You’ve suddenly found yourself working from home for the very first time. It can be confronting and a whole new world! Nearly 15 years spent consulting in the IT industry and, more recently, as a small business owner running V&B Athletic has taught me some valuable lessons about making time spent in the “home office” rewarding and productive.
In the beginning, working from home seems awesome!
You’re not surrounded by coworkers, you’re free to be yourself and lose those pesky inhibitions. No one’s watching or cares what you’re wearing (you can wear pants, or not… but more on this later). You can grab a coffee or a snack or walk away from your desk whenever your feel like it!
There’s not that same peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done.
But after several days that initial “holiday” feel begins to wear off and you may find yourself beginning to experience cabin fever and worse still, the enemy of productivity, PROCRASTINATION!
In a normal office environment, it’s coworkers that often pose the greatest threat to keeping you from getting some real, productive work done. Sure there are many positive social benefits to being in a workplace, but they can also be a challenge if you’re easily distracted.
When working from home, it’s easy to become your own worst enemy.
Suddenly you find more reason to check the contents of the fridge, or find hours have slipped by because you’ve been mindlessly scrolling on Facebook, succumbed to the “There’s a new series on Netflix!” or taken a trip down the YouTube rabbit hole of videos about cats doing crazy things with cardboard boxes…
Procrastination may be the source of many failed goals and shattered dreams, but a lack of routine is the fast route to getting there!
Here are some tips and tricks for working from home that I’ve learned over the years:
Make your bed
A simple if arbitrary rule to live by. Here’s why.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right”Admiral William H. McRaven – Retired US Navy SEAL – commencement address to graduates of The University of Texas at Austin in May, 2014
Always wear pants
Working from home for the first time, you’ll go through phases with your clothes. The first phase will be the “pyjama phase”. You’re so stoked about no longer having to go into an office that you celebrate by staying in your pyjamas. It starts with a day, then three days, and before you know it, a week… who cares, nobody will see me?
That novelty quickly loses its shine, partly because the neighbours start giving you concerning looks, but mainly because you’ll start to feel like a depressed hermit…
You need to create a boundary between work and life.
Working in your pyjamas is a lot like working from bed (see Make your bed). While it can seem like a great idea when you start, if you’re dressed for bed or more importantly haven’t changed since you got up, your mind still thinks it’s “sloth time”.
Get dressed in real clothes. You don’t need to put on a three-piece suit (but if that’s your thing, then go fot it!) but at least wear real pants and a proper shirt. Save your leisurewear for the weekend and your pyjamas for bedtime!
It’s critical to have a routine. Without one, days and weeks can too easily blend into each other, and you’ll find yourself questioning what day of the week it is! Decide on specific times when your workday will begin and end, and when you’ll take breaks for lunch or coffee.
Reinforce the sense of routine by having a ritual that starts and ends your workday to take the place of the daily commute.
This is where exercising is key.
Just like commuting creates a buffer around the workday, having something that marks the beginning and end of each day helps prepare you for, and then transition out of, the mental space you need to be in to work. When your “commute” is from the bedroom to the kitchen, to the spare room or lounge room, the line that separates work from life starts to blur. So to mark the beginning and the end of the day I like to exercise. Try going for a run at the end of your day or getting in an quick 30 minute workout first thing!
Schedule in regular phone calls, facetime, google meet, skype, whatsapp, or zoom calls. Staying at home doesn’t mean being disconnected. We live in a world where connectivity is at our fingertips, use it!
Group FaceTime is Apple’s multi-person chat offering for iPhone users. You can start a Group FaceTime right from the FaceTime app or from a group conversation in the Messages app.
Google Meet is a video conferencing app. It is the business-oriented version of Google’s Hangouts platform and is suitable for businesses of all sizes. The solution enables users to make video calls with up to 30 users per high-definition video meeting.
Skype is free to use and download and Skype to Skype calls are free anywhere in the world. If you are both using Skype, the call is completely free. Users only need to pay when using premium features like voice mail, SMS texts or making calls to a landline, cell or outside of Skype.
Zoom offers a full-featured Basic Plan for free with unlimited meetings. There is no trial period. Your Basic plan has a 40 minutes time limit on meetings with three to 100 participants.
WhatsApp is making group calls easier with a change to the way its mobile app works. WhatsApp currently supports group calling up to four people at one time.
How do we work more closely together if we’re cut off from one another?
Online collaboration is the new normal! If you have the right tools for collaboration, it doesn’t matter if you’re seated next to your colleagues or in your living room, you can still be efficient, effective and productive. There is a plethora of tools available, not just on your desktop computer, but also from your mobile devices. These tools enable you to keep in contact with your team with uniform communcation, allowing people to better understand who is assigned what, why, how and when. Better yet, deadlines and task management can be built into your communications between team members to reduce misunderstanding!
Here are some great online collaboration tools
Slack – the collaboration tool of choice at V&B Athletic! An incredibly smart platform available on mobile and desktop devices, Slack allows for the sending of direct messages and files to a single person or a group and there’s the ability to organise conversations into different channels.
Trello – If you’ve ever looked into project management software and online collaboration tools, then no doubt you’ve come across Trello. Available on the web and with mobile apps, it lets you easily organize projects and work on them with colleagues. Trello is like sticky notes on your desktop and allows you to work with boards or lists, which can be organised by teams and different tasks. You can set up to-do lists and delegate amongst colleagues.
Follow the five Ps
Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Write down the list of things you want to get achieved that day, that week or that month. By setting specific measurable goals for the short, medium and long-term you can keep a close on eye on whether or not you’re doing what needs to be done day-to-day, but it also means you’ll have a pre-planned path to follow and can keep going when the procrastination fairy visits!