For Women, By Women
10 top tips for working productively from home
Almost overnight the way many of us work has had to change. To help flatten the curve of the Corona virus, the routine and structure of daily life has been turned upside down. And for most women, working from home has become a reality, as have the challenges that come with it. The early school holidays compounded by disruptions in childcare is exceptionally challenging for moms. We’ve got you covered with these 10 top tips for working productively at home.
1. Ensure you have all the tech you need
Working collaboratively is critically important in many businesses. This requires the use of technology to facilitate engagement and the sharing of important information. So, make sure that the system used in your business can be run seamlessly from home to ensure there is limited disruption in communication or accessing of important documents and reports. Test these systems both at the office and at home to ensure that everything is working as it should. Make sure everyone understands and agrees upon the methods of working and the systems used.
2. Create a dedicated workspace
If you already have a home office or study, it’s easy enough to shut the door, set up and get started. If you don’t, avoid the temptation of that living room couch. See if you can set up a make-shift office space in a room of the house, with a table and chair where you can sit comfortably, without distractions or temptations like the TV or Netflix.
3. Follow your usual schedule, where possible
If you usually arrive at work at 8:00, grab a coffee at 8:30, break for lunch at 1:00, and have a few other smaller breaks throughout the day, then keep doing that. Wake up at your usual time, get dressed as you usually would for the office and make sure you’re in front of your desk and online by 8:00. It may be tempting to stay in bed and just pop open your laptop, still in your PJs. But that’s not the structure or environment conducive to a productive day’s work, so try and replicate your usual schedule as much as possible at home. If you have children at home, flexibility will be required, and your structure will need to change within reason.
4. Communicate with your partner and children
The current situation probably means that both parents are working at home. In that case, determine a schedule around the expectations of each of your jobs, the daily running of the household and responsibilities of children. If you have a conference call or are working on tight deadline, ask your partner, if they can keep the kids fully occupied during that time. Just as importantly, communicate with your children. Explain the situations where you can’t have any interruptions. For example, what should they do when your phone rings? Perhaps there’s a secret signal you can use. Do some fun ‘drills’ with them so they get the idea.
5. Schedule quality time with your kids
If you set aside dedicated time to spend with your kids, giving them your full focus and attention, they may be less likely to hassle you when you need to work. So, for example, set aside a dedicated time in the time exclusively for them, close your laptop, put your phone away and enjoy some time catching up with them. Communicate your daily schedules with your boss and colleagues through a shared calendar, so that everyone knows when you are and aren’t available.
Flexibility and adaptability are, of course, critical as meetings and deadlines will need to be managed and negotiated accordingly.
6. Get creative, use what you have and ditch the guilt
With many of us stocking up at the shops, why not put all those egg cartons to good use? If you spend a few minutes with the kids coming up with a creative activity, with a purpose, it will give you the crucial time you need to have an uninterrupted conference call or finish that urgent presentation. For example, ask them to make you a long centipede out of all those egg cartons and have it ready and painted for you by the time you’re done. You can even use an egg timer, so they know how much time they have. Of course, crafts don’t always do the trick and Netflix is a saviour for many parents – so don’t feel guilty for a second if a movie or series and a bowl of popcorn is what’s going to keep them occupied.
7. Keep up connections
Working away from the office actually frees up a lot time – less time commuting to work, less time spent in meetings and less water cooler chats. But there’s a flip side to this too as a lack of social connection may also leave you feeling unmotivated and isolated - especially if you’re a person who thrives in a busy and interactive environment. The good news is that with so many apps and programmes at our disposal, it’s easy to hop onto a video call and touch base with your co-workers at a moment’s notice.
8. Use your time wisely
With more time on your hands comes the need for more discipline in how you plan and spend your day. For many of us, there is a time of day when our energy tends to drop. So why not use that time to get a few chores done and give your mind a break? As long as it doesn’t interfere with critical work delivery or meetings, it’s a good way to make use of time you’d otherwise spend scrolling social media or battling to focus on a task. Another great use of time is reading and learning. If there’s an interesting talk you’ve been meaning to watch or a short course you want to do, use the extra time you have for this kind of enriching activity. And what about personal admin you’ve been putting off? Like checking your insurance is up to date? When was the last time you did a home inventory to ensure you’re correctly covered? It’s not always easy to do these things in a busy office when you’re constantly distracted by meetings or interrupted with questions or phone calls.
9. Get in those steps
For those who work in large offices, there’s usually a fair amount of walking in your day. From the brisk walk from your car to your desk to rushing between meetings, even walking a good distance to the kitchen or toilet. At home, none of this applies. This lack of exercise combined with being cooped up with our families, can work on our nerves. Since many gyms have shut down, why not do some fun at home exercise with the whole family? Stream a yoga or aerobics class in the living or even do jumping jacks on the spot . That way, you can all get out some of that pent-up frustration and energy and spend quality time together too.
10. Eat mindfully, drink plenty of water
Keeping ourselves and our families healthy is priority, especially now. So, make sure what’s in your fridge and cupboards is nutrient-rich, filling and enjoyable. If you have lots of sugary snacks at your disposal, you’re likely to grab them, especially when you’re frustrated or bored. A good alternative is to use that time to Google healthy family meals and snacks and make them. Get the kids to help too. It’s another way you can spend quality and purposeful time together. If part of your workday includes a water bottle on your desk, keep that great habit up at home. Add some lemon, mint or strawberries to the water for a little extra flavour.
Whether you thrive on working from home or dread the very idea, our current reality requires a change in many of our daily norms. As women, we are incredibly resilient and by taking just a few practical measures we’ll not only survive our new normal but thrive within it.