The COVID-19 disease spread has led to a two-week lockdown in major cities across the nation. This has necessitated working from home for most businesses who can afford not to shut down but work from home. For most of the employees of these businesses, working from home is a new phenomenon they have to build capacity for. Since productivity is the key performance indicator for ‘working from home’, it becomes imperative for both employees and employers to understand how to stay productive.
This article explores some productivity tips that you can start trying immediately to see results. But before we continue, there’s a lot of conversations using ‘remote working’ and ‘working from home’ interchangeably – and you should know the difference.
Remote Working v Working From Home
“Working from home is a temporary situation, while remote working is an entirely different approach to getting things done. One is considered a benefit, while the other is simply a way of working.” — Jason Aten
Remote working is a permanent working approach that means you have talent working outside your company’s office all the time. They aren’t just absent from the office, but work primarily outside the office – and most likely outside the geographic area of the office. It requires different skills and abilities beyond being outside the office.
Working from home is a much more temporary approach that allows your talent to work outside the office for a few days; or with the coronavirus lockdowns all over the world, for a few weeks. It is more of a benefit than a work approach.
You can read this article to get a clearer picture: The Difference Between Remote Working & Working from Home: What it Means for Your Business.
As a digital product agency building custom websites and apps for startups, SMEs and Enterprises, working remotely has been part of the QodeHub culture for a while. We have engaged developers and designers who don’t work from our office but still get their deliverables out on time.
Working from home is a measure we took recently to protect our staff against the coronavirus disease under the social distancing directives. It has morphed into a great opportunity for us to transition into a fully remote company. We wrote about the transition in one of our #30DaysRemote posts, which you can see here – Going Remote: Transitioning to Remote in a time of Crisis.
Tips for Effective Work From Home Routines
The QodeHub team shared how we have stayed productive over the past week and a half. The major ideas summed up to:
- Communicate frequently.
- Manage your time properly.
- Remove distractions.
- Inform your family of your schedule.
- Regroup/Refresh yourself frequently.
We started our remote work/ working from home schedule by setting standard working hours from 8 to 5 daily. This mandates the entire team to be online by 8am. Then at 8:30am, we run check-ins and stand-ups to get abreast with each other’s well-being and activities for the day. We thereafter stay in the loop throughout the entire day on Basecamp. We ask questions, seek clarifications, jump on short calls in-between, collaborate on projects in one document, etc.
Communication is the lifeblood of remote working, and by extension working from home. If the trail goes dead, you risk leaving work undone or unduly delayed. To stay productive, keep each other in the loop and check-in with the team at least twice a day.
Manage your time properly
Working from home comes with the challenge of managing your time. To succeed at getting any work done at all, you need to start with having a personal schedule. We have a working day scheduled from 8 to 5, but the details of the day are up to you.
We use different timeboxing techniques to do this. Timeboxing allows us to set a specific time limit for each activity before diving into it. We use different techniques: including the Pomodoro Technique, Eisenhower Matrix, traditional timers, written to-do lists or apps, etc.
The goal is to complete all your work on time by breaking down all your activities into timed chunks and tackling them one after the other to ensure you complete on time. This way, you achieve more than if you allow the day to just flow.
The office setting comes with subtle accountability for how you spend your time. No one likes colleagues seeing you spend the whole day on your phone playing a game. But at home, there’s no one to keep you accountable for your activities during the day. So, you need to put in physical and mental barriers to ward-off distractions. Turn off your phone notifications or put it in a ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode.
Beyond your phone, there can be a lot of chatter on various team communication channels. You can mute those notifications to allow you to work in ‘Zen mode’. Basecamp especially allows you to turn on Focus Mode and work away. Slack also allows you to snooze notifications till you’re ready.
Inform the family of your schedule
Family and friends have become very important in these times, since they’re the only people we get to interact with the most. However, if you’re working, it’s important to set some boundaries to help you get work out at the end of each day.
You don’t have to ignore them; let them understand when you’re free to talk and for how long. Don’t assume they know to leave you alone while you’re working. Communicate it painstakingly and ensure that you’ve reached an understanding with them. It’s a more proactive way of keeping your relationships, rather than screaming the house down when they try to contact you during an online conference. It happened to me, so I know what I’m saying.
In the office, the water dispenser or the washroom allows for short breaks, catching a brief conversation with a colleague or taking a short walk. Working from home doesn’t always offer that opportunity. A short 2-minute break to chat with your mom could set you back 45 minutes.
So, intentionally work short breaks into your routine. Get up and walk around the room; go play an instrument if you have one; call a friend, play a game, do some push-ups, squats or lunges; or get to that craft project you always wanted to do. Give yourself a few minutes to take a breather before returning to work. You come back to your work with a fresh mind, which helps you get things done faster.
Your company can only judge your performance during this period by your timely delivery. Attendance, punctuality checks and the like won’t play much of a role when you’re working from home. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to slack; implement these checks and see your productivity soar!
>>>The writer is the team lead for the content & digital marketing team of QodeHub – a digital product agency specialising in building custom websites and apps that solve business problems. This article is part of their #30DaysRemote series to share their experience in transitioning to remote work over the past two weeks.