How to stay productive when working from home

Adjusting to working from home can be difficult. Picture: Samuel de Roman/Getty Images
Adjusting to working from home can be difficult. Picture: Samuel de Roman/Getty Images

To reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the Covid-19 coronavirus, many employers are asking their teams to self-isolate and work from home, and entrepreneurs who would usually work in a shared space are also choosing to work from home.

For those who have not worked remotely before, this could be a daunting experience, and many will find themselves getting easily distracted at home.

David Seinker, the founder and CEO of The Business Exchange, has some sound advice on best practice when it comes to working remotely and not being able to connect in person with other like-minded people or potential clients.

It may seem like a cool idea to now be able to sit at your desk in your dressing gown and slippers. But just don’t.

Seinker, who left a successful corporate career to pursue his dream, knows what it takes to remain focused and productive.

“One of the biggest challenges when moving away from a stimulating ecosystem where you’ve been surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs and businesspeople is simply getting yourself to focus,” he says.

Passing on the lessons from his own experience, Seinker offers the following tips, which he refers to as his five productivity hacks:

1. Decide on your “big three” at the start of each week, and then create a daily to-do list

A daily to-do list is an excellent way to focus your attention as you begin each day, and comes with the added satisfaction of being able to cross off completed tasks. It’s also important, Seinker believes, to set yourself three key goals at the start of the week, and then use your daily to-do list to break them down into manageable parts, numbered in order of priority.

“Place the thing you dread doing the most at the top of your daily list, and get it done first. Also, try to set time limits for each daily task. Many people work well in office environments because of the pressure they are under from management,” he says.

You can work with your manager each week to identify the key deliverables.

2. Get better acquainted with modern technology and tools

We are living in interesting times and grappling with a number of changes regarding the way we do business. Many meetings and important business deals are now taking place in the digital world, and it’s time to get with the programme. There are several tools that you can use to conduct these meetings – Google Hangouts is perhaps the easiest and most accessible. Almost everyone has a Gmail address, so for most it would require very little set-up time.

Adjusting to working from home can be difficult. Picture: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

3. Take a break

Even though you’re working from home, you need to give yourself breaks as though you were at the office. Breaks are important to keep you focused; it’s generally accepted that, for example, if you work at a computer, you should get up and move away from it every 30 to 45 minutes for a five-minute break. You could also take the dog for a walk, or spend an hour exercising.

“It’s not just hearsay,” says Seinker. “While the recommended times between breaks vary, there are numerous research papers out there that prove you actually become more productive if you take regular breaks.”

Go on, check this out on Google during your next break.

4. Keep connected with your colleagues

There will be regular check-ins with your manager and teams, of course, but you may find yourself feeling a bit lonely for the rest of the day if you’re used to workplace banter and conversations. One way around this is to keep connected digitally with some of your colleagues and work friends.

“You can exchange work ideas or even just chat about the trials and tribulations of working from home during these uncertain times,” Seinker says.

5. Don’t be a slob

This is more important than people think. Even if you’re just moving from your bedroom to a work space in your lounge, get up each morning as you would if you were going into the office. Don’t lounge around in your pyjamas – sitting around in clothes that you would usually relax in will only make you want to relax when you should be working.

“It may seem like a cool idea to now be able to sit at your desk in your dressing gown and slippers. But just don’t,” Seinker says.

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