~3 minFebruary 26, 2022
Since remote working was imposed on millions of employees globally, there has been an explosion in the amount of research conducted on the productivity of those who would normally work from the office but had no choice but work from home. Make no mistake, what many of us view as a privilege, was actually viewed as a curse by a significant amount of the working population. For those who were previously uninitiated to remote working, the adjustment was not always easy and it, in turn, led to some problems. Many employees felt trapped (the word ‘imprisoned’ came up in many a conversation I was privy to) in their apartments, while others missed the social interaction they engaged in with their colleagues, the so-called "water cooler talk".
The impact on the mental health of many professionals cannot be understated, nor should it be. However, another negative by-product of the sudden shift for many new remote workers, albeit not as insidious as claustrophobia and/or loneliness, was the impact on their productivity. In this current post-lockdown era where many offices have reopened their doors, some are still opting to have their employees work remotely, while other are now adopting a hybrid model. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that remote working is here to stay, as evidenced by the vast amount of information (be it news articles, reports, academic studies, blog posts) on how to manage your productivity better if you are among those that struggle. This post is going to add to that litany of information as I run through what I believe are the most useful and beneficial ways to manage your productivity when working from home.
Establish a routine
The most important thing to do when trying to acclimatize yourself to working from home is to establish and maintain a routine. Depending on your constitution (i.e., night-owl/early bird) or what’s required of you, set an alarm to wake you up or to alert you to get prepared to start working. If you had a morning ritual before you went to work, maintain it. Whatever it takes to trigger the brain to get set for work, do it.
Find a dedicated workspace/office
If you are fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom or a study/office in your home, then it’s a no-brainer. However, if you live in a big metropolitan city, space is a luxury many do not have. Finding a space in your home that you can dedicate to your work is crucial. Knowing exactly where you will be working from everyday saves you the time of trying to figure it out.
Once you’ve assigned yourself a workspace, it’s very important that you minimize distractions as much as possible. The space you select must be chosen with that in mind in the first place. External distractions, the biggest culprit of which is our smartphones (personal calls and text messages, social media, games), must be nullified. In the case of your phone, that means putting it on silent if you don’t receive work communication on it or muting/blocking social apps while you work.
Set clear goals/targets
Working from home means very little to no supervision from your workplace superiors. If you thrive under that kind of environment, then great! But if you’re like many employees who were accustomed to having every single task designated and delegated, then figuring out what to tackle first, what to prioritize, and what to leave till last might prove a bit of a job in itself. However, setting some time aside at the beginning of each day or week to identify and set your objectives and targets can streamline your workload and save you a lot of stress and, very importantly, time.
Implement a time management method
Time management methods, the most famous of which is the Pomodoro technique, are essentially "hacks" that help you track and manage the amount of time you work, and when to take breaks. There are many variations of the Pomodoro technique, but typically - in a remote working context - it involves setting a timer to work for 2 or 3 hours, and then taking a 20- or 30-minute break. The original method suggested working without stopping for 25 minutes, and then taking a 5-minute break, then repeating the cycle 2 or 3 times, before taking an extended break. However, I recommend trying a few time periods, or researching the plethora of other time management methods until you find what works best for you.
Use your breaks to refresh
Once you settle on a time management method that works for you, it is essential to make sure that your breaks are used wisely in order to refresh you mind and resharpen your focus. Spending time on Instagram or Tik Tok is probably not the best way to do that, though. So you might want to think about getting some fresh air or just resting your eyes/meditating for a few minutes.