Telecommuting or working from home used to be regarded as a novel idea reserved for trendy start-ups and giant tech companies like Google and Facebook until the COVID-19 forced many businesses to adopt this working arrangement as the new normal. Said to improve morale and productivity, working from home comes with a slew of benefits for both employees and employers - making this the new norm for work.
Nevertheless, working from home has its own set of challenges. There are the household chores, caring of your children, and other disturbances that you will need to deal with. Knowing how to work from home effectively is essential. Here are some ways to avoid distractions and stay productive while working from home.
Set Up a Comfortable and Functional Workspace
Having a dedicated space outfitted for work does make a difference. Some people may think that a makeshift table is good enough as their work desk but not after putting in 8 working hours! An adjustable computer desk, an ergonomic chair and a comfortable workspace can go a long way. So, spare no effort in setting up a functional workspace so you can work well in the long run.
Designated Office Space
For starters, allocate an extra room or space that is away from noise and distraction like your television, bed or even gaming console for you to set up your workspace. Also, clear the space if there is any other furnishing or equipment that you do not require for work.
A good designated office space should give you the right attitude for working at home. If you have a lot of conference calls, find a quiet area in the house with a clean or clear wall, or if you are one who appreciates sunshine and natural lighting, have your desk placed near a window so you can look out and take in the changing views.
A Great Desk
When building your workspace, start with your work desk. Since you are likely to put most of your items from laptops to desk lamps and files, it is important to invest in a sturdy work desk that is not too big nor too small for your workspace. It's an added bonus if your work desk comes with drawers so you can put in your files and other working materials. If you are one who likes to alternate between sitting and standing while working, invest in an adjustable desk. Once you already have your office desk, make it a habit to keep it clean and organised. Having a messy desk may decrease your motivation to work.
Invest in Ergonomic Accessories
Invest in ergonomic accessories to reduce the risk of wrist strain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It can also keep you focused on your work longer and maintain your general comfort. Ergonomic accessories that you can invest in include:
- Laptop stand
- Extra monitor
- Ergonomic wireless mouse
- Wireless keyboard
A Comfortable and Ergonomic Chair
One of the equipment that home-based employees find it hard to decide on is their work chair. Since you are sitting all day in this workspace, your chair needs to support your lower back and promote good posture, or you risk getting back aches or worse a sore neck. You might want to consider investing in a quality ergonomic chair. Although it can be expensive, this type of chair ensures your comfort and can improve your productivity at work!
If budget is an issue, you can try to find cheaper alternatives to optimise your sitting posture. For example, you can invest in a back cushion, which is much more affordable than an ergonomic chair.
Soft light desk lamp
Another equipment that can boost your motivation to work from home is your desk light. You might think that any light is fine as long as you can see your keyboard and notes. But studies have shown that proper lighting can have positive effects on our physical and mental health.
If you plan to work during the day, keep your blinds open so the natural light can come in. If you decide to work at night, you might want to consider investing in a soft light desk lamp. Working in a dimly lit room where the monitor or your laptop screen is your main source of light can cause eye strains. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and blurred vision.
Good pair of Headphones
With conference calls and virtual meetings conducted over the laptops, investing in a good pair of headphones or earpiece can do wonders. Look for a pair of headphones that can also help in blocking out the noise you hear outside of your workspace. As we all have different shaped ears, it is important to find the right headphones that fits your ears to prevent discomfort from wearing them for long hours.
How to Work from Home Effectively?
Working from home offers flexibility and greater control of your time. However, with all the distractions and noises, how does one stay productive, especially when there isn't the support of an office environment or a strict time schedule to stick by? Here are some ways to help you stay on track while you work from home.
Keep a consistent schedule
By keeping a consistent schedule, you'll discover your high productivity periods. Analyse carefully what part of the day does your brain function better. Once you figure out your high productivity period, rearrange your tasks and schedule the more difficult ones during that timing while you handle the easier tasks outside of that period.
For example, if you find that you are least productive in the afternoons, schedule meetings or calls during this time as conversations will help to stimulate your productivity and even prevent any food coma!
