The current Coronavirus outbreak has effectively forced millions of employers and employees to hastily embrace remote working. But while many had regarded this shift as an improvised and temporary measure, it is simply neither.
Remote work has been on the rise for years. According to the Federal Reserve, the share of the US labor force that works from home has tripled over the past 15 years, growing 10 times faster than other areas of the workforce. The outbreak merely rushed what many had predicted was going to be inevitable. (If you want to know more, I urge you to check Softchoice’s infographic “The Death Of The Desk Job”)
So is remote work here to stay? There is good reason to believe that it is. To begin with, businesses are pouring significant resources into the technologies that make remote work possible. So it’s quite safe to say that those companies will at least continue to try to make remote work work even after the COVID threat subsides.
Secondly, proof that remote work can be beneficial to both employer and employee are abound. To cite a couple: it has been estimated that telecommuters at American Express have generated over 40% more business than their office-bound counterparts; British Telecom teleworkers proved to be 30% more productive than their office counterpart.
To many of us I’m sure – particularly introverts and night owls – remote work always sounded like a dream come true. Yet, roommates and family members, a bedroom-cum-workspace, and the absence of direct oversight are proving to be quite a nuisance. So without further delay, here are four tips that will help you stay productive at home.
An Area Dedicated for Work
Step one: set up a work space. Working from the couch can be a great way to break the monotony every so often to get an extra stretch of work, but as you may have found out already, it is not a long term solution.
It is important to dedicate a space for work. Doing so will mean that everytime you sit down at your newly improvised work desk, you’d be giving your mind a cue that now is a time to work. Make sure that your impromptu office is in a quiet, sunny and well ventilated spot of the house.
A Routine Dedicated for Work
Physically getting to work has always been the best first step to getting into a work mood. Getting out of bed to almost immediately fall on an improvised work desk is not. This is why it is critical for you to establish a pre-work routine.
This isn’t rocket science. Get up early(-ish), take a shower, and brush your teeth for starters. You may want to ask your manager to set up daily alignment calls in the morning. The idea is to get some physical activity to get your head started and expose yourself to more of those ‘work triggers’. And if those don’t work, try getting dressed.
The Harvard Business Review puts it as such:
“Blake Ashforth, of Arizona State University, described the ways in which people demarcate the transition from work to non-work roles via “boundary-crossing activities.” Putting on your work clothes, commuting from home to work—these are physical and social indicators that something has changed. You’ve transitioned from “home you” to “work you.” (If you’re interested in checking out Ashforth’s paper on the subject, click here.)
Furthermore, make sure to incorporate a few physical routines into your schedule. Some simple stretching exercises will suffice. This will help you avoid falling into lethargy and it will also afford your eyes some time away from the screen.
Organize your Work & Track your Output
This goes without saying: make a list for every task and schedule everything. There is no greater feeling than checking completed tasks off a list.
And now that you’re up and running, the next important step would be to make sure that your space and routines are actually working. To do so, make sure to track the amount of work you are producing everyday. In the long run, it will help you spot behaviors, routines, or even spaces that allow you to work more comfortably and productively.
These are not normal times. So always remember this great quote, it has helped me a lot: “You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”
Don’t feel stressed or anxious or guilty if you are not as efficient as you wish to be. These are some of the most testing times that we will see for a long while (hopefully). Do not shy away from asking for a break from your manager if you need to, or for help from your friends.
And lastly, do not worry about proving to your managers that you are working all the hours every day. Just focus on getting the work done. You’re in control of your space and time now. Wasn’t that the best thing about working from home in the first place?