August 24, 2022
How to be productive when working from home
Since COVID, more people than ever are working from home. In fact, it’s probably the single most important impact the pandemic has had on the workplace. But even before the pandemic struck, the Fair Work Act gave many employees the right to request flexible working and employers were obliged to consider that request. In my experience, some employers though are still reluctant to allow flexible working fearing that it leaves employees productive. So if you’re one of them – or if you’re an employee looking to prove your productivity when working from home – here are our tips for greater productivity.
Get off email (and other forms of communication)
Email is one of the main tools that has allowed many people to work effectively away from the workplace. More recently, it’s been joined by a host of other communication apps and methods, including Slack, Zoom, Teams, Jabber and more.
The problem is that the same tools that let us do our job are often the very same ones that distract us from it.
How often do you find yourself giving up work momentarily to answer a message that’s probably not that urgent or just consistently checking it to see if anything interesting has come in?
One of the keys to productivity is simply to stop checking your messages. Instead, set aside a few times a day where you read and answer them in one batch.
And, if you’re an employer looking to increase productivity in your workforce, either stop expecting an instant response or set aside a limited time each day (say 1 pm-3 pm) where people need to be available. Otherwise, try to let them get on with their work.
Structure your day
When we’re at the workplace, we have the external cues for when we should be doing certain things. We arrive and leave at set times, usually go on our lunch break at the same time others are taking lunch, and even chat around the proverbial water cooler or take our coffee breaks at a similar time each day. While imposing the same kind of regimentation on our homelife may not seem natural, routine is actually one of the real keys to being productive, healthy and even creative.
So, if your workplace hasn’t set a schedule for when you need to get work done, set one yourself.
Give yourself a set time for when you’ll take lunch, when you’ll start and finish and when you’ll have scheduled breaks. Then stick to it. You’ll be surprised by how much more you’re likely to get done.
Make to-do lists
One real key to productivity is to write to-do lists. But these shouldn’t just be spur-of-the-moment notes that focus only on what’s at hand. They should be strategic tools for setting out your monthly, weekly and daily goals.
That said, you should be careful not to make your lists too long or too onerous: otherwise, you’re going to put yourself under too much pressure and feel like you’re failing when you can’t meet them.
While it’s true that most of us have to-do lists in the office, in many ways, they become even more important at home. After all, remote working is all about keeping up your productivity to make sure the work still gets done.
If you’re an employer or manager worried about productivity, you could even have your employees submit their weekly to-do lists to you and then check them off.
Eat the frog
‘Eating the frog’ is a productivity technique that involves choosing the most important (and often unpleasant) task on your to-do list and making it your priority when you start the day. The reasoning is that by getting the thing that needs to be achieved done first, you’ll be devoting your best brain power to it and then leaving less important tasks for when you’re not quite as switched on. You’ll also have the sense of accomplishment that comes from knocking over your big task first.
If you’re an employer, you can encourage your remote employees to become more productive by having them identify their ‘frogs’ and then devote each morning to them.
Get time management technique
Beyond this, there are so many different ways you can organise your day to become more productive. A popular one is the Pomodoro (tomato) technique, whereby you break your day into 30-minute ‘pomodoros’ that involve 25 minutes of work and a five-minute break. You then take a longer break after four pomodoros – or after every two hours.
Another popular time management technique – and the favourite of Benjamin Franklin – is ‘time blocking’. Slightly less onerous than the Pomodoro technique, it involves breaking your day into blocks and then assigning work you’ll complete within them. By providing yourself with your deadlines this way, you should help overcome procrastination and get more done. (Although you will need a certain degree of flexibility, as even Franklin himself admitted.)
There are so many potential ways to organise your day for productivity, and we even found this quiz that can help you find which one’s right for you. And, if you’re an employer worried about your employees’ time management when working from home, why not train them in time management first?
If you’d like to know more about setting up your workplace for productive remote working, get in touch.