7 Ways To Work Productively At Home

7 Ways To Work Productively At Home

It’s all very well being told to change out of your pyjamas, set up a designated work area or turn off your social media, but staying positive and productive when working from home can pose a real challenge. If this is the reality for you in the coming weeks, here's what to bear in mind...

Gain Access To The Right Technology
Before you start, ensure you have appropriate access to the cloud-based software, websites or technology necessary to do your job. If not, flag the issue to your boss as soon as possible – preferably before you leave the office. It’s not a guarantee every employee will have access to a desktop or laptop computer, and it might be the case that new accounts or passwords are required to access online management systems or shared files. Finally, for jobs which rely on private or sensitive information, it might be necessary to set up a virtual private network (VPN) to allow secure, remote access. To send sensitive information back and forth, encryption services could also be vital.


‘Batch’ Your Workload

A popular efficiency tool used in countries such as China and Japan, ‘batching’ your work takes the opposite approach to multi-tasking. With fewer interruptions and a laser sharp focus, the idea is it’s easier and quicker to complete tasks when focused on one thing at a time. Teachers often use the technique to make marking student papers easier; by leaving all the marking until the weekend, it helps them mentally prepare and get through the task quicker. Don’t underestimate it though – it requires serious concentration and the elimination of any distractions – including turning off the television or radio and ignoring household chores.


Keep Three 'Lists Of Three'
If organisation or planning ahead is a weakness, or you find yourself relying on a team leader to keep everyone on top of things, try drawing up 'three lists of three'. The first list has three things to do today, the second has three things you’d like to get done, but aren’t essential, and the third has three things which need to be done at some point. Start with list one. Depending how long that takes you to complete (and it’s okay if it takes the whole day), move onto the next. Not only does it help you visualise what your priorities should be, but when you’ve made it through your day's work, you won’t end up bored or wondering what to do next. 


Use The Pomodoro Technique
A time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into manageable intervals. Traditionally 25 minutes in length, and separated by short breaks, each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for 'tomato', after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. Start by picking the first of five tasks that you want to work on – usually in order of priority. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Then, work with full focus (without distractions) for 25 minutes. At the end of the first period, take a five-minute break and cross of your first session from the list. Repeat the process four times before taking a longer break lasting between five and 30 minutes. Restart the process by drawing up a new list of five tasks. 


Choose Instant Chat
Thanks to modern technology, many offices now run on instant messaging – and there’s no reason why this can’t continue when employees work from home. Whether it’s Slack or G-chat, keep in contact with colleagues throughout the day – and try setting up group chats for things which need more than one person’s input. It can help eliminate those endless chain emails and allow decisions to be made faster – especially if a senior manager is involved. Finally, even a casual chat with colleagues over instant message can help alleviate feelings of isolation, which are common when working from home. 


Arrange A Regular Check In
In the office, it’s normal to have at least one or two times a week when you’re in direct contact with a line manager or someone senior to you. When working from home, the danger is employees could start to feel less accountable – and managers less in control. To solve the issue, arrange times to FaceTime or phone your boss or manager a couple of times a week, and commit to sending a written update at the end of each week explaining what you've achieved or anything which needs flagging for the week ahead. If senior teams or board-level staff are used to holding regular meetings, try and keep to the schedule by setting up weekly dial-in conference using a service such as Cisco's Webex or Skype calls. 


Set Some Boundaries
When working from home, it’s tempting to extend your hours to get things done – especially when you’re saving time on the daily commute. But health professionals advise this isn’t always good for our mental health, while hard-line bosses could see flexible working as an opportunity to take advantage. With that in mind, try setting some reasonable boundaries. Put your email on an auto-response around your normal finishing time to say responses will resume the next day from a certain time, for example. It’s also important to lay down some ground rules at home – particularly if you share the property with friends or family. Explain the situation to them and that you aren’t available during certain hours. If everyone’s aware, distractions and interruptions can be kept to a minimum.

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