Suddenly working from home? In these unsettling times, you may have to adapt quickly to work changes. So how do you stay focused and productive?
Take it from our Beyond the Arc team, some of whom have worked from home for years. Here are some of our favorite telecommuting strategies that can help you keep working at the top of your game.
1. Shift your mindset
Working at home on a regular basis is quite different from the occasional stay-at-home day. Among the many adjustments you’ll need to make, the first is your mindset. Think of yourself as still “going to work” — even if it’s in a corner of your living room.
Tempted to spend the day in your PJs? Trust us when we say that it’s not as good an idea as you think. Staying comfortable is fine, but it will help you get into a work mindset if you at least get casually dressed. (Plus, then you’re ready for video meetings.)
2. Create the right environment
You want to be able to focus and be productive, and that means having a consistent, comfortable work space. Set aside a place in your home where you can work for hours at a time — and with the quiet you’ll need for concentrating and being on conference calls. To minimize distractions, avoid working in a social area where others often come and go, watch TV, etc.
See how closely you can align your home workspace with what you have in the office. Make sure you have a comfy chair, and keep the supplies you need handy. Give yourself real visibility by connecting a monitor to your laptop. If working on a desktop machine, using two monitors can often increase your productivity.
Work near a window so you can see outside and enjoy natural light. Sunshine and the daily rhythm of light help to keep your mood up. Music is also a wonderful work enhancer. Try different types of music to help you stay relaxed, boost your energy, whatever you need.
3. Establish a routine
In working from home, you’ll want to build good habits to keep you focused and healthy. Rhythm is good, so get in a groove with a routine to bring consistency and structure to your workday. You’ll probably be most productive if you stick to the same sleep and wake cycle you already have. And keep reasonably consistent start and stop times for your work.
That said, one of the treats of working from home is more flexible timing. If your work allows, experiment with creating the schedule you’ve always dreamed of — just make sure all the hours are there. Occasionally split up your daily 8 hours. For instance, take 1-2 hours off in the afternoon to go for a bike ride, have a picnic, or run an errand — then settle in later to finish your work day. Giving yourself a little freedom helps relieve a sense of “cabin fever.”
It’s also important to set expectations with your household about your work routine. Because you’re home, your family or housemates may seek your attention, so you’ll need to finesse a little to minimize interruptions. Make time to help them understand the importance of your work routine, so they can support you in staying productive. And even if you can’t close a door, make a sign you can place somewhere so others will know when you’re on a call or need to be left alone.
4. Stay connected
If you have the option to connect with your internal team or external clients via video chat, take advantage of it. Working at home can be wildly convenient, but it comes with a certain sense of isolation. Video conferencing can make a big difference. Many webcams are inexpensive, with easy plug-and-play setup.
Get together with your work team in a brief video chat once a day. Beginning or end of the day works well to set goals or summarize work completed and make plans for the next day. If your team spans time zones, find a time that works for everyone. The World Clock Meeting Planner is a great tool for complicated schedules.
Stay social. Make it part of your routine to use phone and video chat more than usual (where usual is email and text message). It can bring more genuine warmth to connections with your team, business partners, and customers. Maybe even share your work-from-home strategies on Facebook or LinkedIn.
5. Stay healthy
Effectively working from home also includes embracing healthy habits to keep your mind sharp and your body feeling good. Get some exercise and fresh air every day. Do your morning workout, take a walk, whatever works for you. Energizing your body is a great way to clear your head, relieve stress, and increase focus when you work.
Take breaks to stand up and stretch. Walk up and down stairs. Step outside periodically to breathe in fresh air, and feel the sun on your face.
Manage your snacking. You’re working a lot closer to your kitchen than before, so it helps to have healthy bites on hand. Prepare a plate of vegetables to nibble on, apples with nut butter, or your favorite trail mix.
Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is great for your immune system, and helps boost your energy. Keep a large pitcher of water nearby. Add some flavor with sliced lemon, lime, or cucumber.
And remember, when your work day is done, it’s done. While the demands of your job may change due to the current uncertainty, you’ll want to reduce stress and get the rest you need to keep working like a rock star. Wind down work at your usual time, and don’t check work email during dinner or family time. It’s important to keep an eye on ALL the key things — and people — in your world.
Optimizing your work-at-home strategies is a powerful way to support both your business and your customers in these challenging times. The world may be changing rapidly, but we can all continue to contribute our best.