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work from home

With the COVID pandemic, many of us have had to adjust to working from home (WFH), but unfortunately, not everyone has fallen into a groove. Some people still feel out of sorts or less productive at home than in the workplace. With the pandemic still lingering AND many companies thinking about making WFH a permanent state, it’s a good idea to think about amping up your productivity.

Here are 6 practical Work From Home tips to help you get on track:

1. Find Your Morning Groove

When working from an office, you naturally fall into a morning routine. You get dressed, perhaps make a cup of coffee, and commute to work by car/bike/public transit. With WFH, that comfortable routine gets obliterated. You might wake up later or stay in your pajamas or eat breakfast at odd hours.

This week, commit to following a strict routine. Get up at the same time, eat your meals on a consistent schedule, exercise at a set time during the day. Following a routine can help get your brain in “work mode” right away.

Another helpful tip: Do NOT check your email right away. Instead, tackle the one project that demands the most concentration. Work on it for an hour or 90 minutes, THEN check your email. You’ll find that you’re able to accomplish more during the day when you practice this healthy habit.

2. Get Dressed

Okay, sure. Maybe you DO get dressed in the morning when you work from home, but you probably don’t dress like you do when you go into the office. If you find that you’re feeling less attentive and less productive at home, try dressing in office attire this week. Notice how it makes you feel. Are you more productive? Do you feel more professional?

Dressing for the office can put you in a work mindset and make you feel more in control of your day.

3. Cut Distractions

If you find that you tend to check social media or hop onto YouTube during the day, try installing a browser extension to temporarily block those websites. Search for “block social media,” and you should find many different blocking programs.

If you’re distracted by your surroundings instead (dirty dishes, for instance, or laundry), try keeping yourself on a strict time schedule. For instance: From 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 you can only do work, but between 1:00 and 1:30, you’re allowed to take a short break to tackle a household chore or two.

4. Set Timers

If you’re having trouble concentrating during the day, trying focusing on a single project for a set amount of time. Pick a project, close your email, and set your timer for an hour or 90 minutes. ONLY work on that project. Do NOT multi-task! You might be amazed by how much you can get done when you’re singular in focus.

5. Take Charge of Emails

If you tend to get derailed by emails throughout the day and feel like you’re always trying to stamp out little fires (Urgent request! I need your help with XYZ! Please respond, ASAP!), practice setting healthy email boundaries. Try only checking your email three times per day–once in the morning, once midday, and once toward the end of the day–or even twice per day, if you can get away with it.

Taking charge of your emails can help free up your schedule so you can pay attention to the crucial projects that you have on your plate.

6. Set Your Own Schedule

If you’re feeling disjointed and fed up with all the video meetings, emails, and phone calls that seem to command your day, resolve to take charge of your schedule. If you keep a public e-calendar, be sure to set aside blocks that are strictly YOUR time–time for you to focus on the projects you need to complete.

(For more tips on setting healthy boundaries, take a look at my recent blog post.)

Part of controlling your own schedule means saying NO to certain requests. If you already have too much going on in a given day, don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand and turn down a request to meet. You can always suggest meeting on a different date.

Developing good habits while you WFH will not only help you successfully navigate working out of your house, but can also assist you when you begin working out of an office. Many of these tips are applicable to work both in and outside of a traditional workplace. It’s all about establishing an effective routine and creating healthy boundaries.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Stressed woman at laptop

Prompted by the COVID pandemic, more and more people have realized they can do much of their work away from an office setting. Working from home (WFH) is becoming the new norm, and companies are beginning to realize that employees can be about as productive at home as in the office. With WFH sticking around for the long haul, it’s crucial to establish some personal ground rules.

Why set ground rules?

Because it’s easy to get trampled by unreasonable expectations if you’re not seeing your bosses and co-workers face-to-face. People may expect you to return emails at all hours of the day, jump into a last-minute Zoom meeting, or take on a mountain of new assignments.

Just as it’s important to set personal boundaries in an office setting, so too is it important to set firm WFH boundaries. Here are 3 ways to do so:

1. Take Charge of Emails

If you’re answering emails at 8:00 or 9:00 at night (or later!), you set the expectation that you are willing to work at all hours of the day. That should not be the case. Even if your work laptop is with you 24/7, it is important to separate your work time from your personal time. That means establishing a timeframe for answering emails and sticking to it.

If your co-workers and supervisor know you’ll generally respond to emails between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., that expectation will be set. If they know you’ll respond to emails at 11:00 at night, that expectation will be set. If, for some reason, it’s easier for you to respond to emails at night (maybe you have small children that need care during the day), schedule your emails to send the next morning. That way, you’re still holding firm to your email parameters.

2. Say No

Many of us get in the habit of saying yes to assignments, even when we are A) short on time or B) the assignment does NOT suit our talents. When their team is working from home, supervisors may not have a good sense of how busy people are and whether or not they are free to take on more work. Because of that, they might assign tasks to those who are already up to their ears in work.

If you find yourself panicking about a new assignment, pause and ask yourself, “Does this fit into my area of expertise? Do I, realistically, have time to take this on?” If you answer no to either question, push back (as respectfully as possible!). You might even reach out to others who are better suited for the assignment and see if they have the time and capacity to take it on (if you do this, remember to return the favor at a later date. Also, let your supervisor know you’re looking for someone else to take on the assignment!).

For more, read this post for tips on saying no.

3. Limit Zoom Meetings

Zoom meetings are tiring. It can be difficult to read social cues through a screen, you’re forced to sit up and stare at the same spot for an extended period of time, and it’s sometimes difficult to get everyone engaged. If you’re involved in back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings, you might find yourself completely wiped out at the end of the day.

To prevent video chat burnout, make an effort to limit your online meetings in a given day. If someone wants to schedule a meeting, ask yourself, “Do we really need to meet about this? Would a simple email suffice?” AND ask yourself, “Have I already reached my Zoom meeting limit for the day? Will scheduling another be productive or relatively useless?” Take charge of your schedule and limit your online video chats.

 

Just like working in an office, WFH should come with firm personal boundaries. If you do not take charge of your time and set healthy parameters, you’ll find that you’re in danger of burnout. Start saying no, setting email boundaries, and limiting video chats today!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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