Working from home can be a welcome change of scenery, but some will find it challenging to stay focused and stay on top of their workload. If you’re finding yourself getting distracted, unable to focus or are generally not as productive as you used to be, these tips can help you refocus and get back on track.
Tips to Improve Productivity When Working from Home
Set up a comfortable work space
Working from your bed or your couch might feel comfortable at first but the longer you work in those cushy seats the worse you'll feel. A comfortable work space should have a firm chair, a place for your computer where you can see the screen without tilting your head too much in any direction, and easy access to your keyboard. If possible, create a desk space out of the furniture that gives your body the right positioning it needs.
Create work/home boundaries
Healthy boundaries to maintain a work/life balance can be harder to set when you’re working from home. Creating a dedicated work space in your home can help you to “go to work” in the morning and then “leave work” when you’re done your shift. It is also recommended that you maintain your regular office hours. If you have a clear time to start and stop work you can prevent the burnout of being ‘always on’.
Use available collaboration tools
Adapting to virtual meetings, cloud storage, remote access and more can be challenging. Be patient with your team as each of you adapt to new technologies and tools to help you stay connected while you’re apart.
Some tools available to help productivity for remote working are:
- Remote access and virtual desktops
- Office 365, G Suite & Webmail
- Zoom, Blue Jeans & Google Hangouts Video Conferencing
- File-sharing and project management tools
- Slack & WhatsApp for instant messaging and communications
When you can't "see" who is at their desk or not, it can be hard to know if someone is not responding to emails or instant messages because they're 'heads-down' in a project or just not around. Answering emails and instant messages in a timely manner to acknowledge their receipt helps your colleagues know that their message was received.
Understand how your team works
You'll notice that your team members have different communication styles now that you're remote. Some might like to call you on the phone, others will email and some will want to communicate via instant messenger. Pay attention to your preferred communication channel and recognise that it might not be the right channel for everyone. Being flexible to ensure that your team can communicate and collaborate effectively and efficiently will reduce miscommunications and frustrations.
Working remotely removes those ‘water cooler’ moments and opportunities to connect with your team on a personal level. Things that might have come up in casual conversation can get missed when you work remotely. Taking time to reach out to your coworkers and colleagues to check in and chat can help to keep you connected.
Set clear responsibilities and keep yourself accountable
Too much to do and aren't sure where to start? Or not enough to do and just not focused enough to get started?
At the start of the day, give yourself 15-30 minutes to write down all of the things that you have on your to-do list for the day. Review that list and prioritise the three most important things that you need work on. Start with those and when you've completed them, find the next three most important things. Review this list with your supervisor each day (or as close to daily as you can) to ensure that you are both clear as to what is on your to-do list and that you have the same priorities of what's most important.
Reviewing and refreshing your to-do list each day will help keep you focused and accountable to your top three tasks each day.
Using a to-do list, updating your diary with meetings, and using digital collaboration tools such as shared meeting calendars, project management tools, and communications tools can help you to keep yourself organised. If you've been forced to move to a paperless organisation system after using a paper-based system for a long time, this can be a challenge. Ask your colleagues for recommendations and be patient with yourself while you learn new tools and new skills.
Preserve confidentiality and information security
Use common sense and good judgement when it comes to data and security. Even though you're in the privacy of your own home, there are security risks that you should take to ensure information security and confidentiality. Don't use your work devices for personal communications or to download non-work related apps or media from the internet. Always lock your devices to ensure no accidental access or editing to your files and emails, which can happen if your children are playing with your devices. Your IT department will have any other suggestions for your particular network set up to ensure that you're keeping critical information confidential and secure.
When you're working from home you don't go out for lunch, go for coffee, take a walk or just stop to chat for a few minutes as often as you do when you're in the office. These little breaks are important to improve your focus when you sit back down to do more work. Give yourself a break and take a break when you need it.