[Updated 1 June 2021]
On the surface, working from home sounds easy - after all you're just doing what you do in the office but at home, right? ? However, anyone who's had to work from home for more than a few days will tell you it can be a whole new experience! Not only do you have to adapt to a new environment and challenges, but juggling household tasks, caring for your family, and the ups and downs of everyday life can bring a huge dent in your productivity.
If you're having trouble adjusting to this new normal - we've got your back! Here are 10 useful tips for helping you stay productive while you work from home so that you can stay strong throughout this period. ?
1. Check-in with your work
Check with your supervisor or boss if their expectations might change while you're working from home. The line between being home and being 'at work' is blurred, meaning it's even easier to send an email or Whatsapp message outside of normal work hours. For others, having to take on childcare or eldercare duties may make keeping to their regular 9-to-5 more difficult. ? Here are some tips to ensure your work can go smoothly:
- Make sure to set expectations for your work and if possible, designate clearly when your 'at work' hours are.
- If your hours will be affected by childcare or eldercare, bring that up too! Ask if you can shift your work back if possible (e.g. instead of working from 9-to-5, can you work from 8-to-4?) and try to find a solution that will work best for all parties.
- Stay up to date on your assigned tasks, and manage expectations for deadlines. ? Everyone else is going through a massive upheaval too, and deadlines may suddenly become tighter or projects may need to change.
- Be frank with your supervisor and colleagues if you have to handle childcare, eldercare, or any other situations at home that may take your time and attention away from work. Others may be facing the same worries or changes, and speaking out will help your team form alternative arrangements to suit the group. ☺️
2. Settle any childcare or eldercare arrangements first
Spending more time with your loved ones is fantastic, but it can also lead to guilt or anxiety if it's taking a toll on your work! If you previously used external caregivers (e.g. babysitters, nannies, or nurses) who can no longer come to your house, you may find yourself shouldering the extra workload of taking care of your family while jugging your 'regular' work too. ? Here are some tips to help you get used to this new arrangement:
- If you live with extended family members who can help take care of your kids, set up a schedule with them so that you won't be interrupted during your most productive periods. If your family members are able to care for the family's seniors too then try to divide up tasks so that no one ends up shouldering everything.
- Talk to your significant other as well and make sure that both of you are splitting the workload equally! Communication will be very important as you'll be seeing each other 24/7 now - and seeing not just their 'home' side but their 'work' side too.
- Come up with simple routines for younger kids to keep them occupied, and prepare simple tasks to do throughout the day. Check-in with older kids' schools to know what e-lessons they need to complete, or assignments they need to finish. If your older children are able to help out with their younger siblings, let them know how much you appreciate their help - they're having a hard time too!
- Lean on your family for help! You're all in this together, so try and involve everyone in joint activities such as cooking meals, doing chores, and even picking out what movie to watch at the end of a long day. ? It will make you feel a little more isolated, and it puts into perspective that you're still surrounded by love and support during this time.
- Keep yourselves healthy by strengthening your immunity during this period. During uncertain times like these, it's a huge comfort to know that you're still in control by doing what you ca to stay healthy.
3. Get out of bed
It may be tempting to stay in your nice, cozy bed and just bring your laptop and handphone to you - but get out of bed! ? Staying too comfortable will blur the line between 'home' and 'work' for you, causing you to feel more lethargic or unproductive later in the day. It may take you a few days to settle into a new routine, but starting your day with energy will help you feel more relaxed during this massive change. Get your mind ready for the day ahead with some simple activities such as reading the Quran or reciting a du'a, doing a 5-10 minute workout to get your heart rate up, or just eating a delicious breakfast.
4. Change out of your pajamas
It's so tempting to just stay in your pajamas the whole day - especially if you don't have any video calls or teleconferences coming up. ? But just like how you should get out of bed so you don't stay too cozy, start your day by changing out of your sleep clothes into something more presentable. It doesn't have to be a full outfit (you can definitely skip putting on shoes ?), but it'll create a 'going to work' routine to help you get into the right mindset. Dressing appropriately also makes going for last-minute teleconferences or video calls more convenient! You don't want to have to rush to put on a whole new outfit a few minutes before your call starts.
