The global spread of COVID-19 is keeping us at home. Much of the world is on lockdown, and even in places that are not, people are advised to stay home. So do we. If you are new to the work-from-home lifestyle, you will need to change some of your habits and routines to make working from home a success. Here are 15 tips for leading a better and more productive remote-working life, based on my own experiences.
1. Maintain regular hours. Set a schedule and stick to it. Having some guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps maintain a work-life balance. Plus, if your role is collaborative, being on the same schedule as your coworkers makes everything much easier.
2. Create a morning routine. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine indicates you are about to start working? It might be making a cup of coffee or returning home after a morning workout. A routine can be more powerful than a clock helping you get started every day.
3. Change into regular clothes to get in work mode. This might seem like a simple tip, but it is a crucial one. First, it was tempting to stay in my PJ's all day, but any day I gave into temptation was much slower to start and less productive overall. You do not need to dress as formally as you might do at work, but simple act of changing clothes serves as a signal that it is time to wake up and get things done.
4. Make a to-do list of actionable items for the day. There is nothing quite like checking off completed tasks.
5. Keep three lists of three. As a follow-up to the above tip: create three lists of three. The first list has three things you will do today. The second is three things you'd like to get done, but are not essential. The third is three things that need to be done at some point. This way, when you have trogged through your days work, you do not end up sitting twiddling your thumbs.
6. Take frequent small breaks. If you are working from home, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. Breaks help you re-focus and re-energize, and movement gets your blood flowing. There is no wrong way to move around and you can do it even if your space is small.
7. Leave home. To the extend that it is allowed and safe where you are during the COVID-19 outbreak, get out of the house, provided you can maintain social distancing of course. Leave your place at least once a day. Fresh air and natural light will do good.
8. Create a home office. Try to make your workspace comfortable with a chair you can sit on for eight hours and think about some decorations. Find an area with good natural lightning if at all possible.
9. Socialize with colleagues and clients. It is important to figure out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. If you are not at a company or environment with a strong remote culture, you may need to be more proactive about key relationships.
10. "Show up" to meetings. Take part in video conferences or other calls, but also set up additional meetings too. Be sure to speak up during the meeting so everyone knows you are on the call.
11. Be positive. The less face time you have with people, the less they know how to interpret your tone in writing. Be positive in order to point where it may feel like you are being overly positive. Otherwise, you risk sounding like a jerk. Find your favorite emoji, you are going to need it ;-).
12. Take advantage of your perks. Working from home comes with unique perks. Take advantage of them. Every week, I cook a new recipe that clearly takes more time. Why? Because I work from home and I can. Plus, I enjoy it.
13. Listen to music. Depending on your way of working, it may help to turn on some background music. Spotify is a great streaming service that let you pick moods for focus and work productivity. Make sure you do not put your songs too loud or distracting: ensure you can quickly mute it to take business call.
14. Manage expectations. It is wise to have a chat with your boss, colleagues or clients about what can actually be accomplished from home. Talk about priorities and discuss how tasks will get done.
15. Communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you. Of course, you might be working from home but still have "company". Make sure roommates, siblings, parents and dogs (well, maybe not dogs) respect your space during work hours. Just because you are working from home does not mean you are home.
Hopefully you will benefit from the above tips. Then I have one more thing to share: stay positive, stay home and above all, stay safe. Cheers!