Employers continue to offer more and better perks in order to lure top talent. One of the more popular perks these days is the option for employees to work from home, or remotely, part or all of the time.
Studies have shown that working from home can be more productive than working in the office, but it does require a certain amount of discipline.
With a winter storm pelting Toronto this week that has us staying safe and warm inside, we asked the roundtable, what’s your best advice for being productive when working from home?
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Julie Ford: I find I actually get more work done from home because I can spend a longer period of time focused on a single project or work through a backlog of smaller tasks. But I do find that communication is critical to success when working from home.
At Glance, we’ve found that Slack really helps us communicate and stay connected as a team. We all have very different work schedules. We use Slack to communicate our home and office days at the beginning of each week and to communicate when we’re working from different locations.
When you’re planning to work from home, make a point to let your team know ahead of time. Check in when you log on in the morning and if you’re stepping out to grab lunch, run an errand or are just disconnecting for an hour, let the team know.
It’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
Be Aware of Your Work-Life Balance
Vera Miguelo, Content and Communications Manager, Livingston International: I started working from home almost exclusively when our company decided to renovate the office and desk space was limited.
Working from home made me productive, but lazy. My routine became waking up, putting on a t-shirt and comfy pants, turning on my laptop, and sitting on the couch for about nine hours straight. My fitbit told me I averaged 300 steps a day.
Once the renos were completed, I still had the flexibility of working from home whenever I wanted, or needed to. So I took full advantage, but made a few changes.
First, I set up my “office” in the living room. On my desk, I have my laptop stand, wireless keyboard and mouse, notebook, and pens and highlighters. This is important because it makes the space feel more like an office (remember, before I was using the couch, a laptop pillow, and my laptop to get my work done).
Second, I make sure to come in to the office at least once a week. I find that I miss interacting with my colleagues face-to-face, and getting that human interaction is important. I start to feel isolated if I don’t go into the office for a while.
Third, and perhaps the most important, I make sure I take breaks throughout the day. I stretch, I go put a load of laundry in, I walk to the mailbox. About six months ago, I got a dog. So now I take her for a walk before work in the morning and at lunch time.
I think that, when I was initially given the “freedom” to work from home, I felt like I needed to prove that I was productive; that I deserved it. I’d feel guilty about running to the grocery store in the middle of the day to pick up some ingredients for dinner. It was kind of a jail for me.
Now I realize that working from home gives me the opportunity to have real work-life balance. I make my list of things that I need to accomplish in the day, and I allow myself the flexibility of completing my to-dos in whichever way fits my day best. Some days, I’ll meet up with a friend for lunch, or will book an appointment during the day, or will take my pup to the dog park for an hour in the afternoon. I have the flexibility of taking the morning off, and working in the evening (I’m a night owl), or working 9-5. There are days when I work 12 hours, and there’s other days when I work six. It all balances out — and as long as my deadlines are being met, and my projects being completed, my Director doesn’t fuss about my schedule.
So, my best advice for being productive when working from home?
- Make sure you have a dedicated work area, where you’re able to focus, with no distractions.
- Make lists, and don’t call it a day until you’ve met your goals for the day.
- Be aware of your strengths and limitations, and work within them – if you’re a morning person, try to get the most onerous tasks done first thing, if you’re a night owl, try starting your day a bit later, if you’re an extrovert and need human contact, try working from a public place or going into the office once or twice a week.
Vera Miguelo is the Content and Communications Manager at Livingston International, Canada’s largest customs broker. In her seven years at the company, Vera has been heavily involved in all aspects of digital marketing as well as client communications and sales enablement.
Keep Your Workday Routines
Josh Kern: I’m definitely grateful to have had career opportunities that allow me the flexibility of working from home. Cutting out the commute is a huge boon both to productivity and mental health.
That said, Vera hit the nail on the head when she mentioned routine. I have a lot of hobbies and interests and side projects, and there’s always a ” honey-do” list on the go, so when I’m at home, it’s tempting to spend time on those. That’s why it’s so important to keep a routine that makes a work-from-home day feel like a work day, and not a day at home. Here are my tips:
- Same morning routine: I recommend getting up at the same time and following the same routine (shower, dress, etc.) as on your regular work mornings. That will get you in the working mindset. Weekends are for sleeping in and wearing comfy clothes.
- Dedicated work area: Having a spot that’s just for work is key. Whether it’s a home office, a dedicated desk, or just the kitchen table, on a work day, make that area a work sanctuary. Clear that spot of anything non-work-related, and whenever you’re there, you’re focused only on work.
- Prioritize what you want to accomplish: This is even more important on WFH days than regular days. I like to have set tasks in front of me, things I can accomplish so that I can say, OK, I did that, now I can step aside for a few minutes to do laundry or go to the store.
- Communicate: As Julie says, staying in touch is critical. One of the downsides of working from home is you can easily lose a sense of collaboration and team spirit, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Send your teammates a Slack message just to say hi or update a project, it helps keep everyone together.
That all sounds a bit rigid, but when you tick off the things on your list and step away from your work area, you’ll feel that real sense of accomplishment that comes with a productive day… and it’ll feel that much better because you did all that and you don’t have to commute home!
Has working from home helped you maintain a work-life balance, or are there too many distractions? Give us a shout on Twitter.
We’d love to have you participate in our next roundtable! Drop us a line to learn about upcoming topics.