It’s been an interesting transition to say the least. Just like everyone else, we are beginning to get used to working from home offices. No more conversations around the coffee machine or endless debates about stapler etiquette. Apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have replaced office banter, as email threads get as long as ancient Roman scrolls. Bedrooms are turned into makeshift offices. We don’t know how long this will last, so we might as well make the most of it.
With the amount of economic disruptions around the world, working from home should be the least of our concerns. Nonetheless, working from home still poses many challenges for those of us who are used to an office environment.
How do you balance these two normally separate spheres of life? Where do you draw the line between home and office? How do you keep track of your tasks while not neglecting your family and pets? Here are 5 tips to become a master at home office efficiency, while keeping a lid on your work life once you’ve punched out.
1. Practice a Morning Ritual
Our brains need to warm up before we tackle the day’s work. You can start by making your bed and preparing breakfast. This way, you’re starting your day on the right foot. Take a shower and wear your work clothes. Wearing pyjamas at work can be fun the first two or three days, but this breaks the boundary between your relaxation time and your work time.
Guess what? You just saved 1 hour or more for your commute. You can spend that extra time making a wholesome breakfast or cleaning up the dishes you left out the night before.
Make Your Office a Separate Room
You can’t expect to be very productive if you are next to your TV, video games and the smell of delicious lasagna in the oven. If you have a unused second bedroom, get rid of the yoga mat and stationary bike, and put your desk and office chair there. This creates a mental barrier when you’re working, and also when you’re done work. You can shut the bedroom door, and go back to your private life. You won’t feel the chronic tiredness that people feel when they don’t have “me time”.
Make sure your desk has appropriate lighting, for example near a window. A recent survey from HR advisory firm Future Workplace confirms that access to natural light and views of the outdoors are an excellent way to keep employees productive – whether at the office or at home.
If you only have one bedroom, choose a spot in your living room with a physical barrier that keeps you away from the couch. Don’t work from bed, it’s bad for your spine, and you’ll have muscular tension in your neck from the awkward position you’re in.
Follow a Regular Schedule
Even if you’re swamped with work, it’s good to keep a steady shift, just like you did before working from home. This way, you can optimize your use of time. It’s also helpful to be there when your colleagues and external partners are there. If you send me an email at 10:04 PM, chances are you won’t hear from me until the next day.
Use Productivity Apps
Adherence to a schedule is great, but how does the company know that you’re reaching your goals? Productivity apps help employees stay focused while communicating with their managers about their task completion. It also feels great to start the week with a long to-do- list, and crossing every check mark by the end of the week. More traditional businesses will enjoy this added level of transparency and trust. Better organization translates to better productivity.
Stay in Touch with your Team
Most of us are social creatures, and we long for connection with other humans. Being away from the office can create a feeling of anxiety, from not knowing what others are up to, and not feeling the same sense of common purpose you feel when you walk into the office. Fortunately, we aren’t living in the stone age anymore, and we have apps that facilitate meetings and screen shares. Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, you name it. If you have a small company, you can use their free package, and upgrade based on your company’s needs.
Your company culture will define the areas where this transition is successful. You might not need productivity and chat apps to be successful. Not everyone is comfortable with technology, but if you have an employee dedicated to training and helping others, it will make things smoother. It’s best to use the tools that everyone is already familiar with, before trying to reinvent the wheel.
By the time things get back to normal, you’ll be acing this home office thing. If we all chip in and increase our productivity, many employers will reward their employees by letting them work from home.