5 practical tips on being productive while working from home
12 October 2020
One of the advantages of being a relatively young company (both in company age and average team member age..) is that we have the freedom to explore interesting topics and directly start applying these insights in our own lives.
And what better subject matter is there to learn about than productivity? Maybe you can name some, but for us the answer is pretty self-evident. In the coming weeks we’ll share some of our insights with you on what we’ve learned so far in our never-ending quest for knowledge, no matter how outlandish or obvious. Because if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that being productive always involves a bit of both.
Today we’ll get started on a topic that a lot of us are currently getting involved in: actually being productive while working from home. And no, that doesn’t involve talking to your cats and hiding in a pile of laundry.
Or does it? Read on and find out!
Because everyone loves clickbait, we’ve decided to share our insights as 5 practical tips. Obviously we have many more, but a good magician never reveals his secrets. He just sells them online.
1. Keep a clear overview of tasks and responsibilities
No longer is it possible to tap Tim on the shoulder and ask him what he’s doing, or get the latest updates on that amazing new spreadsheet Sarah’s been working on during your shared coffee break. Instead, it’s more likely that you’re fumbling around in the dark, unaware of what your team is working on. This will either lead to a lack of communication, driving everyone into self-contained work bubbles where Tim and Sarah have ceased to exist, or overcommunication, where everyone becomes entangled in a mad scramble of phone calls, video-conferences and constant messaging.
We’ve always used Agile techniques to prevent this from happening, and that hasn’t changed much. Now we just do it online; a daily digital stand-up at 11:45 AM, a bi-weekly Sprint planning and defining our activities and projects into clearly structured user stories. This way, everyone knows what each team member will be doing during the Sprint (2 week period for us, though this can differ per team), what they’ll be doing until the next stand-up, and how their activities are all related to one another. Even if Agile normally doesn’t translate well to your work, it is still an excellent solution to our current reality of home offices and skype-calls. However you choose to do it, keep a clear overview and don’t lose grip on your teamwork!
2. Stay in touch face-to-face
Has anyone ever told you that the majority of our communication is nonverbal? It stands to reason, then, that communicating by telephone, apps and chat only is nothing compared to the full package, and should never fully replace actual interaction. Videoconferencing is the closest we can get to normal human interaction with our colleagues when working from home, so it’s best to just embrace it. Mind you, not every interaction has to be with a face on a screen. Simply try to do it once a day, or only during the most important meetings. We use videoconferencing during our daily stand-up meeting, bi-weekly Sprint planning and whenever we want to yell at a screen instead of type in ALL CAPS.
3. Treat a work day like a work day
Ditch the sleazy pajamas, brush the empty pizza boxes aside and start pretending to be a fully functioning adult like you would do in normal times. Following your normal work routine keeps you sharp, structured, and most importantly, puts you in your work setting.
Keep your private activities separate from your professional activities as much as possible. You can’t do your morning workout and take a shower at the office, so try to do those before you start work. Act like it’s a normal day at work, and your brain will trick itself into following suit. Your mindset is dependent on a whole bunch of factors. And let’s face it, your brain tends not to associate waking up late, not showering and wearing pajamas with being productive at work. You’ll just have to cheat your brain into thinking you’re at the office. Basically you have to become an effective method actor. Just don’t go thinking you’re Daniel Day-Lewis.
4. Make sure your workplace is clean, quiet and structured
Your workspace reflects your mind, and vice versa. You can’t focus when working in an unstructured, chaotic mess. And even if you can (which is impressive), it’s still better not to. This advice would apply even when not working from home, but our homes tend to be more disorganized than our work. After all, we can afford to be a bit messy at homes, and it might even add some charm and character to our lovely abodes. But that same charm and character can be counterproductive when trying to get some work done.
Wherever you choose to work inside your home, make sure it’s clean, structured, and as far as possible, quiet. Maybe you have an attic, a study or a secret basement laboratory? Make an inventory of your possibilities, and choose wisely!
5. Close the day
Close your workday with a final brief team meeting, just as with the stand-up. You’re going to make a transition from your work time into your private time now, and it’s important to get this right. Note any actions that need following up, discuss events and topics that need resolving and above all, as a team decide that your work day has ended. It may not seem like much, but it is important to be able to put your workday behind you and keep some separation between work and normal life. More so now than ever, as both of these lives are suddenly forced to occupy the same living space.
Thank you for reading our blog. If you have any tips, or outright disagree with us, please feel free to let us know. Just as most of you out there, we’re starving for interaction and are really just hoping this whole work-from-home situation blows over soon.
You’ll hear from us again soon!
The Productivity Company Team
Geert and Chris