Everyone has a standard routine that prepares them for the workday. Most of us get up, shower, get dressed in our office clothes, maybe have coffee and some breakfast, and then head out the door for the commute to work.
But, when you’re working from home, the lines can blur. There’s no real distinction between ‘home’ and ‘the office’. No one sees your outfit unless you’re on a video call, and there’s no one to watch over your shoulder as you work.
These differences can create a feeling of being disconnected from work. Even though we may log into our email and start getting things done, for many of us, that disconnected feeling can lead to distraction and lower productivity. First we decide to put on a load of laundry, then we may check our social media feeds, then it’s time to hang the laundry out, then it’s lunchtime, and, before you know it, the day is over and we haven’t ticked much off our work to-do list.
This feeling is fairly universal, especially among people working from home for the first time. So, how can we help our teams to transition from office life to working from home without losing productivity and motivation?
Setting ourselves up for success starts every morning as we prepare for the day ahead and get into a good working mentality. We’ve outlined five ways you can prepare yourself each day to work from home:
1. Get up and get dressed for work
It’s important to maintain a regular routine for the workday even when you’re working from home. Keeping the same daily habits that prepared you for the office will add some normalcy. If you usually wake up at 5:00am and head to the gym, set your alarm for the same time and head out for a walk or run instead.
When we’re preparing for work, we need to get into the right headspace and getting dressed for the office is still an integral part of that routine. Dressing for our job sets us up for success and helps us get into a work mentality. And, if your company relies on video communication, it guarantees that you’re never caught out on a client call while in your pyjamas.
While it may not be essential to dress in business attire every day, especially if you don’t have any video calls, it’s still important to wear street clothes. This helps you get into the mindset of working as opposed to lounging around.
2. Maintain a separate workspace
As much as dressing for work helps to keep us feeling professional and engaged, maintaining a dedicated workspace is also crucial. Having a space set up exclusively for work encourages more focus and prevents unnecessary distractions.
If you have children, it might be worth investing in a lock for the door where possible to minimise interruptions and to keep a clear line between work and home environments. Keeping a dedicated workspace will also help your health in the long run. Having a proper setup, with a desk or table and a chair, will minimise the risk of back trouble that you may experience if you work from bed or the couch for an extended period.
3. Keep an office environment
While preparing to work from home each day, it’s important to keep in mind that our office space needs to foster productivity. So, if you miss the hum of a busy office for example, consider setting up a Spotify playlist each day to run in the background and keep you motivated for the task at hand.
Keeping a clean, office-like environment will also help to minimise additional distractions. As the move to a work-from-home setup has been unexpected for some, many people may have quickly repurposed spare rooms and dining tables for their new office. It’s important to remove unrelated items from the space to keep productivity high and distractions low. It might be worth removing your laundry or other items from your space before commencing work for the day.
4. Set regular office hours
It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing additional tasks and chores while working from home. Setting regular office hours and sticking to them will help to minimise distractions during the day. Setting timers for tasks can keep you working productively and let you finish work on time. Then you can embark on household activities.
Although the quiet of a home office can be confronting, try not to spend your day calling family and friends to keep you company while you work. And, stay away from conducting excessive life administrative tasks during your working hours.
If you have additional household tasks that need to be done, such as managing children who are supposed to be learning online, speak to your manager about adjusting your working hours to accommodate these. Then, when you’re on work time, make sure you’re doing work tasks. Planning your day ahead of time will keep you on track for each activity.
An important part of this will also be taking dedicated lunch breaks and maintaining a similar routine to your office life. If you regularly make a coffee at 9:00am in the office, keep that routine. It will give you a small break from your work without interrupting your productivity. If you don’t usually fold your laundry at 3:15pm during a conference call, then you shouldn’t do this while working from home.
5. Work smarter
Working from home has many benefits, from the short commute to the loss of office distractions like colleagues’ phone calls, unnecessary meetings, and derailing conversations. But the home office also has its own intrusions. Spending the first or last five minutes of your day to outline your high priority work tasks will keep you focused and will be a guide for how your day will unfold.
If you’re easily distracted, try using browser extensions on your computer to restrict access to social media for work hours and set your phone on ‘do not disturb’ where possible, or limit access to apps during set hours.
Working from home for many people will require an adjustment period and we all need to be patient with each other as we get into the swing of things. There are many things outside of our control in this current climate, but we do have control over ourselves and our approach to the situation. Taking steps to set ourselves up for success each day will help keep a sense of normalcy in an otherwise uncertain world.
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