8 TECHNIQUES TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY WHEN WORKING FROM HOME
01 Apr 2020
Coronavirus brought many changes to daily life, with one of the biggest being the sudden transition to working from home. For those unaccustomed to this practice, working from home brings several challenges in avoiding the temptations, as well as technical and organizational ones. The critical question for all remote workers, whether they have prior experience or not, is – Is it possible to work from home more efficiently?
If you just missed a deadline, you might attribute it to your lower work efficiency at home, but, likely, the same job wouldn’t be finished even if you spent your week at the office. If you possess enough discipline and you take your responsibility seriously, you will probably be about as efficient when working from home as from the office, achieving either somewhat worse or better results. While working with, say, 15% lower efficiency is nothing to celebrate, getting as much as 30% better results would be great. Indeed, a big jump in productivity when switching to working from home is well documented in many studies.
So, is there any magic way to increase efficiency?
TWO TYPES OF ADVICE YOU SHOULD IGNORE
A. Those coming from freelancers
Being self-employed and working in IT/marketing, or similar industries is very different from working in the same sectors as a member of a larger team. So, the majority of lessons a freelancer can give is just not applicable. Most of their tips are centered on ways of combining private life and work, nurturing contacts, and finding opportunities while working from home. All this advice is just not suited for someone who is simply sent to work from home for a couple of weeks (months).
B. Those coming from bloggers
As we looked for some tips and tricks for working from home, we stumbled upon many excellent blogs, all written by experienced authors for significant websites. Each article had a list of 10 or 20 tips, but unfortunately, the more we read, the more obvious it became that reports contradict one another. For someone, it is essential to remove all sources of distraction while working. For others, a TV turned on is a good idea, and so on. So, if we need more specific advice on how to work from home, we have to look elsewhere.
THE ONES WHO KNOW THE MOST ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME ARE CORPORATIONS (?!)
Most studies about working from home were done by companies who sent significant clusters of employees to work from home, and then carefully tracked how they are coping. In the United States, such institutions are Federal Patent Offices and Federal Reserve Banks, followed by extensively documented experiments conducted by tourist agencies and call centers, mostly in North America and Asia.
Surprisingly, almost all studies came to similar conclusions, as they found that working from home increases worker efficiency by average 15% (0 to +30%, varying from worker to worker). After a certain period, workers noted which practices helped them to work better, and these findings are public. Companies also order studies about working from home, as they want to know if they can let employees work from home and save on office space, thus reducing the cost per worker as much as 20%. The third source of good advice are practices of CEO’s who mostly work from home, as they are the champions of remote teamwork. We compared all the information from these three sources and came up with a list of recommendations that we believe to be universal.
STATISTICALLY PROVEN RULES FOR MAXIMIZING EFFICIENCY WHEN WORKING FROM HOME
1. CREATE A GREAT WORKING ENVIRONMENT
A comfortable chair, a big desk, good lighting – Yes, sometimes it’s easiest to open the laptop in the kitchen, but the much better practice is to make a dedicated working space. It should have drawers, flexible desk space, a good background for video chats, and to be in the place where it is possible to work at night. If you don’t do that, there’s a big chance that your USB drive will end in the trash, along with potato peels.
2. GET GOOD GEAR
Working from home is very hard for those who are not used to solve their tech problems. If you can’t get your microphone to work or you can’t connect to the company’s server, don’t just ignore that, but ask colleagues for help. Get the right keyboard and headphones with a microphone, and bring an additional monitor from work. Test your internet connection, and if it is far below what you are paying for, then connect by a cable instead of using Wi-Fi.
3. HIDE FROM YOUR FAMILY
It is a well-established fact that other members of the household do not believe you are “really” working since you are at home. Parents and children tend to intrude more, while spouses and partners are usually tolerant. Fun fact – working from home is suitable for a relationship, as there are 40% fewer divorces among couples in which at least one member is working from home. So, to evade your family, you have to be firm and put the sign on the door if needs be. Eventually, they will leave you to your work.
4. SWITCH WORKPLACES FREELY
This advice might seem to contradict the one about permanent workspace at home, but it compliments it. If you can, flee and work in the countryside for a while, so you can work and rest at the same time.
5. SPLIT YOUR WORKDAY, IDEALLY WITH EXCERSIZES
Probably the most significant advantage of working from home is the option to split your workday into segments. Most people work in two stretches, with a long break, while others make frequent, but shorter breaks. During the breaks, it is best to do some physical work: do the house chores, prepare food or exercise. Physical exercise replenishes the mind and the body, making you ready for the next few hours of work, and this is why many consider exercising to be the best part of working from home.
6. USE THE TIME YOU SAVE BY NOT HAVING TO COMMUTE
It is easy to get used to stay up late and get up late when you are working from home. But, from the efficiency standpoint, it is much better to go to bed at the same time as during regular working weeks, to get full night’s sleep of eight hours, and to start work early. Workers who get up early tend to do more work, and they also have more spare time during the day.
7. DON’T ALLOW YOUR PRIVATE AFFAIRS TO INTRUDE ON YOUR WORK CONSTANTLY
Mostly a psychological problem, as it is hard to postpone essential private and household duties if you are already at home, but if you often stop working to do something else, very little will be done. Even if you spent several hours working when all the time is added, with too many stops, the quality of the job will be low, as you need continuous work to be at your maximum efficiency.
8. USE APPS TO GET ORGANIZED
A vast number of excellent and mostly free apps are available for download these days, but you can’t rely just on apps to organize your day, as it’s hard to predict how long it would take to finish every task. Among free apps, some stand out, such as Outlook Calendar and Google Calendar for long-term scheduling, and Microsoft OneNote and Todoist for managing tasks. All experienced remote workers have some ways to keep track of tasks and time, and they are often straightforward. One writer from HubSpot says she uses the cycle of a laundry machine to keep track of time, one more thing you probably don’t have in your office.