5. Set up a dedicated working space
This can be any spare room in your house, a desk, or just a partitioned off area of a larger room. Try to eliminate time-wasters so you can keep all work within this area, and make sure you have a comfortable chair and any other gadgets you might need nearby to reduce distractions. Setting up boundaries like this will help maintain the line between 'home' and 'work', and if you have kids or family members, let them know to not disturb you when you're in your 'work zone'. ?
6. Dedicate time for social media breaks
Without colleagues around, you might find yourself scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube even more than usual. Distractions are unavoidable (especially when everyone's sending you the latest Covid-19 updates on Whataspp! ?) but by forcing yourself into a certain limit or timeframe you'll help manage your distractions better. See if you can set app limits on your phone so you'll get an alert after you've hit your limit for social media apps for the day - and then stick to it! There are also some computer extensions that can blacklist selected websites for a period of time - effectively making it impossible to access Facebook or Twitter for as long as you need it.
#HHWT Tip: If you're taking a break, don't do any work at all during this time! So no checking emails over lunch, or preparing a presentation while scrolling through Facebook. Keeping work and leisure separate will help you feel less reluctant to dive back into work. And when it's time to clock out for the day you'll feel even better about getting to kick back and relax. ?
7. Use productivity apps to keep on track
Time can pass by surprisingly quickly when you're working from home. In a blink of an eye, it feels like half your day's gone and you've only gotten through just 1 or 2 of your tasks! ? Keep yourself on track with a journal, to-do list, or productivity apps - whichever one works for you! There are so many productivity apps and methods out there that you can find the perfect one for you. Here are some you can try out:
- The Pomodoro method, where you work in 30-minute cycles of 25 minutes for deep focus, followed by a break for 5 minutes.
- Todoist, a life and work organization app that includes features such as recurring tasks, and task categories.
- Habitica, a gamification website where each completed task or to-do earns you points and enables you to battle fictional monsters.
- Forest, an app that forces you to stay off your phone for a certain amount of time.
P.S. If you don't want to get too fancy, your normal post-its, phone calendar, and phone alarm can be just as useful too! Just don't hit the snooze button too many times ?
8. Stay in touch with friends and family
In a normal office setting, we have colleagues and friends we can interact with throughout the day. Working from home can feel lonely and alienating when there's no water cooler talk or lunchtime chat. Check-in with your colleagues where needed, and if you have a group chat with your friends keep each other motivated throughout the day. Now's also a good time to start organizing Facetime or Skype sessions if you haven't before! ?? Texting is one thing, but not seeing other people can feel isolating too, especially if you're used to seeing your friends on a regular basis.
If your kids are home too - spend some time with them in-between periods of productivity! Getting to spend extra time with them is one unexpected blessing of this situation, and it's more important than ever to check in with your loved ones and help each other along. ? This is also a good time to catch up with your parents and siblings if you're all at home at the same time - time for family dinners and some good ol' heart to heart talks!
9. Switch on background music
When you're in an office there are usually lots of background noises going on - from colleagues taking calls to the beeps and whirrs of the printer or coffee machine - so it can be jarring to suddenly work from home where it's quieter. Switch on soft ambient background music (the classic lo-fi hip hop radio stream on Youtube might come in handy right now!) or use sites such as Coffivity which recreate the background noise of a coffeehouse or café.
10. Lastly: Be kind to yourself!
The non-stop news cycle can be anxiety-inducing, and unexpected setbacks can throw you off your schedule no matter how much you plan. If things get disrupted, don't be too hard on yourself if you stumble and need to regroup. ? Give yourself a time-out to rest for a few minutes, and reassure yourself that you're doing your best! ??
The situation may be tough right now, but we can make it through it together by supporting each other. ☺️