With new advice from the government about the importance of self-isolation and how working from home efforts, where possible, will help to slow the spread of COVID-19, many businesses have heeded the warnings and sent workers home for the foreseeable future.
With technology where it is today, we are lucky enough to be in a position which makes working from home easier that it has ever been before. Skype, Zoom and Google hangouts, to name a few, all enable employers and employees to stay connected through the ease of video calling, creating the feeling that they'd never left the office. Just be mindful when you get up and see to the dog that your pyjama-clad bottom half may well be visible to the rest of your team on the conference call.
Generally, the working from home debate is controversial - some people love it, some people hate it. Recently, with the heavy focus on work / life balance, it has come in to the spotlight much more. Perhaps post-COVID-19, the workforce will return to work with flexible working a given, or perhaps people will miss the social elements of office life and it will be back to a standard 9-5.
Regardless of that and whatever your stance on working from home, at the moment the extensive anxiety-inducing headlines pinging on your phone every hour make it very hard to stay focused and importantly, productive. There are, however, practices and routines that will enable you to battle the distractions and end the day with a sense of achievement.
Get Dressed as you normally would
As much as you may enjoy seeing a co-worker scramble out of view when they realise they have given away the fact that they only got dressed from the waist up, feeling the part is an important part of being productive when working from home. Get up at your normal time, shower and get dressed as you would for any other day. This way, you will be ready for whatever trials and tribulations may come your way.
A bonus of sticking to your normal routine means you’ll also have that precious time you would normally be using for your commute to yourself. Meditate, read a book, listen to a podcast - anything that will calm your mind and set you up for the day ahead.
Have a Specific Place to Work / Office Set Up
Having a specific spot set up at home to work from means you won't end up working in bed. It also means that you can reduce the amount of distractions that are likely to take your attention away from the job at hand.
Set up your space, whether in a home office, at the kitchen table or in any other space you can call yours for the 8 hours of the day that you will need it. Ensure you have everything you need first thing in the morning. Water bottle, notepad, headphones, etc.: the aim here is to limit the amount of things that you will need to go looking for throughout the day. Keep it minimal, clear and tidy.
Keep Up Your Social Interaction
Although you are working from home, that doesn't mean social interaction is lost. Given the current climate, talking and discussing concerns is the best thing to do. Remember, this situation is new for everyone and we are all in it together.
Checking in with your colleagues will not only boost morale but also help you to stay productive. If there are specific tasks that you need to get done in the day, tell someone and they can hold you accountable. Ensuring you have this strategy in place will mean you are much more likely to complete the task than get otherwise distracted.
Schedule the day / make a plan
Planning really is everything. Whether you are dedicated ‘To-do List’ person, a long-standing fan of Trello or a timeboxing convert (see Indistractable by Nir Eyal if you haven’t come across timeboxing), whatever your method, now is the time to start leaning on it. You’ll be surprised at the number of weird and wonderful things that will try to steal your attention when you should be working. Overcome these with a strict schedule or plan. Know what you want to achieve that day and go ahead and get it done.
For those of you that use none of the above, (how have you coped until now?) this is probably a great time to explore which method works best for you in order to stay productive. Try using one method a week until you find the one most suited to your work style. And if you find yourself struggling to stick to a method, go back to the point above and enlist the help of a colleague or even family member to help keep you accountable. It’s likely that they may well be experiencing the same problem.
Take regular breaks to move
Movement is so important to order to stay alert and productive. Within the daily schedule that you have put together for yourself, ensure that you include a set lunch break and shorter breaks throughout the day to stand up, stretch and get the blood pumping.
This is going to be vital if you are missing your regular gym session due to self-isolation. Consistent breaks and movement will refresh your mind and ensure that you come back to the task with a clear head.
Unfortunately, no-one can definitively predict how long remote working will stay in place in individual workplaces due to social distancing. Follow the tips above in order to help you stay productive. Check out our 5-step Guide to Looking After Your Wellbeing When Working From Home too, as maintaining a self-care routine could also benefit your productivity.