Learn how to work from home with ten top tips to help you increase your efficiency, effectiveness and productivity when working from home or working remotely as part of a distributed team.
It can be a challenge to adjust to working from home. Establishing the new habits and routines associated with home working or remote working and understanding how to work from home can take time. In this video, I provide some top tips to help you adapt to a new way of home working, so you can become more efficient, effective and productive when working from home.
If you’ve recently started working remotely for the first time, then you’re probably already enjoying the freedom of not having to endure a daily commute, whilst also celebrating the opportunity to have a home made lunch and drink a decent cup coffee.
And the advantages of remote working don’t stop there. A 2014 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that home working led to a 13% increase in performance, primarily due to additional hours worked, fewer breaks and less sick days. The same study also found that home workers reported improved work satisfaction and attrition rate halved.
Unfortunately, there are also some downsides to home-working. Common issues include feelings of isolation and loneliness, lack of team cohesion and reduced creativity levels, due to a lack of proximity when conducting team problem solving tasks.
Fortunately, I’ve got ten top tips that will help you overcome some of these challenges. And so without further ado, let’s get started with tip number one…
01. Establish Your New Routine
Traditionally, most people tend to structure their lives around their working day, with their morning and evening routines largely being determined by the times at which they need to arrive at work and leave the office.
It can be tempting to think that one of the main benefits of working from home is that you no longer need to stick to a rigid routine, dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, showering and rushing out the door.
However, a key component of successfully working from home is establishing a new routine, which enables you to maintain your productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.
So, whilst it might be tempting to get up late and sit on the sofa while you work in your sweat pants, it’s now more important than ever that you create structure and routine in your life.
Start by making sure you get up and go to bed at broadly the same time each day and that you maintain a healthy and structured diet. Also, get into the habit of getting up, showering, dressing and, whenever possible, starting work and finishing work at roughly the same time.
02. Set Boundaries
Without the structured environment and schedule of the workplace, it can be easy to fall into bad habits when working from home and these don’t necessarily involve being less diligent or productive. Sometimes the opposite is true. Homeworkers can actually find themselves working longer hours and taking fewer breaks. So, it’s important to set some boundaries when it comes to your hours. Also, decide when you’re going to take breaks and make sure that you do.
Something else to consider is discussing and agreeing some ground rules with other people in your home. Whether it’s your partner and/or kids, it’s important that they understand and respect that you need space when you’re working, so set some boundaries and parameters when it comes to noise, interruptions and even internet use. You don’t want to lose your connection during a client call because someone else is watching a movie on Netflix.
03. Define Your Workspace
When working from home, as well as delineating personal and professional time, where possible it’s also important to separate your domestic and work environment. Although it might be tempting to sit on the sofa or bed while you work, it won’t help you define the boundaries that we discussed in the previous tip.
So, if possible create a designated workspace where you can work at a desk or table without distractions and make sure you have the right equipment to perform your job effectively. If you don’t have a room that you can use as a home office, see if you can create a separate space in a living area or bedroom where you can set-up a small desk or table. You could also even consider fitting out the garden shed or working in the attic - although it’s important to have access to some natural light if possible!
04. Remove Distractions
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is the sheer number of distractions that are readily available to you. So, begin you day by clearly identifying what you want to get done and be realistic when determining how long it will take to complete all of those tasks.
Then create a schedule of working blocks and breaks and stick to it. If know you’re going to be distracted by the news, social media, personal emails or trips to the fridge, then build those activities into your breaks.
If you’re struggling with procrastination or a lack of motivation and focus, then consider asking your partner to hold you accountable for the work that you’re committing to complete each day, or use a personal accountability platform like Focusmate to give you a helping hand.
05. Stay Connected
One of the main challenges of working from home is staying connected and preventing feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s estimated that remote workers only exchange a weekly average of 7.8 informal communications per week with their colleagues, while office employees average 38 per week.
Fortunately, there’s a huge range of communication tools and platforms available to help you overcome these issues. Although we now spend the majority of our time communicating via text, using email or instant messaging tools like Slack, when you’re working alone at home, it’s also important to maintain face to face communication. So make sure you’re using Skype, Zoom, or Webex to maintain facetime with your team. Pick up the phone now and again, rather using Slack or email and also make sure you speak up, contribute and are heard during virtual meetings.
It also doesn’t have to be all business, so consider joining or setting up virtual coffee breaks to chat with colleagues over Skype, Zoom or Skype.
06. Keep Yourself Safe & Secure
So just be clear, I’m talking about your online safety and security here. When you start working from home, you may find that you’re using different equipment than you have available to you in the office.
So make sure that you’re comfortable and confident about your organisation’s online security protocols and procedures, such as using a VPN and using secure email and file sharing. Request support if you need it and don’t take unnecessary risks, such as connecting to an open wifi network without a VPN.
07. Stay Active
Working from home can result in a fairly sedentary life, so make sure you take the time to do some daily exercise, even if it’s just getting outside and going for a brisk 30 minute walk. It will help your focus, motivation and productivity, and also give you a much needed change of scene, as well as an opportunity to connect with the outside world.
08. Identify Growth & Development Opportunities
Everyone likes to feel that they’re moving forward, making progress and developing. So, once you get on top of establishing your new daily routine, take some time to identify opportunities for personal and professional growth.
For example, it might be that you want to learn a new language, develop a new technical skill or start a professional qualification.
As well as enabling you to make the most of the extra time that you have available to you as a result of not commuting, these sorts of activities also create the opportunity to create new social interactions, which will help you stay connected.
09. Personalise Your Plan
Your level of comfort with the concept and practicalities of home-working will be largely determined by your personality type, your physical environment and personal circumstances.
For example, if you’re a highly conscientious introvert, then it’s likely that you’ll be more comfortable with home working, whereas an extreme extrovert is more likely to find the situation more challenging, due to the lack of personal interaction and face-to-face communication.
So, if you know that you’re the sort of person who needs regular contact with people in order to feel happy, satisfied and fulfilled in your work, then make sure that you take that into account when creating your personal plan for working from home and prioritise staying connected.
10. Be Kind To Yourself
Making the shift to home working can be extremely challenging, especially if you’ve only ever known the structure, support and interaction found in an office environment.
Establishing new habits, behaviours and routines takes time, so don’t be over critical of yourself if you find it difficult to maintain motivation, focus and avoid distractions at first.
You can feel confident that if you put some systems and structures in place and take it one step at a time, you’ll soon start getting into the habits and routines that will enable you to be highly efficient, effective and productive whilst also maintaining a good work-life balance.
If you have experience working from home and have some words of wisdom to contribute, then please share them in the comments section below. And, if you know anyone who might benefit from watching the video or article, then please do like and share it.