you start the process of saving your work and, where possible, calling it quits for the evening.

6. Find a moment for yourself

Another challenge of working remotely is the impression that working from home establishes a better work-life balance, but be careful with that assumption. Working from home can get you so caught up in your activity, in a relaxing environment, that you completely lose track of time. To guard against this, you should schedule some occasional “me time”, which is not so hard to do when you are surrounded by home comforts.

7. Take a break

It’s essential to take breaks throughout the day to stay productive and healthy. You can either do this on your own, schedule it in your agenda or download an app that reminds you to drink water, watch a funny dog video, or take a few relaxing deep breaths. A proper break must include some movement, even if it is just getting up from your seat for a walk around. Movement is linked to many health benefits, from reduced pain to improved mental clarity and positive moods. Don’t forget to move your eyes too!

8. Don’t forget to eat.

Last but not least, think about your meals. It’s so easy during this confinement to get caught in the “I have nothing to eat” scenario and just rely on snacks or whatever you can find in the room. While you don’t need elaborate meals, make a point of having a fridge stocked with fresh snacks, cut-up veggies or fruits, hard-boiled eggs, greens and proteins such as chicken breasts, tuna or whatever you love. You can get creative with eating habits for “brain food” and productivity. And if you’re used to bringing a packed lunch into the office, you can still recreate your favourite meal the day before.

Don’t forget, when your day is over, it should be over for real. So turn off your computer, stretch and enjoy your family time or watch a streamed opera or ballet. We suggest some of the best every Thursday on our Twitter feed.

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