With the rise of COVID-19 cases, millions are forced to work from home in an effort to flatten the curve.
In Australia alone, over 88% of organisations have encouraged or required their employees to adopt a temporary teleworking lifestyle; and though the setup has gained prevalence in recent years (with over two-thirds of Australian employers now allowing remote work), many remain unfamiliar with these unconventional arrangements.
The good news is – telecommuting (with its flexibility and autonomy) has shown to have multiple productivity benefits. In a recent McCrindle survey, 55% of Australians reported being “slightly” or “significantly more” productive in a work-from-home setup. The results are greater among introverted workers, with them experiencing 30% greater productivity than their extroverted counterparts.
Nevertheless, the freedom to work on your own terms can lend itself to various time-sinks, distractions, and sources of procrastination. To kick these to the curb, we discuss a few actionable tips to maintain your teleworking productivity below.
Create a daily or weekly schedule
You may be working from home, but it’s important to manage your time as you would a regular office day.
This involves maintaining your daily morning routine – such as setting your alarm, getting dressed, and working out or having breakfast before 9 AM. This not only gets you started early, but it also helps ease you into a productive, work-focused mindset; rather than one conducive to a lazy weekend morning.
Be sure to then block out key times in your day for important meetings, deadlines, admin work, responding to e-mails, and other mandatory activities. It helps to have a planner or app (such as Google Calendar) for you to jot down important reminders or personal events.
Having your day – or even the rest of your week – planned helps keep you on schedule (and paints a clear picture of the tasks that need doing), maintaining your focus and productivity throughout the work week.
Establish a proper workspace
Without the quiet, ergonomic environment of your company office, it’s important to find yourself a suitable substitute for a workspace at home.
While some employees may be privileged enough to own a home office, others may have to make do with their kitchen counter, coffee table, or personal desktop computer. Whichever works best for you, ensure it’s a space with minimal distractions or temptations to procrastinate.
Most experts advise against working in bed, as your brain typically associates the area with sleep or relaxation. Working under the covers can thus often lead to feelings of sluggishness or exhaustion, rather than productivity.
The same goes for the living room couch; as the space is generally linked to moments of leisure, remote workers can feel tempted to put their feet up, relax, and maybe even tune into Netflix – rather than focus on the day’s schedule.
Having a dedicated working space (or surface) at home for work can help place you in the right frame of mind, gearing you up for the day’s tasks and keeping the temptation to procrastinate at a minimum.
Set your boundaries
If you live with family, a spouse, or roommates, working from home requires setting clear barriers for social interaction.
The presence of others can often be troublesome when communicating with colleagues over video or phone. These interruptions are not only distracting – they also leave an air of unprofessionalism.
American political analyst, Professor Robert Kelly, experienced this firsthand when his children and wife “gatecrashed” an online, live interview with BBC News. Though the incident was entertaining for viewers (causing the video clip to run viral), those having private conferences with their team will likely want to keep their meetings as undisruptive as possible.
To achieve this, ensure you clearly communicate to your roommates or family members on your hours of work, and where you plan to do it. Help them understand the level of privacy you require, and be open to any objections or constructive advice that may improve your plan.
If you need to, you could also leave a sign on your door to indicate that you’re at work, or keep it locked during critical hours. In severe cases, you could additionally consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones – ensuring all distractions are blocked off completely.
To avoid total social isolation, it’s important to maintain communication with your teammates.
While much of this can be done through regular e-mail or messenger apps (i.e. Slack, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), many recommend going beyond text to foster “face-to-face” interactions through videoconferencing tools.
Users have a wide variety of technologies now available – including Skype, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams or (the increasingly popular) Zoom. Such platforms are now able to host large meetings of multiple people, boosting social bonds, morale, and cooperation among remote teams.
Individuals can get creative with this, with some truly simulating the dynamic, interactive environment of a typical office. One U.S.-based manager, in particular, hosted weekly lunches over video with her team. She had the same exact pizza ordered and delivered to each member, facilitating team bonding and camaraderie through a unique, virtual experience.
Dr. Thuy-yy Nguyen of Durham University also recommends having a remote work “buddy”: a colleague you can turn to when you need a chat, or a fellow teleworker who can relate to your experience.
Maintaining these social connections will not only alleviate boredom, but they’ll also help curb feelings of loneliness – keeping your mental health and well-being in shape.
Unplug at the end of the day
Telecommuting can often blur the boundaries between home and work life; making it difficult to “switch off” at the end of the day. In a Remote.co survey of over 200 remote workers, this inability to “unplug” was cited as the greatest challenge among 40% of respondents (seconded by non-work distractions, followed by the difficulty of fostering relationships with co-workers).
To combat this, be sure to disconnect after close-of-business hours, or when you’ve completed your set hours for the day. Log out of your e-mail or messaging platforms to help you ease back into a relaxed, “after-hours” mindset. Setting yourself clear boundaries between your work and personal hours will stave off workplace burnout, refreshing your physical and mental energy for the next productive day.
Of course, be sure to schedule yourself the intermittent food, exercise, or leisure breaks you need to maintain your drive and motivation throughout the day. Invest in healthy meals and snacks that keep energy levels high – such as fruit, yoghurt, nuts, and lean proteins. Get up every half hour (as recommended by FlexJobs) to move and stretch your legs; this not only helps you maintain physical movement while working from home, but taking a break from your desktop (or laptop) can also help rejuvenate your mental processes and prevent eyestrain.
If you need to take a power nap to boost your brainpower – go for it! Studies show that 20-minute naps can boost your on-the-job performance by as much as 34%.
Looking to upgrade your skills while at home?
For those adjusting to a temporary teleworking setup (or who may be transitioning to full-time remote work) – boundaries, discipline, social connections are key to maintaining productivity while at home.
Teleworkers looking to simultaneously upskill (or train in a new technical field) can find the online training they need though DDLS Anywhere.
Hosted by DDLS Australia – the country’s leading provider in corporate IT and process training – DDLS Anywhere offers remote students with an online platform to train in courses under cybersecurity, business management, productivity, and more. Individuals can engage with instructors and other students through virtual classrooms that offer full visual and audio experience; providing a complete learning experience from any location they please.
If you’re looking to build your skills from the comfort your home, enquire with us on a course today.