18 ways to be more productive when you’re stuck working from home
- Starting today, all Arrowhead employees are working from home.
- View 15 tips to help you make the most of your day, while stuck working from home.
- View 3 more tips to help you maximize your at-home time with your family.
It’s Monday, and all of us Arrowhead employees are finding ourselves stuck working from home, thanks to the coronavirus COVID-19. We are all available via email and many of us also by phone. However, if you can’t reach us by phone, it’s best to email. Our overworked IS group is busy getting remote phones for all 800 of us set up.
No doubt many of you are also now stuck working from home. With that in mind, here are a number of thoughts and tips to maximize your on-the-job time, along with your on-your-own time, as you’re being smart about social isolation.
Set yourself up for success
- Work when you’re most productive.If you’re an early bird, then get up early, get the coffee brewing, and start your day. Because you’re most productive early in the morning, you can jump right in. One telecommuter said this was her experience; then, in a couple of hours when her attention begins to lag, she stops for a breakfast break.
Conversely, if you’re a night owl, you may do better starting your day with a workout or on a run, to wake yourself up. Ease into your workday a little later and then work later into the evening.
Either way, just be sure your boss and co-workers know your schedule, so they aren’t wondering why you’re not working the same hours as them!
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- Pretend you’re going into the office.Get up, make the bed, maintain your morning ritual. Getting dressed, said one remote worker, puts you in the mindset of work and makes your home office feel more like a real office, even though you’re stuck working from home. You’re ready for spur-of-the-minute Skype or Teams session, should it occur.
- Take a break. “Let’s be honest: You don’t work eight hours straight in the office. There are coffee breaks, lunch walks and chats with co-workers that give some respite from work. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to the same breathers,” said a recent CNN Business article. Those breaks give your mind a break, allowing your mind to rest and reassess for a few minutes. Experts say they make you more productive because you gain a better perspective.
- Schedule meetings back-to-back.That way, they can’t run over, encroaching on more of your time. Too many unnecessary meetings? As Sun Tzu said, “Pick your battles” – and your meetings. Learn to say, “That one doesn’t have my name on it.”
- Insist that meetings have agendas.A lot of time is wasted without agendas, so insist that one is prepared and sent out ahead of time, allowing participants to be prepared. This will help you cut down on future meetings.
- Take a break. Schedule email and phone “breaks”. Don’t allow email or calls to sidetrack you; instead, schedule in regular breaks, and only reply to messages at that time. This also gives your brain a rest from the in-depth, heavy-thinking project by doing lighter tasks, such as email responses.
- Get out of the zone. Find yourself zoning out? Then set aside that task for now, take a message break, or get a drink and go for a five-minute walk. Limit your break time – and get back to the task.
- Full stop at the end of the day. Full-time telecommuters may find it hard to stop work, continuing on into the evening. You may be stuck working from home , but don’t let your work time bleed into your personal time. Close the door, either figuratively or literally, at the end of the day.
Related: Top Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce
Set up your office
- Create a dedicated workspace. If you work from a messy bedroom or kitchen, you’ll be distracted: Jumping up to make the bed. Loading (or emptying) the dishwasher. Before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour.
Make sure your space has the proper equipment (computer, phone, printer, etc.), good lighting, plenty of desktop room, and a good, comfortable chair – not a kitchen chair. Your back will thank you – plus, you’ll be more apt to continue working if you’re comfortable. Ideally, your space will have a door so you can shut out noise and interruptions, particularly if you’re on the phone or Skype very much.
10. Stay connected with technology.There’s a wide array of free or inexpensive tools and apps that make staying in touch a breeze for telecommuting workers, whether it’s instant messaging or video chatting using Teams, Skype, FaceTime or Zoom for impromptu meetings.
For cloud storage, start with Google Drive and Dropbox to share files; that way, you have access to your files no matter where you are (no more emailing files to yourself and losing track of which is the latest draft). Other cloud storage options include Amazon Cloud Drive (free if you’re an Amazon Prime customer) or Apple iCloud. Need more options? Whichever storage system you use, be mindful of its security protocols, particularly if you’re storing anything with client data.
11. Check out more technological helps. View a Forbes article for more helps, such as a doorbell with connected video so that you can see and hear whoever’s at the door. The article lists thermometer and fitness apps and more.
12. Conduct meetings free. Join.me has a free application that you can use to host meetings and share your screen. CNN has more tips on successful videoconferencing from home.
Isolate but communicate
13. Check in regularly. Keeping in touch with your boss and coworkers is invaluable to making sure you’re up-to-speed on the latest happenings and changes that may affect what you’re working on. Whether you check in by email, online chat, video chat or phone, do it on a regular basis.
14. Communicate your expectations. Are roommates, your kids or other family members at home when you’re working? Set clear rules on when you can be interrupted. One telecommuter stuck working at home with kids suggested posting a paper stoplight on your door: red means do not disturb; yellow means come in but quietly and only for a minute to ask your question; and green means it’s ok to come in.
With kids out of school and at home, it’s important to “create some structure to the day and designate play and work time while organizing space into work and play areas,” recommended Julie Morgenstern, an organization and productivity consultant and author, in the CNN article. “You have to impose some order.”
15. Take care of yourself. You know the benefits to getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating healthy. So, like Nike says, “Just do it.” You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you are if you don’t experience sugar crashes, and if you get out for a walk at lunch or on quick breaks so that you give your brain a rest and your muscles a mini-workout. Those quick walks recharge you by increasing blood flow to the brain – and who doesn’t need that!?
Things to do while at home
16. Support your local businesses. Many mom-and-pop shops and services are hurting right now, due to lack of business. If you can purchase needed items online or on the phone and then pick up at the store, that will help them out. Just be sure to use your hand sanitizer in the car and wash your hands when you get home! Same thing goes for restaurants. Many have closed their dining rooms, but you can still order online and have meals delivered. Especially when you’re sick of your own cooking.
17. Get organized. Dwell offers a great list of things you can do while being stuck at home, from finally organizing and purging each room, to rearranging furniture in a room or two just for a different perspective. Updating your social media profiles. Tackling DIY projects and deep cleaning. And a lot more.
18. Travel around the world, from your couch. Travel and Leisure offers virtual tours of 12 famous museums, from The Guggenheim in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the British Museum in London, to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, and a whole lot more. Definitely worth viewing with your older kids.
Need more ideas? Google “stuck at home” for more.