For someone who has spent 3 years living in Dubai while working in Abu Dhabi in a management consulting industry that required a lot of traveling, working from home is not a foreign concept. I the past few years I have found myself taking sales calls at 5 am from my living room, finalizing proposals in the hotel rooms, and managing a team based in Indonesia.
So, what have I learned on this journey? Firstly, and most importantly, working from home can be very challenging if you don’t have a structure in place that will keep you motivated and engaged. It is very easy to get comfortable sleeping in during your workdays and binge-watching all those shows you have missed on Netflix. As you can already guess, this lifestyle will soon get you out of your usual work routine, while undoubtedly damaging your productivity and efficiency.
Moreover, let’s not forget about the people living with family members or in shared accommodations that don’t have the luxury of having a separate study or even a spare bedroom where they can isolate to focus on their work. In the light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world were obliged to self-isolate in their apartments with their spouses, children, parents, flatmates, and pets. This means that in the upcoming days it will be tough for a lot of people to learn how to navigate online school education, playtime with children, regular house chores with their daily work assignments in the confinement of their home.
However, on the bright side, this unique situation does not have to be necessarily so grim. From my experience, working from home from time to time has had some amazing benefits. I realized that without the everyday commute, small talk in the office, unnecessary meetings, colleagues coming up with questions or suggestions, I was able to concentrate more on my projects while being more creative and innovative. You may have seen by now the viral post about how famous artists innovated during quarantines, like when Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” while theaters were shuttered for plague or when Isaac Newton created calculus while social distancing.
What is the easiest way to make the best out of this situation and keep being productive during your quarantine period? Here are several suggestions from my experience on how to be more productive while working from home:
1. Get up early
That extra hour in the morning sounds too good to ignore and some of you might be night owls like me, but starting my work early in the morning has always proved to be a more reliable option. Especially during this quarantine period, you will not have a real excuse to sleep in as you won’t have a chance to go out clubbing or bar hopping in the evening.
2. Get ready as if you are going to the office
Spending a day in my PJs has a strange psychological effect on me, making me feel sleepy and lazy. Therefore, when I want to work from home, even if I don’ have a video conference call, I always opt-out for my comfortable casual work outfits which will prevent me from going back to bed or nestling on the couch in front of the TV.
3. Use technology to collaborate efficiently
Working at home can mean that your work schedule might be overlapping with other family members’ activities and schedules. This is the right time, to put all those devices you are addicted to, into good use. Use your laptop, desktop computer, connect it to a large monitor if possible, and keep that smartphone at hand. Being connected during office hours at this time is more important than ever.
In my experience, going to meetings while working at home was always the best way to break the rut and get more engaged. However, due to the situation today we will have to rely on video conferencing tools and messaging apps to have our brainstorming session, workshops, and catch-up meetings.
Here is a list of just a few solutions that you can use to make your collaboration easier:
1. Zoom – this is our choice for video conferencing with colleagues and clients. However, there are hundreds of other solutions in the market including Skype, Go-To-Meeting, Google Hangouts, and many more.
2. WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Slack – my favorites when it comes to messaging applications.
3. Google Suites, Microsoft Teams – tools that will help you collaboratively edit sheets, documents, and presentations.
4. Manage your time and tasks
With all the distractions around you, you can easily lose track of your tasks, deadlines, and projects. Therefore, we should all find project management and ideation software that will help us send our deliverables on time. Again, I have prepared my list of applications, but I would still recommend that you explore the abundance of solutions available in the market to find the one that fits your requirements.
1. Asana, Wrike, Click-up – project management tools that will help you track all projects in a form of boards, Gantt charts or simple lists.
2. CRM – make sure you track and update your CRM even more vigilantly during this period.
5. Plan your meals
One of the benefits of working from home is that you will have easy access to your fridge with healthy home-cooked meals. However, this can also be a trap when you get the idea to prepare Beef Wellington and Soufflé during your work hours. Therefore, make sure you plan your meals ahead and don’t spend your most productive hours preparing complicated meals in the kitchen. Stock up your fridge with fresh fruit, cut up veggies, snacks, and proteins such as chicken breasts, fish or whatever you prefer.
6. Plan for your distractions
What are your distractions at home? Most of you will have your children at home, which means it will get noisy at some point. Invest in those noise-canceling headphones which will also be useful when you get back to the office. Include your family in your schedule and let them know that you will all have a family lunch which could be used as a playtime. Install social media blocking applications on your devices during your office hours and hide the TV remote while you work.
Working from home offers the freedom to create your work environment and can be an opportunity to adopt healthier habits while remaining productive. Technology has evolved tremendously over time and we have numerous solutions today that help us collaborate and manage projects remotely. Look at this as an opportunity to prove that we be productive working from home, which could make it easier to incorporate it as an industry standard when things get back to normal. Just imagine if it would possible to get a day working from every week.