Remote working or work from home policies are not new in the vocabulary of most technology organizations. However, the scale at which organizations have had to enable the work-from-home option is unprecedented. While working from the safety of your home is a boon, many do grapple with the productivity challenges that remote working brings -and that is normal.
Since we have operations across three continents we have a certain experience of working with teams across time zones and geographies. We know that it might seem like a herculean task to become super-productive in this new work environment, but it is possible. Here are a few things that you can do to make the shift easier.
1. Productivity starts with planning
The hardest thing to establish, and yet the most essential, to become super-productive is a functioning routine. All the things that you did before you headed off to office before the pandemic, set the tone for your workday. Assume that only two major things have changed in this set-up – your commute has been eliminated and your office cubicle has shifted to a new location- your home.
Planning and scheduling your workday is perhaps one of the best productivity hacks. Get up and get ready for a usual workday. Schedule time for everyday chores and keep them for before or after office hours. Identify your top productivity hours and schedule hard tasks in those time slots. Schedule your meetings smartly and ensure that they are not in the prime-chaos hours of the day (think getting kids ready for online schoolwork, meal times, etc.)
Schedule activities according to time-blocks. Scheduling tasks according to time helps you become more aware of how long it takes to complete a task. Knowing the effort estimate is essential to being a productive individual as it helps in better time management.
It is also imperative to remember that ‘waking time does not equal working time’. Working continuously around all your waking hours will lead to burn-out and productivity loss. Diluting the boundaries separating work and home makes it easier to get sucked into a vicious vortex of constant work and constant distraction.
To avoid this, use “psychological segues” that put you in the right mindset to work – a well-timed coffee break or a short exercise session in the afternoon go a long way when boosting productivity when working from home.
2. Have a dedicated workspace
Having a dedicated work area can give a huge boost to your productivity. A separate workspace makes it easier to manage distractions and assists in sticking to a work routine.
This, for many, might be hard to achieve owing to the current situation as the entire family is cooped up indoors. If you find yourself working from the dining table surrounded by the cacophony of noisy children, the roar of the vacuum or the regular noises of a busy household, it is time to look up for some white-noise apps. These apps cancel out the background noise and help in managing distractions.
This may also be a good time to get those noise-cancellation headphones and make sure that noise does not impact your productivity and output.
3. Get on-board with productivity and collaboration tools
Duplicating your office set-up is a great idea when you plan to work from home. A monitor can be a major productivity tool if you find yourself working with large spreadsheets, graphic design items or detailed work that might need a large screen.
The feeling of isolation also has a major productivity impact. To alleviate that look at employing collaboration tools. Video calls to teammates to discuss work issues help in resolving this disconnect. Tools like Zoom and Skype are packed with features and are fast with clear audio and video. They also have the call recording facility to listen-in to conversations of importance later and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
Making use of chat apps like Slack or Google Hangouts to ask quick questions or send out fast updates team members helps in getting the job done without clogging up inboxes.
This is a good time to remember that there is no such thing as over-communication in a work from home environment. Be proactive in asking questions, raising red flags and in asking for help. This constant communication helps in proactive work management which translates to higher productivity levels.
Nothing is worse for productivity when working from home than an internet connection that doesn’t support the needs of your work. Your internet connection might have been sufficient previously but is it enough if you and your partner go on separate video calls simultaneously? Evaluate the internet needs of the household and then amp up your data plan so that work can continue uninterrupted.
4. Make friends with time zones
The current work situation not only demands to work from home but also a certain overlap of time zones. You might need to collaborate with colleagues distributed across the globe. However, this doesn’t mean you work long and hazardous work hours and hope that copious amounts of caffeine will boost your productivity. Instead, designate a time overlap with your colleagues placed in different geographies and time zones to ensure that work and productivity do not get impacted negatively.
If you work in a collaborative role it helps to be on the same schedule as others. By doing this you also gain more control of your workday. It also helps you clearly define working hours which ensures work fatigue does not set into impact productivity negatively.
5. Reboot your mind-set
The cadence of work is experiencing a sudden shift where organizations are experiencing periods of lull and sudden spurts of heavy workloads. This is a new normal considering the volatile environment that we are facing now. Predictability is an unachievable ideal for the present moment. Hence it becomes essential to reboot your mindset to accept this new normal. Along with your daily quota of work, sometimes you might have to deal with greater workloads.
An unprepared mind will find it hard to deal with these sudden highs and lows in work and can distract the mind by creating more chaos. It is best to remain prepared for sudden changes in work volumes to ensure that spikes in workloads do not have a productivity impact.
Along with all this, having an elevated sense of accountability and ownership goes a long way to ensure productivity. Remaining self-motivated, seeking out help, whether it is for work or to just break the cycle of isolation, can play a big role to keep your productivity levels at par with when you worked in a physical office environment.
This book is still being written so feel free to add your own chapter. Tell us what works for you and you work from home? What makes you the productivity ninja?