2020 was a big year of change, to put it lightly. People have had to adjust to new rules and regulations that change the way we live around the globe. For a lot of us, this has meant shifting to a new way of working. During lockdown here in New Zealand, 4 out of 10 kiwis started working from home, many for the first time ever.
Things didn’t just go back to normal after that either. A lot of businesses have started adjusting roles to allow for more flexibility, and with the gig economy making freelance work easier than ever, Economists have predicted that working from home will continue to be a key part of the New Zealand economy. So if you now find yourself working from home regularly, you might also find yourself wondering how to make it work.
To help you stay productive and get the most out of this new situation, we have put together the best working from home tips, taken from seasoned remote workers and productivity experts alike.
1. Maintain your morning routine
While it’s tempting to sleep in right up until your first meeting of the day, waking up and reaching for your smartphone or computer is not doing you any good. It is important to give yourself time to adjust to the new day and set a clear barrier between rest mode and work mode. Think of it like your commute time, except instead of sitting in traffic for an hour, you can use this time to set yourself up for the day.
What goes into your routine is completely up to you, as long as you do it regularly. Go for a run, write in a journal, shower, eat a good breakfast, or drink a strong cup of coffee. Anything that helps energize your body and switches your mind on will do you good. Even waking up at the same time each day has been proven to improve your mental and physical functions throughout the day.
2. Dress for success
Just like your morning routine, getting dressed for work will help put you in the right mindset for productivity. Don’t worry; we are not talking about getting into a full suit and tie, but definitely something more professional than your pyjamas. This will help to send signals to your brain that it’s time to get to work, and also means you are prepared and looking good if any video meetings pop up during the day. Equally, getting changed out of your work clothes at the end of the day will help you switch off, so you can rest and enjoy your evening without stress.
3. Define your working hours
One of the biggest benefits in working from home is having the flexibility to set your own hours. You can work when suits you, and fit in other appointments or responsibilities during the day. Sounds great, right? It is, but if you are not careful, this freedom of working when you want can quickly put your work-life balance off-kilter. A lot of people find they end up working longer hours, and the stress from work bleeds into other aspects of their life. That is why it is so important to set clear working hours.
Decide when you want to start and when you will finish, and do your best to stick to it. Using automatic time-tracking apps can help a lot, especially if you are working from a computer. These apps will let you know if you are sticking to schedule, and some will even give you updates about what times of day you are most productive, and when you tend to slack off. You can use this information to plan out your breaks and decide when you should be focusing on the most important tasks of the day.
4. Plan out your day
Once you have your hours defined, the next step is to plan out how you are going to use your time. If you are a morning person, try scheduling the most important tasks of the day first. That way you’ll get them done when you are feeling most productive, and if anything urgent crops up later in the day, you won’t have to worry.
If you are not in a role that has a lot of team meetings, try scheduling meetings with yourself. It may sound a bit silly, but blocking out your own time will help you know exactly what you should be working on, and for how long, so you can stay organised and ahead of deadlines. If you are not sure how long you should be spending on each task or find you get easily distracted, try the Pomodoro Technique.
The basic idea behind this is to break up your work into easy to manage 25 min chunks, which is about how long they reckon you can stay productive for. You work hard for those 25 mins, then take a 5-minute break before getting back to work. This helps you sustain concentration for longer, and stave off mental fatigue.
5. Take regular breaks
While planning out your day, don’t forget to include regular breaks. This will help to refresh your mind so that you can stay productive for longer. If you are using the Pomodoro Technique mentioned above, use your 5-minute breaks to have a quick stretch, drink a glass of water, and look away from the screen for a few minutes so your eyes can rest. Don’t forget to include at least one longer break for lunch, going for a walk, or checking in with friends or family.
6. Create a designated working space
One of the biggest challenges in working from home is finding the space to do so. But no matter how small your home, it is important to carve out an area just for working, separate from the areas of your home that are used for relaxation.
If you are lucky enough to have a home office, set it up with all the tools you need, like screens, computer stands, and a comfy chair. Adding plants can also help bring a touch of Zen and productivity to your workspace. If you don’t have a whole room to use, try setting out a designated area of your kitchen or bedroom that you will always use for work. That way, when you step into that zone, your brain will be triggered, and you’ll know it’s time to get into productivity mode.
7. Use check-lists
Never underestimate the power of a check-list! They have been proven time and time again to improve productivity, reduce stress, and help keep you on track. Plus there is the satisfaction of getting to cross things off your list.
A lot of remote workers find that it is helpful to write out your checklists at the end of the day. That way, you know exactly what you have achieved and can plan out your priorities for the next day. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety, as you can enjoy the evening knowing that no important task will be forgotten, and will wake up the next day knowing exactly what needs to be done.