In the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic, many companies are implementing voluntary or mandatory work-from-home policies. That means lots of us are dealing with an unusual challenge: working from home for the first time, full-time.Getty Images
Have a designated workspace
First things first, create a work-station conducive for WFH. Ideally, work in a closed room by yourself, where there are no roommates or family members, no fridge or television and certainly no bed to take your focus away. Invest in the right furniture to make yourself comfortable. An ergonomic work chair and desk are worth it, to avoid backaches triggered by slouching on the couch or bed with your laptop. Maintain the cleanliness of this workspace. Make sure the wall or background are suitable for professional video calls.
Plan workflow, don’t work disorganised
Before you start the day, have a task list or target sheet ready. Prioritise your projects and schedule time slots. Include some buffer time to cater for contingencies like unforeseen work calls and new tasks received unexpectedly. Don’t leave planned tasks unfinished and don’t switch between them or get pulled away by your need to respond to a new email. Multi-tasking or frequent switching kill productivity.Get all your gadgets- laptop, phone, headphones, chargers and other tools- diary, pen, important notes in one place. If your environment is noisy, get noise cancellation headphones. Use a mouse instead of the trackpad for better efficiency. If you have children, divide parental duties with your spouse, such that both your work hours don’t get disrupted, if your spouse is working too. Organise routines and rules for other disturbances like the maid and doorbell.
Step up the technology game
You should use the best of technology available for WFH, so that technical glitches are minimized. Google Hangouts for a team video call and Slack for messaging are good tools. Project management tools like Asana help you achieve team outcomes while a list app or a Trello can help organise your day. Speak to your IT department for any help you need, including setting up a virtual private network (VPN).
Your team and manager need to know that you are logged in and available. Video call your colleagues or chat with them for routine queries and task management instead of spamming each other’s mailboxes. Ask your manager for regular performance reviews and feedback, get adequate face time with him/her and keep these interactions regular. If you are alone at home, you run the risk of social isolation, which could be harmful. Partake in non-work related video hangouts with your team and any virtual recreational activities planned by HR.As a manager, you can share more information than usual with your team, check in on them, provide them with the required technology, organise social interactions, chat session and discuss how they are coping with the situation.
Block people and distractions
The biggest challenge in a WFH routine is the presence of other people at home or from your life. Block out these human distractions by setting ground rules with them. It helps to pretend you are not at home while following rigid work hours. Do not get involved in personal calls or housework. Worse, don’t go on to YouTube or start scrolling endlessly on Instagram because you know no one is physically monitoring you.Remove social media extensions and switch off all notifications both in your laptop browser as well as on your cell phone. Switch off your mobile data and use it only for calls. Use headphones, a hoodie or even tinted glasses to create boundaries. Keep your coffee flask and snacks available on your desk so that you don’t get up too often.
Don’t expect to go all out on Day One. Your and your routine will gradually adapt to this new way of working, so be prepared for targets to take a hit temporarily. To crack the productivity code, schedule the toughest tasks for the morning and calls in the afternoon. Employ the Pomodoro technique, basically working in bitesized chunks of 25 minutes followed by standing up and walking around for 5 minutes, preferably in sunlight and fresh air, to recharge. Use a music list or a background sound on your speaker if it helps you focus. When you are productive and happy, you can enjoy and appreciate the perks of WFH better.