Remote working practices have been steadily rising as more businesses seek greater cost savings and access to a larger and more global talent pool. According to a FlexJobs report, an estimated 4.7 million employees telecommute in the US alone. With the rise of COVID-19, millions more have been forced to adopt work-from-home (WFH) practices. And by the look of it, many professionals will be working from home either by choice or necessity in the long run.
A lot of employees prefer WFH options as they look for better work-life balance. But many of them struggle with the office-to-home transition and to achieve the same level of productivity.
The pitfalls of WFH and steps to boost productivity
So, how can you boost your WFH productivity?
The first step is to understand how working from home differs from working at your office. These differences could slow you down or lift you up. Your task is to identify the ones that are hampering your productivity and keeping you from achieving your work goals. Then find practical ways to tackle them.
Remember, the more your at-home work practices resemble what you’re accustomed to at the office, the easier it would be to achieve the same results. So, let’s look at three important ways your work environment has changed during your office-to-home transition and how you can tackle them to boost productivity.
Working in an office comes with a good deal of distractions, whether it’s work colleagues dropping by or unproductive meetings. But there are two important ways you can face an unusual amount of disturbances while working at home.
1. Self-created distractions
It’s natural to feel as if you have an abundance of freedom when you’re sitting at home. This could, unfortunately, lead to many little distractions, from constantly checking social media updates to taking up simple chores around the house. And this is one of the most common reasons for losing control of work productivity.
So, what can you do?
- Set up a daily work schedule. Clearly define times for starting and finishing work, as well as lunch and short mid-day breaks. This should resemble your typical workday in the office.
- Plan your week and make a daily list of tasks to complete. Schedule the most important activities and meetings during the morning hours when your mind is fresh.
- Schedule any personal activities like chores outside the work hours or during the breaks.
- If you find it hard to stay clear from social media, use a browser extension to block them.
- Keep the phone away from your seat so you don’t feel the urge to check it every few seconds.
- Declutter your workspace and remove anything that could distract you during work.
2. External distractions
This is another common challenge many professionals face when transitioning to remote working practices. Family members or flatmates could often strike a conversation when they see you around. Friends could start messaging you more often when they know you’re at home. Kids and pets are another distraction that’s hard to ignore. It’s natural for them all to forget that you are working. But the longer you leave this unaddressed, the more it could hamper your work progress.
So, here’s how you can tackle them.
- Set ground rules to ensure they understand the importance of your work and respect your workspace.
- Share your daily work schedule with them so they know your work hours, the scheduled breaks, and when it’s ok to interact with you.
- If you find that calls and messages from friends and family have increased since you’ve started working from home, assign a different ringtone to their phone numbers. This will help you identify their calls and return them during your breaks. It will also ensure that you don’t miss out on important work communications.
- If the kids are constantly disturbing you, set up a schedule of activities for them, so they are kept busy while you work.
- Use a headset to block out noise and disturbances.
- Keep the door closed and hang a ‘Do not disturb’ sign outside. This will serve as a reminder for everyone at home that you’re busy with work.
Working in an office for several years could condition your thinking and behavior to help you deliver results in the workplace. And when you’re suddenly uprooted from that environment, it’s natural to feel disorientated. So it could take a while to adjust and learn how to achieve the same work goals in your new surroundings at home.
Disorientation can manifest in several ways. For instance, a sudden change in the environment could leave you feeling confused. Many people get distracted and procrastinate as a result. Some overwork themselves as they struggle to define new boundaries. In fact, 25% of remote workers report working through lunch while 10% work through the day without a single break.
So, how should you address this?
- Try to replicate your office workspace to create the same familiarity at home. This could trigger the conditioned behaviors that have helped you maintain your productivity when you were at office. For example, if your workplace has indoor greenery, then ensure that the dedicated workspace you’ve created at home has some indoor plants.
- Avoid working in the bedroom, living room, and other similar places that are typically associated with winding down. These could trigger a counterproductive mindset that could hamper your work progress unknown to you.
- Your WFH daily work schedule will also help create the familiarity of your office routine. It’s also perfect to ensure that you don’t overwork yourself so that office work doesn’t overtake your personal time.
Isolation is another common challenge faced by many employees who transition into remote work. After all, belongingness is one of the most important human needs. And regular engagement with work colleagues, whether it’s at a team meeting or by the water cooler, could go a long way in making you part of a work community.
However, it’s easy for communication and interaction to drastically decline while you work from home. And this sudden sense of disconnection could affect work productivity. For some people, it can even escalate into anxiety and depression.
So, what can you do?
- Use group chats to maintain regular communication with your team. Plan for casual chats during breaks to minimize disruption to your work.
- Face-to-face interactions are equally important. So, set up virtual hangouts with colleagues at pre-agreed times to avoid disturbing their work.
- Try to get the entire team to adopt the same daily work schedule so that work starting and finishing times and breaks are synchronized. This will help maintain casual interactions without disrupting work.
Striking a balance
Many employees seek remote working opportunities in the hope of achieving a better work-life balance. But learning to spend quality personal time while delivering on your work commitments could take some time to master.
Remember to devise measures to overcome common distractions, condition your mind and surroundings to help replicate your office behaviors, and maintain regular engagement with colleagues to beat isolation.