Working from home or working remotely isn’t a new concept. There are various career fields that have been doing it for years. However, in most companies – employees are used to using this system as and when they need it, not continuously.
On 31st December 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) China Office, was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Today, almost 3 months on, those ‘unknown cases’ are what we now know as COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Due to the worldwide outbreak of this virus and for the sake of public safety, many companies have adopted smart working and ‘work from home’ policies to ensure the healthy and safety of their employees around the world.
Companies such as Twitter, Google, Amazon and LinkedIn have asked all, or a portion of their staff to work remotely with no idea as to when they’ll be able to go back to their offices. Many people who may have thought working remotely is easy may now be finding out that they were wrong and it’s really not as easy as they would have thought. Distractions are everywhere, the construction next door, your significant other or your kids and of course, the one we all can’t resist – on demand video!
Most of us have been conditioned to work from an office and learn to focus in certain ways to be as productive as possible. Meetings force us to adhere to certain schedules, office hours dictate our start and end time and a manager’s watchful eye keeps our internet surfing to a minimum.
Once on your own, you may find yourself floundering a bit to stay productive. So we’ve looked into the best tips to make working remotely from home successful and productive.
Set a Schedule
The first of our tips for working remotely is about setting up your daily schedule. It’s really important to make sure that you have set working hours, to know when to start your day and when to end it. This includes waking up and getting ready as you would if you were stepping into an office. Even though you are working from home, it is super important to get yourself in the mindset that you are going to work. Make sure you dress as if you were going to work, and yes, that includes putting on shoes. You will be amazed at how such a small thing can make a significant impact.
Additionally, it’s important to schedule necessary work breaks and lunch times throughout your working day to keep your focus in check. By doing this, you’ll implement sustainable habits that enable you to stay productive and focused on finishing certain tasks by certain times throughout the day, as you would do if you were in the office.
BlockSite’s Schedule feature can also help with this. BlockSite’s Schedule feature enables you to easily schedule by hour and day what sites you want to block in order to be more productive.
For example, some of the challenges of working remotely may be that the watchful eye of your manager is missing and therefore you can browse the web and surf sites that don’t benefit the work you need to complete.
In this case it would be better to block these types of sites, whether it be social media or ecommerce sites. All you need to do is add the specific sites to your block list, choose the days you wish to have the sites blocked (for example, Monday to Friday) and then the times (while you’re at work from 9-5) and let BlockSite do the rest!
By enabling this feature and using it while you’re working from home, you’ll become more productive in much less time than usual, increase your efficiency and will find yourself thinking ‘how did I manage to get all that done in one day?!’ – we promise you, the results will speak for themselves.
Create a Workspace
Some of the benefits of working remotely are that you are able to choose your own workspace, however, during the current situation, this will still need to be in your own home. We recommend trying to find a dedicated and comfortable spot to work that you can associate with your job and leave when you’re finished for the day.
If you are able to, the best spot would be a completely different room to any you use during ‘personal’ hours. Think of setting up a home office where you can close the door and shut out all distractions, then once you’re done for the day you can leave that room and use your house as you wish.
Additionally, make sure you have everything you need in place before you even begin working remotely. This includes a strong internet connection, relevant systems you need and the ability to take calls and video conferences to stay in touch with colleagues throughout this time. This may even mean taking the necessary equipment you need such as a mouse, keyboard and screens from your office to make working remotely more comfortable and efficient.
Since this is a new experience for everyone, there are plenty of challenges of working remotely, and staying connected could easily be one of them. To avoid a sense of isolation, it’s important that you and your team communicate regularly. Using chat apps like Slack, Zoom and other video conferencing services will enable you and your teammates to ‘screen share’ throughout remote meetings and stay on the ‘same page.’
This is further reinforced as productivity tools like Slack and Zoom have already seen a significant increase in usage, as also evidenced by an uptick in stock prices (ZM +85% in 2020 and +45% in February). It reinforces the fact that these remote-friendly software tools are a critical part of the remote worker’s day-to-day, especially when it comes to getting work done and feeling less isolated. Google Drive also enables teams to work well remotely. You can share docs and sheets to get work done in real time and join a ‘hangout’ to speak to your colleagues as you go.
Furthermore, better communication while remote can help maintain your relationship with your colleagues, managers, and direct reports. It’s also important for managers to encourage employees to share their opinions or concerns about a particular project so they don’t feel like they’re being dismissed just because they’re not in the same room.
While working from home, you have to take responsibility for yourself. Nobody is going to stop you and you may be amazed by how you can go from getting distracted by everything at home to having zero reason to stop working on or thinking about all your deadlines and priorities. Schedule breaks to get up and get some air. Schedule time to go grab lunch. Most importantly, schedule a stop time. This means you clock out and trust that whatever is waiting for you will wait.
Another way to help yourself with this is by implementing BlockSite’s Work Mode feature throughout your day. Work Mode allows you to work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break when using the extension and on mobile, you can change the times to whatever suits you best. Maybe you would like to work for an hour and take a 10-minute break? You can adjust the work and break times on BlockSite so it’s entirely up to you but it’s great for anyone who struggles to keep focused for long periods of time or those who need to remember to take a break in between tasks.
BlockSite’s Work Mode is based on the Pomodoro method and helps keep you on task and focused. You won’t be wasting endless hours browsing the web, instead, you’ll be able to stay focused and have the occasional break to take a breather and recharge.
While working from home, you’ll need to prioritize tasks and manage expectations between your boss and colleagues and yourself. Whether this be through planning out the most essential tasks you need to get done daily or speaking with your boss to prioritize this, make sure you stay in touch and know what needs to get done and when.
It may even be worth having a daily check in whenever possible. This should be one-on-one, and face-to-face via video.It’s best that your team see you, and you see them. This will enable you to set the agenda of your priorities and receive the feedback and resources you need.
By managing expectations, you set yourself and your team up for success by clearly stating both the tasks and the reasons behind them, and help others you work with, understand exactly how you will measure success. So make sure you define the scope, deadlines, and deliverables for each task or project your team is working on and focus on outcomes.
It is very common to try and reduce the amount of meetings we have every day while we are at the office. When working from home it is important to stay in sync with everyone. Make sure you book a daily sync meeting and all your colleagues attend.
Video meetings are not easy, but there are many tools you can use to make it more enjoyable. It will also help you get dressed and ready to work (which takes care of a point we made earlier). If you use Zoom, you can use their cool function that changes the background of where you are, so while talking to your colleagues you could have a background of a sunset or the beach.
Right about now you are probably saying that you will sometimes need a whiteboard and that isn’t possible remotely. Well, it is 🙂 Miro, for example, have developed a whiteboard for remote teams. They make it possible to collaborate easily even when working remotely and make your ideas easier to understand.
Only you know your schedule and your abilities to implement some of the above tips to your life. However, If you take care of a child or have a schedule that fluctuates often, you know that keeping a routine can be near impossible, which is why we recommend planning ahead and setting out both short and long-term goals. This will also make it easier to balance change and enable your coworkers to understand your availability.
Setting out a plan and even using a productivity tool to help you with this, will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and how to best structure a week or a month in advance.
Make sure you keep your calendar up to date and plan tasks in terms of their urgency or the amount of time they will take you to complete.
There is no doubt that you will acquire new skills when working from home and if you can stay focused and develop positive habits, you can successfully adapt. It’s all about balance.
Overall, the working remotely pros and cons are forever changing, however in uncertain times and in situations that require all of us to adapt, we hope that people come out of this pandemic even stronger, more focused and hardworking than before. Everyone should take this as an opportunity to learn how to enable global workforces, regardless of location or work environment to still be productive. When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.