It is truly unfortunate when we have to face the new threat of COVID-19. Lots of countries have already warned their citizens to stay at home to avoid the virus. And in the US, many states like Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New York have also implemented stay-at-home orders. This order will tremendously affect people’s life and jobs. So naturally, we cannot simply stay at home and do nothing. In fact, many companies have allowed their employees to work from home. Working remotely like this is undoubtedly something new to many people. It can still be difficult for employees to stay focused and work productively, especially during this sensitive time. So with no further ado, here are 11 tips for working from home to make remote work productive.
Tips for Working From Home 1: Choose & build a permanent workspace
Unlike our usual work office where we have our own dedicated workspace, many among us do not have the same thing at home. While the idea of sitting on the couch, opening TV, having snack, and working at the same time may sound “fun”, you will soon realize that is a bad idea for working. Therefore, the first thing you should do is to start picking a permanent place where for working from home.
This permanent place can be anywhere at your home, be it an empty bedroom or your own room. But regardless of the area, you should make sure that place is truly where you want to remote work regularly. In addition, it should be quiet to keep you concentrated, and it should have stable internet connection.
In case you do not have appropriate place to put your computer or laptop on, it is also a great idea to buy a standing desk. It will help you alleviate lower back or hip pain while working remotely. Also, you can put on it any necessary documents, tools, devices required for your remote work, making it a proper working desk.
Tips for Working From Home 2: Start your work early
While this tips for working from home may sound obvious, yet in reality, this is one thing really need to be emphasized. The thing is: when you work at the office, you are always encouraged to be on time and ready for work. On the contrary, working from home early is harder than you may think. At home, there is no body to watch you. There is nothing to push you to work aside from yourself. Often you will find it hard even just to get off your comfy bed.
For that reason, it is highly recommended to start doing first task on your to-do list as soon as you wake up. This can be difficult at first but eventually you will get used to this new habit. Eventually, it will help you stay focus for your remote work at the beginning of the day. Plus, you will no longer find yourself prolonging your breakfast and losing all the motivation even before doing anything.
Tips for Working From Home 3: Maintain "work office mindset"
As mentioned, working from home can be more difficult than working at the office. Frankly speaking, staying at home feels rather casual. Thus it gives you a casual mindset, which makes things rather difficult to remote work. To avoid this kind of mindset, one thing you should do is to do things as if you are at your office. This includes wearing formal clothes (similar to how you wear at the office), brewing coffee, setting alarm and to-do list, etc… Browsers nowadays (e.g. Chrome Browser) also allows you to login multiple accounts. So you can setup your personal account and your work account with different toolbars and bookmarks.
Tips for Working From Home 4: Use Project Management App
In some cases, it is still difficult to keep track of your tasks even if you have the usual to-do list. Luckily, nowadays there are many project management apps that can help you manage your tasks. Lots of them also provide free service / plan, meaning you can use their basic service of managing your own tasks at zero cost. This type of app is now even more important because it allows you coordinate your work with other colleagues. If you have a team, probably they also remote work too. And these project management apps can help your team plan tasks much more effective.
One good example is Trello. It offers free project management service, including ability to list tasks, arranging which tasks are on progress and which are finished. And you can invite other people to join in and manage tasks with you.
Tips for Working From Home 5: It is easier to take a short break
Let’s be honest, not everyone has a pleasant working enviroment where you can freely do your job at your own pace. In such cases, taking a break sometimes is not exactly that easy. There may be limitations of where you can go, what you can do. But if you are working from home, things are much different.
When teleworking, you are relatively not bound by any rule. If you are too tired, it is totally fine to stand up, take a deep breath, and do something else. If you find it too hard to concentrate, it is probably a good idea to go to take a short walk.
The only problem is how can you keep you concentration, especially there are arguably more distractions at home than at the office. But we will discuss about this at later tips for working from home.
Tips for Working From Home 6: How to take care of your kids
Some of us may not have children yet, but many already do. And as mentioned, several states have already applied stay-at-home orders, meaning many schools are also doing the same. Since our children will not come to school, how can we take care our children and maintain working from home at the same time?
It is indeed hard, but still, here are several suggestions that you can try:
- Try to set new rule at home. Tell you kids that you will be working from home during a specific period of time. During this remote work time, your kids should know that they should not distract you, unless there is emergency.
- Consider getting some books and puzzles for kids. These will keep them occupied while still provide them helpful things to learn. It is also suggested to use streaming services, like Common Sense Media (they have great library of child-friendly content).
