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Working from home may be a new concept for you. Maintaining productivity while working from home — especially when your mind may be focused on the pressing issues at hand, such as an impending recession, unemployment, the healthcare system and the uncertainty of the future can be a big challenge. 

Here are 10 productivity tips for working from home to keep you motivated and focused during this time: 

  1. Set up a home office
  2. Develop a daily to-do list and stick to it
  3. Set boundaries with living companions
  4. Take regular breaks
  5. Switch off your devices when the time comes 
  6. Stay connected with colleagues 
  7. Mirror office behaviours
  8. Reward yourself 
  9. Maintain a work-life balance 
  10. Practice mindfulness.

1. Set up a home office

Whether you live in a flat or a beachside mansion, having one designated space for work is paramount to maintaining productivity. Do not, I repeat do not, work from bed. Also, avoid working from the couch or garden.

Your space of work should not be the same space where you relax or let’s face it, you’ll ruin it for yourself. While the temptation may be to get comfy, it will not help you stay motivated. Set up a home workspace that is comfortable, functional and equipped with all the things you need to get the job done, and get the job done well. 

2. Develop a daily to-do list and stick to it

You might work in a deadline orientated environment or one that is project-focused. Either way, create a list of your daily tasks and stick to them.

Do not get into a habit of putting things off until tomorrow. If you were in an office environment, you know deep down you would probably stick around for an extra 15 minutes to finish the task. Do the same at home and feel the immense satisfaction of crossing out all of the items on your to-do list at the end of the day. A pen and paper are the only tools you need here. 

3. Set boundaries with living companions

This is not a big sleepover party people! Stop baking! Stop asking me to do home workouts with you while I’m on a Zoom meeting!

Setting boundaries with living companions is important. Whether it’s partners, kids, friends or pets, tell them to get lost when you need to work or you will only find yourself frustrated, or even worse, distracted. Have an honest conversation about how you need your working time to be free from distractions, and you will commit to TV, baking, and home work-outs with them at X time. You’ll thank yourself for it later. 

4. Take regular breaks 

Taking regular breaks will give your eyes and brain the respite they need to work harder. Get up, stretch, make some coffee, do some star jumps, whatever it is that helps you.

Create a consistent and regular reset button to punctuate your day. This reset button will help you stay driven and boost your productivity, especially when you are working in a less stimulating and ‘samesy’ environment. 

5. Switch off your devices when the time comes 

Work may have entered your home, but that doesn’t mean it needs to enter your psyche 24/7. When it’s time to switch off, turn off your devices. Pressing communications can be dealt with via a phone call.

Do not keep your work tabs open if you are using your laptop for personal use, as work notifications will keep you switched on work mode. You need that space so when it’s time to work again, you feel fresh and ready to take on a new day. 

6. Stay connected with colleagues 

Good communication has never been so important. Where possible, opt for calls over long email chains, as written communication can often be misconstrued or misunderstood. Save time for yourself and colleagues by keeping lines of communication clear and concise.

Try to have video calls where possible, as they will help curb feelings of isolation and loneliness — and it gives you a reason to get up, get dressed and keep it professional! 

7. Mirror office behaviours

On that point of looking professional, working from home does not mean working in your pyjamas and rushing to put on a shirt over them when you remember you have a conference call.

I know, it’s tempting but to keep productivity levels ‘lit’, try to mirror as many office behaviours as you can. Do you wear pyjamas to the office? If the answer is yes, then you can ignore this tip, but my point is, subtle signals such as putting on jeans and a shirt, brushing your hair and washing your face are all mental signals that the day has started and it’s time to take it on. The opposite puts you into a state of purgatory or limbo where you don’t know the start of the day from the end, and your productivity will suffer.

With less commuting time, there’s ample time to get yourself feeling good. 

8. Reward yourself 

Reward yourself for work well done. If you have hit a target or smashed a goal, treat yourself. Your reward system could be the good coffee from your local supermarket; it might be a new pair of runners you have been eyeing-off online; or it could be spending an hour dedicated to mood-boarding your next holiday for when all of this is over.

If you are lucky enough to have the capability to work from home and you still find yourself employed, you are in a good position to save, but make sure you dedicate some of those funds to rewarding yourself for doing good work and staying positive throughout. 

9. Maintain a good work-life balance

Our lives may have changed but that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice a good work-life balance. For some, the pandemic may also be a good time to hone in on new hobbies that you never would have gotten to otherwise.  

For instance, since the pandemic started, I have given up smoking and started regularly going on 10km runs — quite the plot twist!

A personal project gives you something outside of work to be proud of. Whether it’s knitting or yoga, singing or kettlebell swinging, a new hobby also gives your mind a focus for when you don’t have the distraction of work to keep your mind from worrying about the latest influx of global COVID-19 stats and facts.

10. Practice mindfulness

Woah, we have gotten very holistic over here at Crikey, however, mindfulness is more important than ever. Some of us — most likely the majority of us — may be feeling cranky, fatigued or washed out. Avoid working yourself into state of burn-out to distract from what is going on in the world around us.

It only takes 20 minutes to be mindful. Find a quiet space (not your workspace) and close your eyes. Take deep breaths and think through the day, picking out your ‘roses’ and your ‘thorns’ and then letting them go. Consider writing down four things you were grateful for that day. 

Practising mindfulness helps you navigate away from systematic negative thoughts. It helps to focus on the good and let go of the bad. Most importantly, it reminds you why the work you are doing is important, and thus increases your productivity.

If you are struggling with brain fog or a lack of motivation during this time, be honest! Talk to your employer about how you’re feeling and see if there is a system that can be worked out that is mutually beneficial. Maybe it’s tweaking your hours, maybe it’s a longer lunch break so you can run it off. What works for you could also work for them.

If you have reached a point where your headspace is negatively affecting you and your work, there are a number of resources that can help. Find some here.

Read: After the virus, what will drive our economy and jobs?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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