We live in strange times indeed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the foreseeable future for many of us is to continue to work from home. There are several benefits in such an arrangement, such as not needing to squeeze into public transport during the horrendous rush hours. Nevertheless, quite a few of us are still finding ways to adjust to this “new normal”. especially for those who have been commuting to work for the past years.
In Singapore, a short survey showed that nearly one in 2 workers found themselves being less productive when working from home, with younger employees (40%) adapting slightly better than older employees in the age range of 40 to 53 (49%).
There are numerous factors that can affect our productivity when working from home. Some of these factors are external and can’t really be controlled. For instance, your kids at home could be distracting you during your work hours, you have a really noisy neighbour, or your soundproofing at home just isn’t great and that affects your concentration.
Keeping all these in mind, here’s what we can do to improve productivity while working in our homes.
1 – Keeping a consistent schedule
Pre COVID-19, for many of us, commuting to work helped get us into a daily routine. We had to wake up early, groom ourselves, dress accordingly and leave for work at the same approximate time everyday. As creatures of habit, this helps ingrain in us the daily “work timings”. When we get into the office, it is easier to get into the “work mode” and concentrate.
When working from home, it becomes harder to establish such a habit. We no longer have to commute by a certain time. For those whose deliverables tend to be more creative or milestone driven, then the increased flexibility reduces the chances of settling into a routine.
We can help ourselves work better by establishing our own habits. We could make it a point to consistently groom ourselves or maybe change into different attire when getting to work at home everyday. While these things might seem meaningless on the surface, these subconscious cues and changes in the environment can help us get into a “work mode”.
2 – Keeping separate devices for work and play
In this day and age, many of us own several devices. While some of us might be fortunate enough to be assigned work computers from their employers, not all of us have that luxury and might do their work on their personal computers.
When possible, do keep separate devices for your personal and work life. Having a separate desktop environment that does not have your personal leisure programs will help you focus more while working, instead of getting tempted to browse your favourite e-commerce site, open up your game or load up your media.
If you do not own multiple devices, one simple way to compartmentalise your different environments is to just keep separate accounts in the same computer. 1 for work, and 1 for your personal use. Just keeping separate accounts with different browsing history and programs will help reduce the distractions you face during work hours..
3 – Remember to keep time off work
As we work from our home, our personal and work lives and timings tend to blend together. When this starts to happen, it becomes tempting to carry on working past your office hours as we are eager to complete that task or project.
So while it might be tempting to put in long hours to finish that piece of work, sometimes it’s good to give yourself some personal space. Studies from psychologists have found that having small breaks increase productivity and creativity. Sometimes, putting in longer hours to finish a task does not necessarily mean that you will complete it more quickly.
So if your working hours are over, but you still feel like you have to finish that task, give yourself some time off. You could either go grab dinner, or try to engage yourself in some other activity. Sometimes, when we engage in different activities and come back to solving our original problem, we find that we have a refreshed perspective. This could not only help us finish that project more efficiently, but also result in an improved quality of work.
4 – Finding a private space
While the above tips are things that are within our locus of control, sometimes there are external factors that we simply can’t do anything about. Your working environment at home might get too noisy due family members or neighbours, day flights or from external noise.
If possible, speak to the responsible party and try to get a common understanding. However, do not let frustration get in the way of having a harmonious relationship with any family member or housemates. Any suppressed anger and unhappiness would only result in a less enjoyable and productive work from home experience.
In such cases, there are still many options for working other than your home. You could consider working in cafes or restaurants if you just need a table and your computer to get things done. If you intend to work for long hours outside your home, you can always find a co-working space or the library.
Sometimes, you might just need a space for zoom calls or meetings, and public spaces such as co-working spaces or cafes might not cut it. In that case, you can consider renting a private venue or space to conduct your zoom meetings. There are platforms like GetSpaces, which allows you to book a meeting room on an hourly basis, just near your house.
5 – Learning and improving
And finally, the answer to increased productivity sometimes just comes from within ourselves. When we no longer have to do a daily commute, we gain a lot of that could be put in trying out new things.
We could use this time wisely to learn new skills, crafts or just engage in hobbies that give us a sense of pleasure and fulfillment. Being able to find meaning beyond just our careers will definitely result in a happier and more patient you. That can only result in increased productivity in everything we do.