Most businesses have asked their employees to start working from home during the past week. As someone who works remotely on a full-time basis and oversees our own temporary employees at The Jacobson Group (many of them remote workers), I wanted to share a few best practices for effectively working at home. Whether you already telecommute on a regular basis, or if current circumstances have led you to self-isolate within a home office, here are a few tips for staying productive:
Create a dedicated workspace.
Designate a room or quiet corner as your home office. This space should be out of heavily trafficked areas and free of distractions and noise. Use a desk or table that’s large enough for your computer (and multiple screens, if needed), phone, printer and other essentials. Stock your office with supplies such as extra paper, pens and notebooks to ensure they are at the ready. Reserve this space exclusively for work, enabling you to “step into your office.” At the same time, this set up will allow you to mentally and physically “leave the office” at the end of the day, providing time for you to reset and refresh.
Review your company’s work-at-home policies.
Many companies have specific policies around working from home. Typically, this includes internet connection speed and technology requirements. You may also require video conferencing and group chat tools to connect with colleagues and clients. While your work-at-home set up may be temporary, ensure you are able to function at full capacity. Discuss any technology needs or concerns with your manager early on. Additionally, you should align with your manager on expectations, hours and communication preferences. If you are new to working from home, this may include additional touchpoints or calls to ensure projects and deliverables are moving forward as planned.
Prepare for your day.
To be most productive, create and stick to a schedule. Working from home is not an excuse to lounge around in your pajamas. Dressing for success (even if it’s toned down from standard business wear) has an impact on your frame of mind. Start the day by eating a nourishing breakfast, getting dressed, completing any daily morning chores and settling into your workday. This shouldn’t be too different from your standard morning routine (minus the commute). Review your to-do list and calendar first thing in the morning to prepare for the tasks at hand and plan out your day. You may even consider setting time blocks on your calendar for focused project work.
If you do not live alone, it’s likely other individuals will be home with you in the coming weeks. Set clear expectations and boundaries around your work hours. If necessary, consider using noise cancelling headphones or a white noise machine to limit distractions. Log out of social media accounts and keep your personal phone at a distance to discourage habitually checking for notifications.
Connect with your colleagues.
Especially if you are used to working in close physical proximity with your teammates, suddenly working alone may feel jarring. Many people are used to asking coworkers questions in person and receiving immediate answers. Adjusting your communication style and expectations is key. Don’t let a lack of face-to-face communication impact your ability to do your job. Identify the communication tools and methods that work best for your team. Coordinate your schedules and encourage continued collaboration through online chats and video conferencing. This can increase effectiveness and enhance team camaraderie, while also keeping you motivated and engaged in your work.
Make sure to take breaks to clear your head and enhance your overall productivity – even if it means scheduling time on your calendar. While it can be hard to step away from the office when working from home, it’s important to shut off. Take time outside of work to exercise, walk around the block and let your mind rest. If it’s after hours and an email can wait until the morning, let it.
Even in unique and precautious circumstances, remote work doesn’t have to be isolating or inconvenient. By creating a functional home office space, setting clear professional and personal boundaries, and proactively planning your day, you’ll be prepared to stay focused and productive.