With millions of people suddenly finding themselves working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about remaining effective while working remotely.
A number of years ago, I had a job that required me to work from home full-time and I had to develop habits that ensured that I stay focused and productive. My experience is that working from home can be even more productive than working from the office (less distractions, interruptions etc.) but to do so effectively requires some ground rules that will also help ensure the proper work-life balance.
Maintain regular working hours
It’s very important to set a schedule and stick to it. It’s best to have clearly defined times for when work begins and when it stops. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, so if you need to do something personal, go ahead. But then cover for that time the same day, otherwise you risk having things accumulate to an overwhelming degree.
Using a time tracking tool such as RescueTime can be very helpful in tracking your productivity. The lite version is free and can really help you manage your time the right way.
Dedicate a space for work
Working from your bed or on the dining table is not ideal to say the least. Dedicating a space for work, ideally a desk in a separate room, will put you in a different mindset and allow for fewer distractions and interruptions.
Dress the part
Now to be honest I don’t do this, but I have heard from many people that work from home that it helps puts them in the right frame of mind, and they always feel ready to jump on a video call if required.
You can’t do this enough, and now that you don’t have that physical proximity to colleagues, you can easily fall into the trap of under-communicating, risking misalignment. Something I found particularly helpful was setting regular meetings with key people that I needed to be in constant alignment with. Even when we thought there’d be nothing worth sharing, we always found the conversations useful and uncovered things during these exchanges.
And socialize with your colleagues online, we now have all the tech that we need to be in constant contact with each other use it, socializing with work colleagues beyond work topics keeps you close and keeps things fun.
Take regular breaks
Set timers for breaks and take them fully. Take your lunch break on a regular hour and stick to it; it’s very easy to forget to eat when you are focused working and have plenty to do.
Though we are meant to practice social distancing (staying six feet away from strangers), if you are able to get out of the house for a few minutes, it can be extremely helpful. Taking a short walk or a quick run can really improve the spirits and help sustain a positive frame of mind.
Do sprint work
This I learned this from my time in sales. If you have repetitive tasks to do, such as cold calls or emails, dedicate a 90-minute sprint period focused on accomplishing as many of these as possible and then take a 15-minute break. Alternate the types of tasks you do between sprints in order to mix things up and keep it fresh.
Ask for help when you need it
Even though you’re in a familiar setting, you may feel like you’re out of your comfort zone when working from home. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. The change of environment can be disorienting and can cause you to feel disconnected from the usual office resources. Remember that you and your colleagues are in this together. They are there to help.
There tips aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but they have certainly helped me in the past, and I hope they will be helpful to you now. Stay safe (and wash your hands!)
About the Author:
Fadi Albatal is a partner in Innovobot and General Manager of Innovotive. A serial technology entrepreneur, he has held key executive positions at privately-held and global public companies.