Finding the ideal home working routine has always been a challenge. But now, the added pressure of extraordinary circumstances–enforced remote work, anxieties concerning finances and the future, and being confined with family–is taking its toll on our concentration.
While it might feel like your productivity has dropped off a cliff, there is relief in the knowledge that, in ordinary circumstances, remote workers get more done than office-bound employees. Last year, a survey by Airtasker found that telecommuters work 16.8 more days every year.
Some remote workers find moving around their home and mixing workstations increases their … [+]
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But we can still strive to be even more efficient, and there’s plenty to be learnt from remote working novices, who are quickly finding clever techniques to boost their productivity. Here are seven of the most interesting, from “motivational” cold showers to banishing phones.
One company founder finds taking cold showers every morning–or when she’s feeling especially unmotivated–helps kick her into gear. Dating coach Cherlyn Chong, founder of Steps to Happyness was inspired by studies that suggest regular cold showers may have an anti-depressive effect. Chong says: “I take a cold shower when I feel too unmotivated or would rather just go back to bed. It gives me a buzz unlike anything else and I am able to tackle my tasks much faster. It’s especially good if you’re immune to caffeine like I seem to be.”
Lauren Torregrossa who works in marketing for CareerPlug says keeping her earphones in while she’s working is her productivity secret. She adds: “Most of the time I don’t even have music on. I guess it’s a placebo effect: headphones in my ears trigger my brain to focus and tune out distractions.”
Other home workers find listening to sound effects apps or online videos with white noise, rainfall, birdsong, or the recorded hum of a busy cafe, just as good for focusing their attention.
Could wearing headphones, even without sound, boost your productivity at home?
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Not everyone works best from a ‘home office’. Lindsey Johnson, media analyst at VaynerMedia recommends frequently changing the area you work from in your house. She kicks off her work day in bed where she goes through her emails. Afternoons are spent working outside she can get some sunlight. She does stints sitting on her living room floor against a wall, and at a makeshift standing desk she’s assembled herself.
She explains: “I get that others may feel productive by emulating their exact office setting, but working from home allows you the chance to be outgoing and not adhere to the typical unspoken rules that exist in the office space.”
With his smartphone heralding pandemic news headlines, and friends and family in near-constant contact, Matthew Ross, co-founder The Slumber Yard, has started leaving his phone in another room for up to an hour at a time so he can focus on work. And he’s suggested his team of 12 follow suit.
He says: “With all the stress and unknowns, most people are understandably glued to their phones right now. It’s tempting to check Instagram, monitor how your stock portfolio is performing, or see whether the lockdown has been extended. It’s these types of thoughts that make you feel anxious and cause feelings of anxiety, which is obviously not ideal when you’re trying to get work done.” Once an hour, Ross spends a few minutes checking his phone, then goes back to work in another room.
With most businesses and their clients now working remotely, work from home guilt– and attempting to hide the fact you have a personal life and home distractions–need not apply.
Josh Zerkel, head of community at Asana, believes the secret to working productively from home isn’t to shut the world out. He explains: “With many of us on video calls, embrace that we’re giving coworkers a glimpse into our lives outside of work. Let them meet your family, roommates, and four-legged friends. It’s ok if they ask about the art on your wall or laugh about the dead plant they see behind you on the windowsill.
“This is an amazing opportunity for us to get to know our teammates in new and unexpected ways – as complete humans who are going through a challenging time together, and not just co-workers.”
With everyone working remotely, work from home guilt – and hiding the fact you have a personal life … [+]
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Leadership coach Alexis Haselberger sets a ‘stopping time’ each day. She explains that deciding in advance what time she’ll finish work allows her to apply the principle of Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time allotted.
She adds: “When we lack physical boundaries between work and home, it’s important to create this time boundary. Picking a stopping time ensures that a) my work doesn’t bleed into all aspects of my life and b) that I’m more productive because I’ve given myself a defined period of time to get things done.”
Paul Ronto, chief marketing officer at RunRepeat, takes this one step further, by making 5pm his “happy hour” and planning something fun to do when it’s time to stop work–like a bike ride around the neighborhood with his family–to motivate him to stop rather than working longer hours to avoid chores.
Melanie Goldsmith, CEO of Smith & Sinclair, says what we choose to do with our evenings now can be just as important to our mental health, as our productivity. She has implemented a no-technology rule after 7pm, and instead reads or plays Scrabble and backgammon. All talk about the virus is banned to give her household a mental break from the fear.
She adds: “I also get outside where I can smell the fresh air and let my body take a bit more control over my mind, and I engage in conversations with the people who will bring me the most joy. In general, we don’t know what the end result will be, but I do know that this will create a new version of normal, which will be centered on kindness and feeling good.”