Stay connected with your colleagues
Checking in with your managers and colleagues from time to time is important, especially when you are working from home. As small issues can happen, constant communication with your co-workers can help deal with the problem immediately. Doing so can also help you work uninterruptedly.
It's easy to avoid distractions while not totally "disappearing". A way to stay connected with your colleagues and clients is to use communicating tools such as WhatsApp™ and Slack™. These tools provide a more direct means of communication to your co-workers. Also, you can set your status to "busy" if you don't want anyone to disturb you. If you are the type of home-based employee who prefers to shut-off their mobile phones while they work, you can check your phones periodically and inform your colleagues of your preferences. As much as it helps to keep you focused at work, your co-workers might find it hard to contact you.
Staying connected with your colleagues is important to your well being. It won't hurt to have short conversations with them, to relax and destress yourself from work. Having a virtual lunch with your colleagues periodically do help to improve your productivity as well as your mental and emotional well being.
Reliable Internet Connection
With most of us either working or studying from home, a reliable internet connection is critical to support the family needs. Video calls and online gaming use up a lot of bandwidth and it can slow down your connection and download speeds. Consider moving the Wi-Fi router near your workspace or connecting your laptop or PC to an Ethernet cable. This way, you'll have a faster internet connection. If you plan to work from home, it's important to have a fast and stable internet connection since your work relies on it. You can also inform your family to refrain from downloading videos or watching movies online during your work hours.
Distractions are everywhere. The best thing you can do is avoid them at all cost. If you have a dog that constantly barks or you have toddlers and young children who love to run around and play, investing in noise-cancelling headphones isn't a bad idea. If you decide to set up your workspace in your room, you should consider transferring your gaming console to the living room or in another room. This way, you won't be tempted to take breaks just to play your video games.
Dress for work
Yes, wearing your pyjamas while you are working from home is fine, but doing so can lessen your energy to work. Dressing for work as if you're in your office can set the right mental tone. Also, there might come a time that you need to attend a virtual meeting on the spot, and you're not dressed for it. These meetings can happen unexpectedly, so it's best if you wear proper work clothes or at least semi-casuals.
Have a "no-go" zone
There are temptations lurking around even as you get yourself a cup of coffee or tea in the kitchen, your sofa seems to be calling out to you. As tempting as it can be to sit on it and take a short nap, you should avoid it. Refrain from resting on your bed or sofas other than your work chair. This way you'll know when you're in "work-mode".
Don't go to non-work appointments during your work hours
Whether you are a freelance, part-time, or full-time home-based worker, you will need to be responsible with your time and schedules. Keep work to work. Avoid going to non-work appointments even if it is a quick visit to the dentist or dermatologist. Schedule these appointments, just like how you would schedule them when you are working in the office.
Have regular short breaks to help you stay energised and focused
Remember to take short breaks when working. This will help keep you energised. A way to do this is to set the alarm. You will be reminded to take a break and while you're at it, set a timer so you won't get caught up with the activity. If you decide to take a power nap, set an alarm so you can wake up shortly and jump right back to your work.
Besides the usual coffee or tea breaks, you can also boost your energy during the day with a 15-minute walk or engage in a short chat with your spouse or your children.
It can be frustrating for some if they stay at home for too long. One thing that can help them appreciate working from home is to decorate their workspace. Try adding plants or action figures of your favourite characters on your desk to make your workspace more appealing.
Ensure that your workspace is far from noise and distractions. Since working from home saves you time, choose to use the extra hours to bond with your family.
Investing in equipment such as a desk, an ergonomic chair and desk lamp can make working from home a much happier affair. In fact, with equipment that fits your liking, you'll be more motivated to work!
While working at home means you'll be sitting all day at your home office, it's advisable to take periodic time off to work out your joints. There are many online exercise classes which you can subscribe to for free, and add them to your fitness routine. Maintaining a healthy mind and a fit body are key to staying resilient. And as the world continues to fight COVID-19, learning to be a pro working from home, can keep you safe and well during these uncertain times!
It may seem tough now, but we will get through this together! #MSIGTogetherWithYou