Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have begun working from home. What once seemed to be impractical has now become a fact of life for a lot of people. Many of us have found working from home much better than working in an office, for a lot of reasons. You don’t have to commute, saving time and money, no more idle chatter on your tea break, and you only have to dress smartly for Zoom calls – and even then you only have to look smart where it can be seen on-camera. As well as these positives, many people also find working remotely more productive, as you aren’t distracted by others.
That being said, working from home isn’t always easy. For some, it has been difficult to stay productive when you’re working in the same building as your video games, and there’s nobody around to tell you off for getting distracted. If you have been finding it difficult to stay on task when working from home, here are a few tips that you may find useful.
DO make a plan
One of my biggest obstacles when working is feeling directionless and not knowing what I need to do. If you can relate, coming up with a plan for the day can be helpful. It could be a simple to-do list or a carefully put-together schedule. Different approaches will work depending on how much control and planning you need. I like to write my schedule in pencil so that if there are any last-minute changes I can easily re-organise. You should come up with a plan before you start working and refer to it throughout the day. This will help you to stay on track and to know what you should be doing.
DON’T wear pyjamas
I know, I know! One of the often-touted benefits of working from home is that you can work in your pyjamas. However, for many people, it is important to feel ready for work to work at their best. Wearing pyjamas may affect your productivity because when you wear pyjamas, your brain thinks you are going to bed. This doesn’t mean that you need to wear a suit when you work from home. Wear clothes that are comfortable and casual, but make sure it is something that is putting you in a “work” mindset.
DO set work hours
Setting work hours helps you keep on track and gives you an idea of how long you will be working. Having a set time to start, as opposed to thinking “well, I’ll start at some point today” reduces the risk of procrastination, and knowing when you stop work helps ease fatigue, as you know exactly how much time you have left to work. You should follow the hours that you set and don’t put off work before you start the day. Similarly, once you are at the end of the workday, it’s important to completely stop all work activities if possible, including tasks like checking emails – although make sure you leave your work in a state where it will be easy to return to the next day. The rest of the day is your time. Keeping your work life and personal life separate is good for your mental health, as it allows you to properly unwind and rest during your time off.
If you have a say in what hours you work, you don’t have to work a standard 9-5. These hours aren’t suitable for everyone. Some people prefer working late into the night, others like getting the bulk of their work done before lunch. Whatever hours you work, keep them consistent from day to day and stick to them.
DON’T get distracted by social media
It is so easy to get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you use. Social media is specifically designed to be addictive, which makes it all the more difficult to keep away from it when you have to work. The struggle is tenfold if you work on a computer, where social media is only a few clicks away. Luckily, this is an easy problem to fix. There is an abundance of apps and programmes that block social media on both your computer and smartphone.
DO set aside a workspace
A key part of productivity is being in the right frame of mind, and it is important to have a working environment that encourages that kind of mindset. If you can, set aside a space that is specifically where you work. This can be a specific place at the table, a corner of a room, or even an entire room if you have one going spare. No matter where the workspace is, make it pleasant to work in. It should be organised and you can spruce it up with simple things like fun stationery. Be sure to get everything that you will need for the day ready in your workspace before you start working. This will prevent you from disrupting your flow and wasting time later on in the day looking for things.
DON’T put the TV/YouTube on while you work
Many people find working in silence difficult, so they put the TV or a YouTube video on as background noise. The problem with this is that you run the risk of getting distracted by whatever you have put on and spending more time watching it than working! The same applies to music with lyrics, as your brain will focus on the words being sung instead of your work. It’s OK to listen to something while you work. Ambient sounds, like this coffee shop ambience, white noise, music without lyrics, and sounds of nature are some things to listen to that won’t distract your attention.
DO take breaks
You are not a machine, and you cannot work without taking breaks. Some people work best for long stretches of time with longer breaks, whereas other people prefer shorter, more frequent breaks. Even if you feel like you don’t need breaks, it is still important to take them, and your quality of work and mental health benefit from frequent breaks. Breaks are especially important when you work in front of a screen or sitting down, as you need to rest your eyes and get moving. Breaks are a time to rest your brain, stretch your legs and get a snack if needed, so make sure you schedule them into your workday.
DON’T be too hard on yourself
It is easy to be self-critical. Often it can feel like you’re not working hard enough, but you must be kind to yourself. We are in a pandemic, and life is totally different than it used to be, so it is only natural that you won’t be 100% productive all of the time. Again, you are not a robot. If your negative feelings are seriously impacting your well-being, it may be helpful to speak to a therapist. Other ways to cope with negative feelings include: talking to your friends and loved ones, getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, and making note of your successes, even if they are small ones. Your well-being is the most important thing, and you will produce better work if you are happy.
What tips do you have for working from home? Let us know by leaving a comment!