As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, enterprises all over the world are adapting to a new reality. In what some experts are calling the great “pivot” to remote work, entire companies have had to leave physical office spaces behind to deal with mandatory lockdowns and legally-enforced quarantines. But this pandemic has only served to accelerate an already present trend. Between 2005 and 2017, for example, the US alone experienced a 159% increase in telecommuting. The writing’s on the wall: Remote work is here to stay.
The work from home advantages and disadvantages are numerous. Remote work offers employee flexibility, unparalleled agility, and access to an expanded talent pool, for a start. But it also comes with a large number of challenges — especially for those workforces that have no experience with it. For some businesses, maintaining the same levels of productivity while working from home has been a major concern. So, here are 6 easy ways you can boost your work from home productivity (without stressing you out).
1. Eliminate distractions
We all know the video. In fact, it’s been viewed nearly 40 million times. In 2017, Professor Robert Kelly, when he was being interviewed on BBC News about South Korea, was interrupted in spectacular fashion by his oblivious children who walked in halfway through the live segment. And as if that wasn’t enough, moments later, viewers were treated to the sight of his wife trying to frantically herd the toddlers out of the bedroom in which the interview took place. It was TV gold. But it also highlighted something unique about remote work: distractions, distractions, distractions.
It’s not just family members walking in unannounced, though. It’s the TV, YouTube, the coffee maker, and even game consoles. Our homes are our nests and we naturally want to feel comfortable there. In order to stay productive, we need to conceptually separate work from home. Here’s how: Set aside a dedicated office space (this can even be a bedroom between certain times, if needed) and structure your day as you would in an office. Posting your schedule on a whiteboard and even just making sure you get dressed will help maximize your work from home productivity.
2. Plan out your time
Even if you get rid of every possible distraction, it’s harder to manage your time at home. This is because everything seems to blend together. While offices have implied eight-hour work windows, at-home workers can start to face a “time drift” where tasks are put off and put off until a working day has become a non-productive eleven-hour slog. This happens in offices, of course. But it can become particularly acute at home.
There’s actually a name for this. It’s known as Parkinson’s Law, after twentieth-century British scholar C. Northcote Parkinson. Parkinson pointed out that people usually take all the time allotted to accomplish any task. And if there is no time allotted? The task can theoretically go on forever. This is where work from home productivity tools like time-tracking for tasks and projects, deadlines, and milestones can help. They add vital structure to what could otherwise be a time free-for-all that fills up every available working hour. Make sure you set yourself these time-based goals when working remotely. Or you could end up working all day.
3. Arm yourself with the right tech
This is a pretty big one. Tools like emails and spreadsheets can work fine in an office setting if you’re comfortable with how clunky they are and love regular in-person meetings. But they fall short when your team is geographically dispersed. Why? You’re going to increase the chances of missing something, or of accessing the wrong documents or conversation threads. That’s where remote work platforms come in.
When you have a shared space that everyone can access, it’s much easier to stay on the same page. Remote work platforms like Wrike offer a single solution that everyone can use: there are live updates, @mentioning, and visual document markup and approval, for a start. When everyone knows what’s going on, you eliminate the need for endless meetings and dramatically reduce the chance of making mistakes.
4. Make time for yourself
Modern offices often have healthy eating programs, in-house yoga sessions, and many even have gyms. It’s a no-brainer: Employers who promote a healthy workplace can see reduced absenteeism through sickness and improvements in productivity. But when we’re at home it becomes a little harder to stay healthy — chips tend to pile up on our desk and it’s easy to forget to exercise (or even to move around during the day). With less formality, there is less impetus to get up off the couch, put our laptop aside, and make healthy choices.
This is why remote workers need to make sure they eat well, take care of their eyes (look away from the laptop!) and make sure to exercise. Even if it’s just regular walks in the backyard. These simple steps make a huge difference in your work from home productivity and ensure this new reality is a life-enhancing prospect and not one that hurts worker health.
5. Switch off after work
As companies become increasingly digitized and employees move to virtual platforms, life and work blend more and more. And as our workdays draw to a close, it can be hard to define when to stop looking at Slack messages and our @ mentions — especially as we often work through mobile apps. It’s just so easy to glance. Why? For one, the reward chemical, dopamine, keeps us coming back to apps no matter whether they are work-related or fun-related. In well-defined time slots, however, there is nothing wrong with this.
That’s why it’s important to have a cut-off. At a certain point, things can wait until tomorrow. In fact, some European countries have laws that discourage after-hours work. This is because it’s not only good for mental health but also increases productivity. It’s pretty straightforward: Coming back to tasks with a fresh, rested mind is better than staying up until the wee hours wasting energy. So, take a look at the settings and preferences on your productivity tools and enable snoozes and “do not disturb” options.
6. Take a vacation (really)
When our working life essentially exists on a laptop, it’s easy to travel and take our work with us. But numerous studies show that taking a definite break from work in the form of a vacation does wonders for our mental health and boosts productivity in the long run. This means that just as it’s important to have a break after work it’s important to take a prolonged break from work. Even if more than half of Americans leave their vacation days unused.
The best advice? Just take the vacation. It’s important not to feel guilty because you’re doing your organization a favor. Burned-out workers do company culture absolutely no good. And that’s saying nothing about the bottom line.
How Wrike can help
We want to help businesses make the great switch to remote work. Wrike’s features empower businesses to connect with team members and clients, and manage deadlines effectively from absolutely anywhere in the world. Start your free trial today and help support the change to the new future of work at your company.