Contributed by Rebekah Personius & Shannon Ullman.
Looking for help adapting to WFH status, faster? We have teammates all over the country who have worked from home professionally for years.
Check out their insider pro-tips on how to stay productive in a work from home (WFH) environment:
1. Sharpen the tools in the bag
Ensure all your necessary dashboards, programs, and utilities are in order to successfully work from home. The most important is the VPN, so if you haven’t used that since onboarding, practice logging in and verifying your VPN functions. Since this is the first thing you will do when logging in, it’s super important to make it a habit.
Other essentials include Slack, Zoom, and your work dashboard (e.g. Asana, JIRA). These are the most common outlets for staying connected and involved, and most of your work will take place on these platforms.
A good way to make sure all your tools are in working order is to make a list of what you log into or use on a daily basis, then test those things at home.
2. WiFi is power — use it wisely
As most meetings for WFH folks are conducted via Zoom and require a video call 98% of the time, having a good internet connection is imperative. If your internet cannot video stream with relative success, consider either upgrading your connection or relocating to a place with better WiFi (just make sure you’re being cognizant of social distancing guidelines).
In a pinch, if video creates interference, you can try an audio-only Zoom meeting. Alternatively, you may find video/audio meetings via Slack perform better than Zoom. Familiarizing yourself with these platforms and their tools can help you troubleshoot spotty internet problems faster.
In case of complete internet outages, you may be able to turn your mobile phone into a hotspot for a temporary fix. Keep in mind that this depends entirely on your provider, service, and data plan.
3. Get in the zone (not AutoZone)
Creating a distraction-free focus zone is by far the best way to be productive in a WFH situation. If you have an office or desk space that is designated ONLY for working, your brain is able to switch in and out of deep-focus mode more easily.
Brad Stulberg has some excellent insight on this concept in his book, “Peak Performance” (a highly-recommended read.)
One of the most important factors of a deep-focus workspace is that it’s conducive to work only. Try utilizing these tips to create a focused work environment:
- Separate yourself from the rest of the house by going into an office or closed-off room
- Find a playlist with music specifically aimed at helping you focus (save the AC/DC for later)
- Put your phone on silent mode and place it across the room where it can’t distract you
4. Take breaks
You may be surprised at how focused you can be when working from home. While working in an office environment creates natural breaks (coffee runs, walks to the bathroom, visiting someone at their desk, etc.), working from home can put us into hyper-focus, where we forget to simply step back.
At home, you need to remember to create your own breaks to fully disengage from work. Stulberg recommends practicing 50-90 minute blocks of deep-focus work, followed by a 7-10 minute break away from your desk/work. This increases the productivity of your work and allows you to achieve greater focus throughout the entire work day. (Seriously, read his book. It’s life-changing.) If you’re falling into hyper-focus mode, try setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
“Productive” breaks include taking a short 5-10 minute walk, reading a chapter of a book (one that does not relate to your work), playing with your pets (or kids), watering plants, or having a cup of coffee/tea (away from your desk). Stulberg also recommends using nature and music to help refresh your mind. Just be sure to keep track of time so the break stays short.
5. Stick to your routine
Don’t treat your workdays like you would a weekend. Set your alarm and wake up at the same time as you normally would. Shower, get out of your pajamas and sit down at a desk or table. It’s tempting to work from the couch in your sweatpants. Try to resist!
6. Have virtual lunch with a coworker
Working from home can be lonely sometimes. Arrange a virtual lunch over Zoom with one or a few of your coworkers to chat about work or swap creative solutions to the toilet paper shortage.
7. Manage your distractions
Working from home has its own type of distractions (especially if you have a pet), so make sure you’re recognizing those habits and actively managing them. If you have a tendency to easily lose focus at home, try setting alarms for “work time” — don’t cave to your distractions until the timer goes off! Procrasti-cleaning is real, so be strict with yourself — don’t end up doing your weekly chores instead of your work.
8. Clock out, turn off your laptop and put it away
When you work from home, you don’t always know when to “clock out.” It can be hard to shut the computer and walk away when the line between work and home is blurred. Do yourself a favor and Shut. It. Down. at a reasonable time.
9. Get out of the house
Depending on your comfort level with the current situation, try to find a space outside of your home where you can relax. Taking a quick walk around your neighborhood can be good for the mind and body.
10. Know that your feelings are normal
Working from home can bring up a lot of unexpected or unfamiliar feelings. You may feel anxious about your productivity levels, or feel disconnected from your team. You may feel overwhelmed, distracted or lazy. Whatever you’re feeling about working from home, others can probably relate. Reach out to your teammates!
11. Leave a (digital) paper trail
Being “seen” digitally is absolutely necessary for long-term remote employees. If this is your first time working from home, leave a digital breadcrumb trail to show your work throughout the day. Comments, tagging, and questions are all great methods for demonstrating your involvement on a project.
For starters, log into Slack at the beginning of your workday so your coworkers know you aren’t sleeping in ’til mid-morning.
If you want to be extra-sure your manager knows what you’ve been working on throughout an extended WFH period, use your weekly 1:1 to detail your involvement on projects/tasks.
Ask questions if you run into any WFH problems, schedule 1:1’s to stay in touch with coworkers, and get creative with emojis and Giphy in Slack to amuse your fellow remote employees.
With these tips in mind, you can be just as successful (or more!) at home as you are in the office.