HOW TO BE EFFICIENT WHEN YOU ARE WORKING REMOTELY
We have all had those days, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and running late during our morning commute, when we’ve wished we could just work from home. But for many employees these days, working remotely has become more of a mandate than an option because of the pandemic and orders to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As days have turned into weeks, we are finding some unexpected challenges to working from home, in the space we share with loved ones, both two- and four-legged. Here are some tips to making your extended work-at-home experience both efficient and productive.
Many people who have tried their hand at working remotely find that for some reason, they can’t seem to get as much done when they are parked at home, compared to being in the office. Distractions abound. They might start their work, but then get sidetracked by an errand or a question from someone else in the house. But there are solutions to these problems. Here are some easy ways to create an efficient environment for working remotely.
Make a designated home office space
You might have dreams of working from home that include you lounging all day in your pajamas, working in bed, propped up by pillows. It’s a luxurious thought, but not very practical – or efficient. The first rule of thumb for working at home is to create a designated home office space that is comfortable and has everything you need within arm’s reach. A separate room is best, especially if it has a door that closes to keep noise and distractions to a minimum. If you can’t use a separate room, try to avoid a high-traffic area like the kitchen table if there are other people in the house. You may find it has too many distractions.
Key factors for a good home office include:
- A desk or table the right height to work at your laptop, with space to spread out your work materials.
- Nearby electrical outlets or a power strip for your computer and smartphone.
- Adequate lighting
Create a Schedule
When you initially received the green light to work remotely, your first thoughts might have been on your newfound freedom, not the need for a schedule. But make sure you understand your company’s work-from-home expectations. Are you supposed to be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? If so, make sure you are. If you’re not answering email quickly and responding to questions your manager or others might have, they may think you’re not hard at work.
If you are allowed to create your own flex schedule at home, then think about the time of day when you are at your best. Are you an early riser who does their best work before dawn? Or would you prefer to sleep in and get your work done from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m everyday? If having a set schedule doesn’t work for you, then just break your workday into two 4-hour blocks. Creating and sticking to a schedule isn’t just about not shortchanging your employer. It also protects you from the temptation to work extra hours just because your computer is within arm’s reach. Having a schedule allows you to have that work-life balance you need to stay healthy.
Stick to a routine
The first few activities of your day should not be any different if you are driving into work, or doing your job remotely. Once you get up, stick to your routine of getting dressed, eating a good breakfast or even doing a morning workout. Once you are ready to start work, take your cup of coffee or container of water and head to your seat. It may be tempting to work in your pajamas or flip open your laptop and start emailing a colleague as soon as you wake up, but then many times you’ll get sucked into work. The next thing you know, it’s 11 a.m., you have forgotten to eat breakfast, and you are just minutes away from having a video conference call while still in your bathrobe.
A good routine also includes breaks. Just like in the office when you’d step away from your desk for a quick walk or head to the nearest coffeeshop, make sure you’re taking a breather while you are working remotely. At home, you can stretch, do a short workout, walk the dog, take a TV break or just do a load of laundry. These breaks offer you a little respite, get you moving around and allow you to work more efficiently when it’s time to return to your computer.
The way you prioritize your daily tasks should not depend on where you are doing the work. Make a list each morning of what must get done that day, along with a few things that can be done if there is time. Make sure the times of any phone meetings, video conferencing calls or online group work chats are all noted, so you won’t miss them. Set a reminder on your phone 15 minutes before any remote work chat. This will allow you the time to prep and make sure you’re ready.
Be firm about avoiding distractions
It’s easier to get distracted when you are working remotely. If you are trying to work in a house with other family members, you might need to be firm about reminding them that you are actually doing your job. If you are working in a separate room, keep the door closed. If you can’t work separately, try putting earbuds in to signal that you’re busy, or wear noise-cancelling headphones to block distractions. Also, be tough on yourself. Don’t leave a movie streaming service open in your computer’s browser window. You’ll just be tempted to switch over to it to catch up on your favorite show’s newest episode. Ditto for social media. Save scrolling that for your breaks, not on work time.
While the sense of freedom can be great, working remotely can also feel a little isolating at times. Your colleagues are not just an office away, and there’s no one gathering by your coffee machine but you. The quiet can be a little unsettling for some. That’s why human interaction is still very important during a remote work day. Meetings online via video chat are a great way to connect with your co-workers and managers. If your company does not do many of these, make sure you are checking in with people by calling them on the phone. Yes, it takes more time than sending an email, but hearing someone’s voice offers a deeper human connection, and often more information than an email or text.
It may take some time to get used to it, but you can be efficient while working from home by taking just a few steps that will ensure success.
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