Amid Coronavirus outbreak many companies are now having their employees work from home wherever possible, to practice social distancing, in order to keep the employees and others safe in the current global situation. As a consequence, most of us are adapting to new office space, on our couches, living room or at our kitchen tables, trying to complete the work, without the built-in discipline of the office.

Many of us must have occasionally done work from home earlier as well because once a luxury, it is now a mainstay among large companies and small businesses. But in this global lockdown when you have to continuously work from home for a longer span of time, it becomes problematic and impacts productivity, if not managed well. 

When you are not used to working from home you can easily be lured by the procrastination and distractions around you. While COVID-19 is making the move to remote work urgent, new Gartner research shows that by 2030, the demand for work-from-home will increase by 30%. But a workplace poses new challenges. 

Some of the possible distractions could be –

Kids need to be taken care of, parents need your assistance, spouses need your attention, taking your pet out for a walk, taking care of laundry and other household duties. Then obviously there are digital distractions like television, internet, emails, smartphone, etc. And moreover it is human nature to easily get distracted when no one is watching.

So, here are a few tips on how to increase productivity while working from home and at the same time stay sane!

Keep your routine intact – 

If you literally want to make work from home an everyday commitment then make it a point to go in for a proper routine. Set specific business working hours as you do when you are at your office desk. When you work from home it can be tempting to stay in bed till last minute. Do not give yourself the liberty to sleep an extra hour. 

I would advise you to develop a morning routine to be disciplined. For example, set up an alarm for a realistic time that works for you and follow this on every workday. Have your breakfast, get ready and start your day the same way as you do when you go to the office. This will help you maintain a normal routine and be productive.

Create a to-do list – 

Now that you are all set with the morning routine it’s time to create a to-do list for the day. Since in case of work from home you don’t have a boss to supervise you, it can be challenging to keep track of your day-long activities. It’s quite easy to lose on deadlines and priorities.

Start by reviewing your priorities. Note them down somewhere and work on them one by one. I personally like this idea of creating a to-do list as it helps me have a clear sense of what needs to be done and get started on tasks immediately without wasting time in thinking, what next. Use a planner so that you do not miss important meetings amid taking care of a few household chores.

Planning out your day is a great stress reliever. 

Setup a proper Workstation – 

Working from home does give you liberty to work from your bed but believe me it is not a good idea. It is quite easy to sit with your laptop on a couch or bed but this way you might end up falling asleep or become inattentive thus hampering your productivity.

To have a dedicated workstation is really important while working from home. Not necessarily a big room but a separate small area with a table & chair will do. A place if possible away from noise distractions mentally prepares you for work mode. If you think that sitting on a couch fuels your productivity then maybe you can set up your workstation there. Keep all the necessary things at your desk like stationary, water bottle, headphones, etc. so that you do not have to always get up looking for these.

Remain connected with your team – 

The most challenging part of working from home is isolation that excludes you from the rest of the world and can leave you feeling a bit lonely hence deviating you from work. Sometimes it happens that you run out of ideas or are stuck somewhere, you look around but there is no one with whom you can discuss. Also, it’s natural to miss the chit chat that’s typical of a regular workplace. 

I am a kind of person who loves to work with full concentration without entertaining disturbance but at the same time discussions and team meetings motivate me. 

So, be in regular touch with your colleagues, coworkers, managers, etc. Make it a point to do daily or weekly meetings (audio/video) with your team to stay updated with the progress. The meeting should have an agenda involving all members so they contribute and everyone is on the same page. Avoid setting your status as “away” on instant messaging platforms and try responding to emails and messages with a sense of urgency. 

Take short breaks – 

The beauty of working from home is that you do not get physically exhausted due to the elimination of commute time. But mentally a human brain does get drained after several hours of continuous work and that too when you’re working alone. 

So taking short breaks in between always pumps you up. After every 60 -90 minutes of work, give yourself a 10 minutes break. Take your eyes off the screen, go out to take some fresh air or talk to your family or play with your pet. You can also do some stretching and exercise.

One important break that everyone should be taking is a proper lunch break. If you think that you can utilize your lunch break too by sitting and chewing your sandwich in front of your laptop, then you are wrong. This isn’t healthy.

Sometimes breaks are also important when you are stuck somewhere like the code which is not working, a business idea that isn’t flowing, etc. Get up, take a few minutes break and come back to your desk, you will find that you are much more productive when you are away from your desk for a while. 

Separate office work from household chores – 

Work from home will always allure you to do household chores parallely but this will break your workflow, focus and impact your productivity. Draw a clear line between the two. Set some time aside for household chores like laundry, dirty dishes, dusting, etc. It could be early morning or late evening time. 

Train your family members

When you are at home all day then your family and friends will expect attention from you. As per my experience family members do not understand the seriousness of working from home. They may take you for granted and assume that you can do whatever you want. 

So, train the people around you. How? 

Sit with them and explain to them that although you are at home, you are busy with work as you usually are when you go to the office, and are unavailable for playing, chores, chit chat, taking couriers, entertaining uninvited guests, and other interruptions during this time. Ask them to occupy themselves in their own work. If possible hang a “Do not disturb” sign outside your room when you are in work mode.

Refrain from getting distracted – 

It is very easy to get distracted while working from home.  These distractions could be noise, TV, smartphone, video games, music, sleep, etc. Keep all the distractions away from you if you want to remain productive. 

Do not work with TV on and also stay away from social media. You might think of having a quick look at your Instagram account or watch news but it can turn into a major time waste. If you are too tempted to take a look at these then it’s better to restrict the amount of time you spend on them. Shut down all the possible notifications that may disturb you.

Similarly when you are at home all day that comfy bed of yours will attract you to take a power nap but refrain from doing that by not sitting in your bedroom. 

Know when to clock out – 

Just because you are working from home does not mean that you should be logged in 24/7. Set your schedule as per your office timings. You should stick to a predetermined set of work hours. Setting a boundary between your workday and off time can be an important factor in remaining productive.

Inform your team that you are logging off for the day and any further discussions will be taken care of tomorrow (provided it is not too urgent), this will help maintain a balance between work and personal life. 

Do not spend your off days sitting at your laptop just because you have the ease to do so. This will make you feel that you are working all time and negative thoughts might pop up in your mind. So stay away from your workstation after clocking out.

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