Working From Home During COVID-19: How to Avoid Productivity Pitfalls

     

Amidst the steady spread of the Coronavirus outbreak, many global companies have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies for all their employees around the world. Others have followed suit and offered voluntary work-from-home options. With the World Health Organisation (WHO) already having declared the Coronavirus to be a pandemic, working from home seems to be the new norm for the foreseeable future.

A similar directive has also been issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), Government of India (GoI) instructing private companies to allow employees to opt for online work from home wherever possible.

As a result, most of us have quickly had to develop our own work-from-home routine to help us maintain productivity. While some of us are already familiar with the working-from-home drill due to the nature of our work, it may be the first time for many of us. In any case, long-term and full-time work from home is something we all may have to adjust to until the situation improves.

This sudden and extended period of work from home inflicted by the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic situation means all of us are trying to get used to working from a home environment. There can be a lot of pressure to deliver the required results all the while trying to set up an efficient work-from-home space. In this scenario, using technology and tools at our disposal is the only way to ensure that you’re at your productive best. Maintaining healthy work from home habits can go a long way in preserving your mental health at this time.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your productivity levels while striking a work-life balance.

Set up a designated work area

One pertinent problem that arises in a typical work-from-home scenario is that it becomes difficult to separate your personal life from your professional life. Unless you’re able to stop issues at home from encroaching into your work or vice versa, your productivity at work will suffer and so will your home life.

In a normal scenario, you have to leave home to travel to work which makes both your home and work place physically separate so there’s a lesser chance of both worlds interfering with each other. However, in a work-from-home scenario, it’s not the case. This is why it’s important to keep a designated workspace at home.

Sometimes it may not be possible to keep a separate room for work, especially if you’re living in a small apartment, but even a corner would do as long as you dedicate it for your work, this induces a sense of routine and professionalism to your work from home regimen.

You must keep the ergonomics in mind as well. Make sure you’re not lying down, rather order a proper work chair to sit upright so that your posture is not compromised. Natural light is also important since you’ll be spending hours at your desk and gloominess can affect your productivity.

Get ready for work

Following a few daily tasks before logging in for work can help you get in the right mindset for a productive day. Simple things like taking a shower, getting dressed, and getting coffee can get you in the right mindset to start your day. This not only helps in creating a firm distinction between your work and home selves but also makes you feel more like yourself at your workplace, inducing the right professional mindset.

Plan a workflow for optimum productivity

Planning out your entire day in the morning can give you a good head start. You can use a task list to jot down all the tasks you need to complete for the day. You can also prioritise which tasks you need to complete urgently and which ones can be scheduled later. You can also allocate them in specific time slots so that there’s time left for contingencies such as any ad-hoc work you may need to finish. Also try to finish one task before taking up another one. Multitasking or switching between tasks again and again can hamper your productivity to a great extent.

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Take the aid of technology to make work & learning easier

Technology can come as a great aid to bolster your productivity. You can use apps such as Skype or Zoom to stay in touch and connect with your colleagues or clients. You can also use your company’s Learning Management System to brush up on your skill set. If your company is yet to implement online employee training and leverage e-learning software, now is the best time to pitch a digital transformation of your company’s Learning and Development program. There are ample online learning tools and Learning Management platforms to create simple and effective training programs that are accessible to everyone.

Prioritise transparent communication

The key to a successful work-from-home routine is smooth communication. Transparent communication helps establish the fact to your reporting managers that you’re available and taking your work time seriously. It also involves healthy interactions between your coworkers and teammates and reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. It also helps you to get inputs from all stakeholders concerned. Using tools such as LMS software can assist you in streamlining effective communication within your organisation. The ability to upload and publish content and immediately get feedback from all stakeholders helps in establishing a good flow of communication and helps speed up the workflow.

Keep away distractions

Although there are several benefits of working from home, there are some disadvantages too. One of them can be that if you live with many family members, then there can be a lot of distractions while you are working. Again, your phone can be a major distraction since you may be inclined to keep checking your phone or scrolling through social media. So to have a distraction-free environment, you will have to create a calm and quiet corner for yourself and reschedule distractions for a later time. Keep your phone away, or keep a dedicated work phone for yourself so that you don’t end up wasting your time on social media.

Stick to your timings and meet your deadlines

Just as you have kept a designated space for work, you’ll also need to keep designated working hours as well. Following specific working hours can help you in transitioning into a professional mode as well as get the work done effectively. Moreover, if your teammates are on a particular schedule, then following the same will help you collaborate easily. In a work-from-home setting, it’s essential that you treat yourself like a boss rather than an employee and be incharge of your work to meet all deadlines.

Prioritize self care and boundaries

Don’t expect to be super-productive throughout the day. If you try to work like a superhuman, you’ll end up burning yourself out. It’s important to schedule regular breaks to recharge yourself. This not only gives a break to your mind but body as well. It's not healthy to keep sitting in one posture for a very long time. Try to take a small walk every once in a while. Take a tea or coffee break to take your mind off work for a while. You can also hit up your coworkers for a small chat. Since you don’t have the office space where you could see your teammates and thus go on a break together or just talk to them, it’s important to be in touch with them for that small talk too. This makes you feel less like a machine and more human.

The ideal way to boost your positivity during a work-from-home scenario is to create a proper balance. Some of the different aspects to keep in mind that can help maintain a proper equilibrium are:

  • Establishing physical boundaries

    - Striking a balance between your personal and professional life can go a long way in creating a balanced life. Try not to carry your work outside of your work space, check or reply to emails after working hours, and don’t let your work encroach into your family or social time.
  • Specific routines

    - Creating a regular routine can also help you to optimize your time management and boost productivity. This will in turn help you to avoid any unnecessary delays, stress or anxiety over missed deadlines. A set of routine processes will help you create a strict barrier between work and home time.
  • Keep your phone away

    - Since technology has made everything accessible on your mobile phone, it’s normal for you to use it for office communication, emails, and even for minor work edits. Switching off your phone after work hours will help you to maintain your sanity and unwind peacefully.
  • Reminders for break

    - Taking regular breaks can also help you to maintain your mental balance. While in your office, you still had your teammates to remind you for breaks, at home you’ll have to remind yourself to do the same. Small walks or coffee breaks will help you to sustain your productivity throughout the day.

Manish Kachwala

Manish Kachwala is the Co-Founder of AlphaLearn, India’s leading Learning Management System. A believer in lifelong learning, he is passionate about technology, startups, blogging and tennis. He is a veteran of the e-learning industry with over 20 rich years of experience in the space.

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