A large portion of the workforce has found themselves unexpectedly working from home this year. What we once thought would be a few weeks of remote work has spiraled into months out of the office and as we start to make plans for navigating our new normal we’re faced with the issues of being productive in a different way. While many employees are flocking to the new remote work trends, with nearly 86% of them reporting they’d like to see some degree of working from home options available even after the pandemic is over, not everyone likes this way of working. Remote work comes with challenges of its own and one of those is how to stay productive when you’re likely alone in a room for days on end. If you’re finding yourself falling into a rut that’s driving down your productivity, then consider some of these strategies to shake up your routine.
Staying productive from home
What can we do to keep ourselves, or our teams, on track from a distance? Try some of these ideas to break up your regular work day.
Find different ways to communicate: Getting communication right is one of the struggles of working from home. While we’re all dependent on video-conferencing technology and good old email these days, employees can also make use of less formal methods of communication. If your company uses Slack, think about setting up some channels that are more geared towards socializing rather than business. A chat dedicated to TV recommendations or one that shares pet pictures, for example, can be an easy way to take little breaks throughout the day and connect with someone else on your team.
Change where you work: When you wake up in the morning, where do you head to work? Some employees might have offices while others could be using kitchen tables or couches. One way to change your routine is to try working in different places. Changing our physical location can help spur new ideas and generate more creativity that you might have had otherwise. Take advantage of the summer weather and try setting up outside. You could even grab your laptop and head to the park for some social distance work under a tree. One of the nice things about remote work is our ability to be more flexible so enjoy a change of scenery when you find yourself falling into a rut.
Try the 50/10 rule: Burnout is becoming an increasing problem as working from home continues since many people are finding they’re now working longer hours. Without colleagues to provide some social distraction as they would in the office, employees are also finding themselves increasingly isolated and overwhelmed. But one way to combat this trend is by following the 50/10 rule. This rule recommends working for 50 minutes and then taking a break for 10 each hour. No one can stay focused all the time and taking breaks can help employees recharge. It also forces you to be intentional about your work and break time, setting up a more balanced schedule.
Plan your to-do list differently: Most of us probably have a to-do list written down somewhere that never seems to get any smaller. Keeping track of your tasks is important but it’s also easy to let lists get you down. If you struggle to get through your daily to-do list, it can make you feel like you’re not achieving or being as productive as you should be. That can be a slippery slope to feeling overwhelmed which can impact employee well-being. Instead of feeling chained to your list, take a different view of it. Plan for your week not your day and sort out what needs to be completed by Friday. Then if you miss a few daily goals here or there, you can make them up with a schedule that works for you. By then end of the week, everything will be accomplished with less daily stress.
Coffee breaks with colleagues: As we’ve mentioned, isolation is becoming an employee wellness problem. We might think we’re fine working on our own but interacting with groups can lead to more creative brainstorming and better problem solving. One way to bring back some of the social aspect of the office is with the tried and true coffee break. Try setting up one or two coffee breaks a week with colleagues you may not be working directly with. While it’s great to touch base with your team, you could also think beyond them and make connections with other departments or co-workers. This helps provide some connection and support for employees and is a fun way to combat long work days. Plus it provides a good opportunity to check in on others since we’re all dealing with the pandemic in different ways.
Decorate your space: What does your regular workspace look like? If you’re working in the basement surrounded by stacks of dusty boxes, you’re likely going to have a more negative outlook than if you were working in a bright, airy room. Our physical space can have a direct impact on our mood, creativity, and productivity so think about where you’re working and take some time to spruce up the space. If you’re stuck in a basement, think about bring in some potted plants. If you’re working in a bedroom, maybe rearrange the furniture so that you can look outside while you work. Take some time to paint a wall or buy a new desk. No one knows how long we’ll be working from home so invest in your space and really make it yours.
Compartmentalize: It can be hard to leave work behind when there’s no separation between work-life and home-life. Learning to compartmentalize can help you detach at the end of the day and switch off your business-mode. One way to strengthen the division between work and home is to use cues. Starting the morning at the same time with a cup of freshly brewed tea, for example, can be a signal that it’s time to think about work. Taking a walk around the block at lunch can help you wind down for a break. But the most important compartmentalization cue will be how you end your day. Try to use the same mental trigger every day to tell your mind it’s time to relax and enjoy your evening. Listening to a certain song, switching off lights in a set order, even putting pencils away in a particular place can all serve as a signal that your day is done.
Learn more about yourself: We all learn and work differently and sometimes what works for one colleague may not work for another. In a group setting, cohesive teams can fill in each other’s gaps to become stronger together than apart. But as the amount of time we’re all spending alone stretches, it can also be beneficial to think about your own self-growth. Learning more about yourself using a self-development or personality assessment can help you better understand how you communicate and interact with others. It might highlight development areas you could work on strengthening or skills and abilities you’re doing well. When you have data to rely on, you can take steps toward making real changes.
Getting things done
Working from home doesn’t mean productivity needs to slump. In fact, you might even see productivity levels improve as a result of your team moving online. But staying on track remotely is a challenge all employees are facing and as the months of working at a distance drag on, people need to find new ways to shake up their routines. Making working from home work for you is about trying different strategies and approaches to find the ones that fit. Maybe you work better with a more structured approach to time management or maybe you need to reach out to colleagues more frequently. The bottom line is there’s no right or wrong way to work remotely so long as you’re able to achieve your goals. Working through a pandemic isn’t something anyone was prepared for so give yourself a break and be kind. We’ve faced big changes this year but all that uncertainty doesn’t have to grind work to a halt. Instead, find what works for you to master the art of working from home.