Working from home may seem like something full of advantages. We can just jump literally from the bed to our computer every morning and start our working day. We don't need to commute from home to our office. Some people also enjoy the feeling of a sense of freedom as they don't have any colleagues or managers around them. On the contrary, they can spend more time with their family at home. But how sure are we that those advantages are not going to turn on us?
In the previous article "Productivity in exceptional times - Part I - Removing the noise" we mentioned that the brain understands that our home is a place to chill out, not a working place, so if we're decided to work from home and be efficient, we need to educate our brain to understand our home as the new a place to perform well at work. The way to so is by creating and following a routine day-by-day to help ourselves maximise our effort and results and prevent procrastination.
Let's start by preparing the environment and the working area: ideally, it should be a separate space, that you will use only to work. We should avoid working from bed, from the sofa or in front of the TV. The table should be clear of non-essential things for working, which will distract our attention. A comfortable chair should be placed in front of the table where we can adapt and keep a good body position. This space has to be quiet, well lit, preferably with natural light, and not too warm or too cold. Also if we live with more people at home such as family members or housemates, they need to understand that this is your working place and they shouldn't distract you when you're working there.
Every day when you wake up in the morning, you should have a shower and get dressed in the same way that you might go to the office. When working from home you can choose more informal and comfortable clothes, but definitely don't work in pyjamas! If in normal circumstances we have to pay attention to our personal appearance when working from home we should do the same: having a video call with our clients in pyjamas doesn't seem to be the most professional way to do it. Both things, having a shower and getting dressed every morning might sound obvious, but it is the best way to force your mind to feel that you're starting your working day, getting into the routine, and at the same time, creating good habits.
Another good practice that we should follow is to set up our working time. Define when are you going to start your work, your breaks, your lunchtime, and when are you going to finish and turn off your computer. By setting up deadlines aiming to accomplish our tasks, it will increase our performance, partly as a result of good resting time management. It is easy to extend the working day when people are working from home, and we can't forget that after work our family or other duties are waiting for us. So finish your work at the time you defined initially.
Communication is another important element to add to our routine. Working from home doesn't mean we have to be isolated, and actually we shouldn't be. Keep connected with your team, your managers and clients. You should continue receiving and sending information among your colleagues and clients, and it is your responsibility to keep the communication flowing using the digital channels available to contact them, as well as being available for them. If we limit our communication channels just to emails or calls, we'll lose part of the information we want to communicate. We must remind ourselves of the advantages of non-verbal communication. For that reason use video calls as much as you can. The communication will be richer and we'll feel closer to the person we're talking with.
You'll spend a lot of time at home so probably you'll be tempted to eat more such as snacks, especially in the afternoon. If this happens often, watch out for stress! That should be an alarm for you. Pay attention to these details and if you identify that you could suffer stress don't hesitate to ask for help. Meditation could help you to control your level of anxiety. Now that you're working from home, try to eat healthy as much as you can. Plan time to cook your food. Early in the morning or after your work block some time to do some exercise.
Lastly, have fun and enjoy! Just because we really like what we do, let's make our work an experience to enjoy with our teammates. Why not a coffee break meeting of five minutes with the team? On Friday, why not cyber-beers? And why not give a "Working From Home Oscar Award" to this cat walking behind your colleague in the middle of a meeting?
By following these steps, and adding your own personal ones, you can create and customise a routine which will help to establish a working mindset, avoiding procrastination and increasing the level of productivity at home, but at the same time enjoying all the advantages of being at home.