In light of the coronavirus outbreak, more and more of us around the world are working from home, and for many, this is a new challenge. Whether you’re an experienced remote worker or a complete newcomer, the issues we face are similar. Staying productive, navigating the countless distractions, and combating that isolating feeling.
Here’s a list of tips we put together to help techspertians make the most of their working from home environment and we thought we’d share them with you too!
Dress the part
Get your day started on the right foot and dress for the office, just as you normally would. Whilst spending the day in your pajamas or loungewear might sound like a dream, it can quickly lead to an unproductive day. By dressing up in work attire you will create a distinction between work time and home time, and you’ll be ready for any impromptu video calls that may pop up. So take your power shower, put on a shirt, t-shirt, or blouse, and get ready for the day.
Accept that there will be distractions
One of the biggest challenges when working from home is being able to resist all the temptations we have. After all, we've built our houses for comfort, leisure, and enjoyment. The kitchen is packed with all our favorite foods and the TV is next to our comfy couch, not forgetting housemates, pets, or family members!
Especially at the beginning, be ready to be distracted more often than in the office and take this into account when planning your day. Also, expect that you won't necessarily be able to achieve everything you've planned. It’s important to set the right expectations with those who depend on you but these are also unusual circumstances with many people having to take on the role of caregiver, teacher, employee, and more simultaneously. So, the key takeaway here is to just do your best.
Who could resist this face?
Make social media harder to access
Social media is designed to be distracting and addictive, with a barrage of beeps, buzzes, and notifications that is ever-growing. Today a fast-growing number of us utilize connectivity apps to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues. However, it’s important to create a workspace that is as free of these distractions as possible, so put your phone on silent (or on the other side of the room), disable any desktop notifications, and sign out of social media platforms. If you can, use separate computers for work and entertainment, or create two accounts on the same computer and don't open apps, social media platforms, or games on the account you use for work.
Create your new workspace
Set up a temptation-free space away from distractions, as the less you have around you the better you will stay focused. It sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. So, try avoiding the living room with the big tempting TV and the kitchen stocked full of delicious foods. We know this isn’t always possible, so if you have a smaller house or flat, set up a desk where you are looking away from distractions. Thanks to the operation techspertians, all of us at techspert have our office equipment set up at home - including standing desks!
Rising to the occasion! techspertians have the option of getting desk risers delivered to them to make their own standing desks!
Don't be too hard on yourself
It’s important to be clear with your family, partner, housemates, or dependants that you have a set working time. Sometimes it can be an uncomfortable conversation, but the sooner and the clearer you are, the better it will be. If you have children, inevitably this will be more difficult. Depending on the age of your kids, you could try setting some homework-style tasks such as book assignments or topic research, and if they’re all schooled out, try setting up an indoor treasure hunt to access their game system or iPad. Whilst we all like to achieve our goals at work, keeping up with our home responsibilities takes equal or greater importance, so allow yourself to relax on some timelines whilst you navigate this new working environment.
It's important to take some 'me time' when juggling your responsibilities
Set your hours and keep your home time
When you work from home, the separation between work and life is almost non-existent. You don't go home after you finish your day and you don't have that commute to facilitate the transition. As bad as it is getting distracted and not finishing the work you wanted to finish, it's even worse when you spend extra hours because of the lack of boundaries. You can end up burning out because your office is always there. Set your hours and make sure your team is aware so you stick to them. Try setting an alarm for when you start and another to end the day, your work will be there waiting for you tomorrow.
Tune in and turn up your power playlists
Plug in your speakers, radios, and headphones (not all at once) and discover the power of soft background music, which can help you focus on the task at hand, especially if there are background noises. Try listening to instrumental music, soundtracks, white noise, and ambient sounds such as the sea or coffee shop chatter. But just like your music taste, everyone is different so experiment and see what works best for you.
Stay connected with colleagues and friends
Most of the conversations you'll have when working from home are going to be written. Usual cues like body language or inflections of the voice will not be available to you which can make conversations a little harder, or even lead to misunderstandings. In order to avoid that from happening:
1. Always assume the best from others: Sometimes, a sentence can be interpreted in many ways and some of those are not so nice. Something might come across as passive-aggressive, or even openly aggressive, but consider that you may just be missing the context or the non-verbal cues you would get in person. When in doubt, ask for clarification.
2. Pick up the phone: If after a few back-and-forths on a messaging platform or email thread something is still not clear, jump on a voice or video call. Spending a few minutes speaking to the other person will save you time and confusion.
3. If it's sensitive, use video chat: Seeing people, or even hearing someone else's voice can make a sensitive conversation much easier and more personal. Things that need to be absolutely clear to everyone involved are better explained "face to face".
Another side effect of working from home is a lack of contact with people. This can be a big challenge for some, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. The most important thing to remember is that although your team isn't physically there, they're only an email, video call, or instant message away!
As techspertians we regularly host open video sessions for everyone in the company to join in, catch up and stay connected. These include virtual coffee breaks, lunch, and post-work drinks. So, start up a new messaging channel, send a text or put together an email and reach out to your team, chances are they have felt just like you do.
A screenshot from one of our virtual lunches on Slack. Why lunch alone when you can lunch with your colleagues?
Take regular breaks
We all want to remain as productive as possible, but sometimes our focus wanes. Plowing on may seem like the best thing to do, but this can be detrimental to your efficiency. Acknowledging when you’re distracted and taking a short break can help you recharge your batteries. Step outside, make a cup of tea, decide what to make for your dinner, or hop onto a virtual coffee break using video chat just like a techspecian, then get back to work feeling refreshed.
Get some fresh air
Depending on your governmental guidelines, try to spend some time outside. In the UK we're encouraged to exercise outside once a day. If you can, take a walk alongside your local river, cycle into the countryside, or go for a run in an area that is free of crowds. If you aren’t able to get out, try your hand at yoga in the garden if you have one. Feeling the sunshine on your back and a breeze on your face can help your worries melt away.
Mike, our VP of Sales, often takes his dog, Jasper, for walks to unplug and enjoy the outdoors.
Whilst it is important to strive for efficiency in our working lives, it is equally important to acknowledge our mental health and recognize that in these strange times, we may not be as fast or focused as we are in our usual workspace. By practicing our top tips we hope you will find your own level of balanced productivity.
Rob is Operations Manager at techspert.io and oversees all aspects of business operations including office management, HR, legal and compliance. Rob has previous experience in the technology sector and holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Loughborough.