- Connect with other families (like parents of your child’s friends) and let children communicate each other via video chat or creative platforms like Roblox. That said, it is highly recommended not to let them meet in person since it only makes the school’s closure less effective.
Tips for Working From Home 7: Find what may distract you and plan schedule around it
If this is the first time you are working from home, eventually you will find yourself easily distracted by lots of things. These distractions can be varied, including noisy children, chores like doing laundry, cooking for lunch, etc… So how can you prevent these distractions as best as possible?
One popular suggestion is to think of everything that can cause you distracted, then plan ahead your remote work alongside with it. If you find a source of distraction, find out how to deal with it right away and fit into your daily schedule. For example:
- Are there children at your home? If yes, consider using headphone (get one if you haven’t) to prevent hearing loud noises.
- Do you need to cook breakfast? Consider preparing breakfast at the previous night so that you do not have to do so in the next morning.
- Do you need to do laundry? Try to see if you can do it at the same time you are having a break from remote work.
Again, if you still need to do chores, it would be a great idea to set goals between different tasks. For example, you can set a goal of finishing an article before doing the laundry. Or you can try finishing discussion with your team before having a snack break. The best part is: this will be your schedule alone. You can try mix and match between teleworking and daily jobs, then see how they fit you the most.
Tips for Working From Home 8: Balance work and personal life with zero-based scheduling
This is a continuation of the previous tip. Although it is indeed recommended to plan schedule ahead, the schedule can still be flexible depending on daily situations. And even then, balancing between remote working and personal life can still be difficult, especially when you have not found a good way to plan schedule. If you are having the same problem, then zero-based scheduling may be a good strategy.
Normally when we make schedule, we tend to arrange tasks based on hours (e.g. at 12:00 I will have lunch, at 3:00 I will continue teleworking, etc…). But zero-based scheduling do something different: you plan each every single one of your task based on minute. And by saying “every single one of your task”, this includes your hobbies, reading books, doing laundry, lunch, everything. For each of these task, you can estimate how many minutes it will take to finish. In other words, you will be spending time for each task in “minute budget”.
With this method, you can list everything you want to do in a day, including both remote work tasks and your personal tasks like chores or hobbies. You will be able to balance your life much easier with all things that you want to do. You will find yourself more productive when you are working from home. Plus, you will feel more fulfilled when you can achieve more things than before.
Tips for Working From Home 9: Teleworking is a good way to maintain communication
It is so easy to communicate with your colleagues at the office. But at home, there is only you with the computer screen. That said though, it does not mean you can only maintain communication by chatting with keyboard. In many cases, it is difficult to present our ideas and messages with typing words alone. Thanksfully there are so many tools allowing you to speak “directly” to other people online. If you need to teleworking with your team, simply use tools like Zoom or Skype. Not only you can discuss important tasks with your team, but you can also keep yourself motivated. Many of these teleworking tools are also free to use, so it is highly recommended to prepare one in your computer especially when you plan for teleworking soon.
Tips for Working From Home 10: Stay away from Social Media
In certain cases, some people may also use social media for remote work. However, unless you absolutely need them for teleworking, try to stay away from social media when working from home. One person can easily waste even hours on social media, even if they try to convince themselves that they are “working”. Like we have already mentioned several times, you would want to prevent as many distraction as possible. Social media is unfortunately one of them.
One way you can avoid using social media while working from home is to open browser in incognito mode instead of logging in your personal account. When using browser in incognito mode, it does not sign in to any of your accounts. As a result, your web search no longer give you auto-complete the words or terms you often search. This will help you reduce potential distraction from social media while teleworking.
Tips for Working From Home 11: Automate approval workflow online
Processing approval requests has always been an essential part in every company. Traditionally, we do these approval processes with printed papers. Yet in this modern era, doing paperwork has become a burden. Especially during this COVID-19 situation, using paper is no longer a viable option since people are gradually shifiting to remote work for safety. Still, we need an alternative option to process approval requests via the internet. In this case, using tools like PerformFlow will help you automate approval workflow online. With this Google Forms add-on, you can:
- Automate approval request by auto-sending notification to your specified recipients when a person submits a request via Google Forms. Thus, your recipients can give approval immediately with just a single button click on that email.
- When an employee submits a request via Google Forms, a Google Document (or Sheet) and a PDF file will be auto-generated in your Google Drive. Also, there is optional feature allowing you to auto-send generated files to specified recipients via email.