How to stay productive working from home

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Most countries in the world now are in the middle of a lockdown to contain the Covid-19 virus spread. As a result, many office goers have been forced to instead work from home during this crisis — at least for the short term. Work from home generally sounds wonderful for those tired of their normal routines, but after a while, they realize it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Here are some pieces of advice that I found really helpful in practice — when I left my corporate job to pursue full time freelancing aka work from home a few years ago. They’ve helped me stay productive at work while also enabling me to enjoy the benefits this lifestyle offers. So here goes.

Advice #1: Adhere to a morning routine

When we imagine working from home, the picture that usually comes to mind is someone in their pajamas, slacking on their couch and typing away on their laptop. So the first advice is NOT to be this person.

It’s too tempting for people to just get up in the morning and start working right away. One problem with that is your mind needs to shift focus and get into the “working zone”, if you’re to be fully productive. In your normal routine, you might do this while travelling or having breakfast or reading the papers. It’s similar when you’re working from home.

You need to have a morning routine and adhere to it, at least most of the time. Even though you’re not really going anywhere, still take a shower, change into some presentable attire, take coffee or whatever is the usual that used to do while travelling to the office and see how that makes a difference.

Advice # 2: Dedicate a working place at your home

One of the great benefits of working from home (or remote work, in general) is that you’re not physically bound to a place or a desk. And can theoretically work from anywhere. I say theoretically because practically it’s usually best to have a dedicated working place at your home, where you can focus and remain in the “work zone”.

When working from home, often times it becomes difficult to tell the difference between your work life/time and your family life. The lines can get blurred really easily. So it helps when you have a physical “office” at your home which your family and you can associate with work.

The more isolated this place is, the better. A separate room is best. But if due to space issues that’s not possible, at least keep a space away from the main areas like a lounge or a sitting area. That ensures you get least interruption while working — and will maximize productivity.

Now this does not mean you can’t break this rule. If you feel like it, occasionally, you can move to other places in the house or even outside the house (if possible). In fact, that can be recommended to break the monotony sometimes. But it’s best to have this place to turn to when you really want to work without interruption.

Advice # 3: Communicate clearly with family

If, like me, you’re from a South Asian family (where you live with a joint family), you’ll appreciate this advice the most.

So you’re totally in the “zone” to work and maximize your productivity but your family has a hard time understanding that you’re working and not available for every day chores around the house.

These can range from opening the door, to getting something from the shop or even just talking about every day stuff.

So the need is for you to clearly communicate with your family — be they your parents, your spouse/children or your siblings. Tell them clearly that these specific times you will be working and not available for any random stuff. Also, except for an emergency, ask them not to interrupt, or at the very least ask before putting in your request to do any chore etc. If possible, arrange alternate help who can address the small issues and/or address them yourself when you do have time for it.

In return, when you do get off from work, make sure to spend quality time with your family. This means no work (not even on your cell phone!). That way they’ll respect your work hours as well.

Last Advice — Enjoy the freedom!

Lastly, just enjoy the freedom this short lived period has given you. There is no commute time or traffic to worry about. You can get fresh, home cooked meals at lunch time. You’ll have spare time which you can use for exercise or do all of the other things you’ve only ever thought about, but never got around to doing because of your “office”.

You can also take short breaks of a different kind — do a short workout session, go for a walk, say hi to family, call a friend — things which you would find difficult to do while at work otherwise.

So how are you all coping with the work from home routine? Have some good tips to share apart from the ones above? Just post a response down below.

Thanks and “Stay Safe” and “Stay Home” 😄

Front-end Engineer. Freelancer. Blogger. Follow on twitter @zoaibdev