5 challenges to stay productive while working from home

desk
Photo by Elsa Noblet on Unsplash

Work from home is excellent in many ways and challenging as well! When working from home, there is no formal dressing required, no one keeping an eye on you. You can also manage to do a lot of personal work at home. Then what’s the challenge? These same things

With the comfort of home and no one managing, it is easy to be less focused, less productive and not feeling accountable for your work

There are a lot of views surrounded by the concept of working from home. The most prominent being the thought that people choose to work from home when they want to take some break from work or have personal tasks to finish. Some believe working from home makes you less productive while some people believe, including me, that with some self-controlling habits you can be as productive as you want to be while working from home

While there is nothing right or wrong about the work from home concept, it is all about the necessity and the ability to change the mindset around it!

In the article, I’ll share the challenges I face while working at home and the solutions that help me stay on-track

#1. Working too much or too less

In the office environment, there is a set structure for the day with time for lunch, coffee breaks, and other breaks. The same is not applicable when working from home because of the flexibility that makes it hard to stick to a routine. Following are some of my excuses:

  • Extended morning sleep
  • Continued distractions
  • No in-between breaks
  • No proper time to end the day

This flexibility may mislead us into either taking work too lightly with minimal progress made in the day or too seriously where we even forget to eat lunch. Both of these are not good for productivity!

Working from home requires a strategy — daily scheduling, to stay focused and productive

Work from home - get ready
Photo by Shelbey Miller on Unsplash

These are some tips to plan your routine:

  • Get ready before beginning the work — The act of getting ready — breakfast, bathing, getting dressed — not proper suit or something but not pajamas, etc. sets the right mood to begin the day
  • Start the day at the same time when you usually start in the office and decide for yourself office hours
  • Plan your day and commit to the to-do list. Break larger tasks into smaller doable tasks as checking off tasks gives a positive affirmation
  • Use alarms for lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and other breaks. While working, put your phone in silent mode
  • End your day at a set time — Ending work at the proper time is equally important as starting it at the right time. Turn off your computer, clear your desk, change to your comfy clothes, end your day

A tip: Learn to plan “The Unschedule” way, an efficient time-management technique

#2. Interruptions — family | phone calls | friends | pets | kids | social media | housework | doorbell and more

There is a temptation to watch episodes of your favorite show or procrastinate work or finish household work or connect with friends or take your pet for a stroll because you can’t resist that face! It becomes easy to get distracted being at home

Working from home needs you to be self-motivated

Unless you live alone, you have to plan your schedule and break around everyone in the house. Here are a few ways to minimize interruptions as there is no way you can get rid of it:

Work from home - ToDo list
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash
  • Create a separate workspace — Your bed is one place in which you should not use for working as it will always make you sleepy! A room (or a secluded corner), a desk (or foldable table) and chair, proper lighting, and the internet is all that you need
  • Prioritize work — Finish the most important tasks at the earliest (or at the time when you are most productive) to ensure that in case you get any distractions later in the day, you still have progress to show for your work
  • Be accountable for your work — In case you are not able to finish work or having difficulties be transparent and communicate the same clearly
  • Take breaks at the right time — When working from home, taking a break at the right time is more relevant than taking a break. If you have kids, plan a break around the time they come home. Take tea break in the evening and enjoy a chat over snacks with family
  • Use tools to avoid social media distractions –There are tools available such as Self Control (for macOS), RescueTime (for android, iOS windows, web, macOS, Linux), StayFocused (for Chrome browser) that blocks sites for a specified duration

Remember, to put your phone/tablet away from you to resist the temptation to check every notification

#3. Technical hiccups

With the recent crisis of COVID-19, almost all the companies are extending work from home facilities for their employees. When it’s your first time working this way, you would not want to be frustrated with a poor internet connection or lack of amenities at home to make things further difficult

Work from home - technical gadgets
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

While there is no control on the technical issues, here is a checklist that can certainly help you:

  • A good Wi-Fi connection — Ensure you set up your work desk in the area where you get the best network at home. Use a LAN cable to connect with your laptop/computer for the best speed
  • Using trackpad on your laptop for long hours can be difficult as it slows you down. A keyboard and a mouse makes your work quite easy
  • A headset with a good cushion on your ears is a must to attend a long list of meetings. Even better if you can arrange a headset with noise cancelation to minimize background noises
  • Get clarification from your organization on the tools to be used for meetings, tracking work progress, etc. and get all of it setup

A coffee maker to your rescue is always good

#4. Isolation and afternoon doziness

Working at home can get a bit boring if it goes on for a long span. It can gradually trigger a feeling of isolation and disconnection and procrastination at work. And how can we forget the struggle with “afternoon nap”!

Work from home - play music
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Here are a few tips to avoid loneliness:

  • Schedule your work time with your colleagues — Syncing work times together improves communication which not only helps with lone working but also greatly minimizes miscommunication chances (the more timely communication happens, the less off-sync team members are while working from home)
  • Do informal talks with your colleagues as well on your chat tool like Skype, Teams or Slack, etc. just like when you interact in the office
  • Focus more on face-to-face talking than emails for better collaboration — Although emails are the most favored way of passing information to the team, it can add some slack in timely responses when working from home. Activities such as decision-making, brainstorming, or detailed discussions are candidates for video meetings. It helps your team members feel participated in the discussion
  • Take breaks — You can follow Pomodoro technique here by dividing your tasks in chunks and working on them for 25 minutes straight and then taking a break for 5 mins
  • Sync your work with music — Background music helps avoid distractions by making outside world noises less audible! Keep changing the music as per your tasks. When I am going through emails, I play the music that I can sing along with, which makes me happy. While I am writing, I play some soft tunes with minimal lyrics

Find the music that motivates you to see a difference in your ability to focus

And for that afternoon nap:

  • Take your pet out for a walk or spend time with family or do light exercise
  • Talk with your friends on the phone or check your social media account or watch the news
  • Setup meetings that require less focus in the noontime (especially, at once after lunch)

#5. Setting expectations right — explaining everyone (at home, office including your boss & colleagues) that you are not on a holiday!

My mom calls me any time of the day (as I am at home) and asks me to finish all household work or cook something special (as I have time). No matter how much I try to tell her that I am working, her end statement would be, “Yeah, but still, you are at home!”

If this is not enough, my manager keeps checking my online status on Skype or the no. of emails I responded during the day to ensure I am working

Work from home - be proud of yourself
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

What we can do best is to communicate better. That’s all!

  • Talk to your family and explain to not disturb for anything-and-everything frequently. In turn, you keep taking breaks to interact with them
  • Send daily updates to your boss on what was done, pending or any blocking issues faced during the day
  • Keep your team informed when you are taking a break and for how long

The key to staying productive while working at home is to figure out what works best for you to stay motivated and focused

These tips will help get you to accomplish your goals, regardless of location. How do you stay productive when working from home?

This article was originally published by me on Medium

Surbhi Mahnot

Surbhi Mahnot

Surbhi Mahnot is the owner of this blog. She works as a Management Consultant with businesses to set up processes, and coordinate as Project Manager to help develop IT solutions. Travelling, reading, and shopping are her core interest besides work. Surbhi is available for consultant projects full-time, part-time, or remote work

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