Almost everyone could do with some working from home tips at this point. After months of working remotely, what was once viewed as a luxury for some of us may now be viewed as a tedious routine.
According to recent findings from Microsoft’s work-from-home-study, which asked more than 350 employees to share their experiences while working from home, many employees are now working longer hours, although team meetings have become shorter.
Whatever your set up at home, there are pros and cons to working at home. As time wears on, staying alert, focused and efficient may be more of a challenge as your professional and personal life become fluid.
Here are 10 working from home tips to boost efficiency:
- Get dressed
- Make up a new morning commute
- Write down a (realistic) to-do list and stick to it
- Keep your daily coffee and water-cooler chats
- Have one dedicated workspace
- Move around in short small bursts
- Prep what you can
- Set boundaries
- Don’t work more or less
- Reward consistency
It might seem obvious, it might seem silly, but get dressed! At this point, the majority of us have probably worked a few hours in our pyjamas or gym tights. You may or may not have noticed that during that time, you felt a little groggier than you would have had you been dressed for work. It might seem trivial but dressing semi-professionally while working from home sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to work. Wear the clothes you usually wear to work to help get in the right mindset for the day ahead.
Make up a new morning commute
Whether you liked or loathed your usual morning commute, it’s one of the essential ingredients that help set you up for the day. But don’t fear, this is something that you can still replicate even while working from home.
Don’t roll out of bed and run straight to your computer screen — not feeling fully ready for the day ahead will just lead to more procrastination as the day wears on. So grab that morning cup of coffee. Turn on a podcast or your favourite radio show and go for a walk; even if it’s just one loop around the block, it’s still better than nothing.
Write down a (realistic) to-do list and stick to it
Most of us have good intentions at the start of the day, but without the hustle and bustle of the office, you may find your mind wanders more and it’s harder to stay focused on the task at hand.
According to Microsoft’s study, teams now need to meet more frequently to collaborate when working remotely. The study found there has been a 22% increase in meetings of 30 minutes or less among the Microsoft team, and 11% fewer meetings of more than one hour. If you have fewer meetings and more time to map at your own daily tasks, motivate yourself with a realistic to-do list. Physically crossing off tasks as you finish them will give you the boost you need in the absence of your co-workers or usual working routine.
Keep your daily coffee and water-cooler chats
Working from home can feel isolating and staying focused while working on projects alone for large chunks of the day can bring its own challenges. The Microsoft study found that in the absence of leaving the office for lunch, there has been a 10% drop in instant messages sent during lunch hours among employees.
Sometimes you need to take a break to take another step forward. Set up short calls with co-workers to help keep your mind focused on the objectives at hand. If your email is more than three sentences, give a colleague a call instead. It’s more time-efficient and the human interaction may help to keep the pep in your step.
Have one dedicated workspace
Do you remember studying for exams in high school and university? Studying from the couch, bed or a busy kitchen didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now. Set up some sort of dedicated workspace to help build associations with the working day. Your workspace is where the magic, focus and motivation is sparked, everywhere else is for personal time and freedom. Having one dedicated space helps you to stay focused when you need to be focused, and switch off when you need to switch off.
Move around in short small bursts
You may be tempted to work through lunch or stay stuck to your office chair to get as much done as possible in a working day, but sometimes a change of scenery and some physical movement can help spark some creativity, if not help jiggle up the senses. Try to work in short bursts and move around in short bursts to keep yourself fresh. Whether you need to step outside for some fresh air or do some stretches in another room, staying active, even if it’s just a little bit, can help to maintain your mood and keep your ideas flowing.
Prep what you can
Prepare everything that you can ahead of a working week, whether it’s an exercise schedule, some meals for work lunches or even some chores around the house; streamlining the things that take up headspace can help you to better focus on your work tasks. Working at home can be distracting so having a plan in place to help keep the “boring jobs” to a minimum can play a part in successfully staying efficient while working at home.
Just because you are working from home does not mean you are on call and can hop online after hours. It’s important to set boundaries with colleagues.
It’s also important to set boundaries with the people you live with, whether it’s your family or friends. Let it be (subtly) known that you are not always available for a cup of tea or a chat. Socialising off-screens is also really important, but set up coffee or lunch breaks with the people you co-habit with when you feel that it’s the right time to take a break, otherwise your train of thought and work processes could easily become derailed.
Don’t work more or less
This is one of the most important working from home tips. The Microsoft study found the share of instant messages sent between 6pm and midnight has increased by 52% since all employees started working from home. Another study by Business Facilities found an average 40% increase in the working day in the US — that’s three additional hours. Meanwhile, close to half (45%) of US employees are experiencing burnout, according to a piece by Eagle Hill.
There will come times when there is a temptation to work late into the night, or perhaps a day when you feel you just can’t face work. It’s essential to try and stay consistent because working less efficiently could lead to needing to work more through the rest of the week, and working yourself too hard could lead to burnout. Try to keep a steady output of work going throughout the week to keep things balanced. Having a similar workload each day will help you to stay focused and on top of what needs to get ticked off.
Treat yourself! Reward yourself with something of your choosing for completing another successful week of working from home — especially if it’s not a set up that is your usual cup of tea.
A lack of variety can make it increasingly difficult to recognise the small wins, but where possible, know that you are doing your best throughout these trying times. Having something to look forward to at the end of each week, whether it’s a movie night, socially distanced walk or take away dinner can help keep spirits and motivation high.
Do you have any working from home tips up your sleeve? Comment below!