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New to working from home? Here's how to keep calm and get things done

Keep calm and work from home!Keep calm and work from home » Illustration by Bogdan Magenta

At Flock, we started working from home the same day the WHO officially declared Coronavirus a pandemic. While our HR superstars were busy getting us up to speed on basic hygiene and precautions to take, we saw many businesses considering similar measures. Now millions of people are working remotely for the first time and finding that it isn't as easy as it looks.

Working remotely can be intensely satisfying and productive, but it can also be challenging. There’s an added benefit of spending more time with family and friends, getting back time from your daily commute, and working in a space where you’re already comfortable. On the other hand, some find working from home to be very distracting and can’t seem to get anything done.

For first-time telecommuters, here are a few tips to make working from home as productive as possible, from folks who now meet every day in their PJs and work together on Flock.

  1. Prepare for distractions
  2. Start your day early
  3. Pretend you’re in the office
  4. Plan your day
  5. Take a break, again and again
  6. Save meetings for mid-day (or later!)
  7. Make time for a video call or two

Bonus tip: Bring out your favorite playlist!

1. Prepare for distractions

Working from home does not mean fewer distractions—just different ones. If you’re working from home for the first time, here’s a quick list: family, kids, Netflix, friends stopping by, neighbors that want a hammer, Netflix, sweets/beers in the fridge, FedEx guy at the door, Netflix—you get the picture. It’s difficult to focus on work when you’re in the vicinity of your living room couch.

Worse, you can’t avoid all distractions. Being able to spend more time with family is a key benefit of working from home, so shutting yourself away in a corner all day defeats the purpose. Instead, be prepared for distractions and set common-sense boundaries.

Set aside chunks of your day for work, and talk to family members about why it’s important that you stay focused. Keep your smartphone on silent and far away—unless that’s your primary work device. Empty the refrigerator or stock up on healthy snacks (carrot sticks!). As for Netflix, you’re on your own. ✌🏻

2. Start your day early

Beat the rush of distractions later in the day by starting work as early as you can. If you’re used to a long commute that helps you organize yourself for the day ahead, working from home can take a little getting used to. Being prepared for distractions helps, but you’ll find an early start to be a huge productivity boost. 

Simply getting started on a task in the morning keeps motivation levels high and helps you stay focused for longer. Whether you start working before breakfast or after is a personal choice, though I find starting earlier makes it easier to get back to work with a full stomach. :)

3. Pretend you’re in the office

This is easy. In the office, our actions are sometimes motivated by bosses or nosey co-workers looking over our shoulders. At home, free of any watching eyes, it’s easier to lose focus and kill time. Pretending to be in the office helps you start or continue productive habits, like daily to-dos, and keeps you focused. Other ideas? Set specific hours for work, connect with teammates on Flock, work face-to-face with video calls… do everything you do in the office—as much as you can. You will find that you have a lot more time when working from home.

4. Plan your day

You probably do this already, but planning your day is even more important when you work from home. Even the most focused of us can find a new working environment challenging. You might start strong, but as energy levels go down and distractions crop up, it’s easy to lose focus.

Plan your day, everydayTo-do lists are your best friend! » Illustration: Ouch

Planning your day doesn’t have to be a big fancy exercise. Simply think of chunks of time you want to set aside for work. Then you want a list of things to do in those chunks of time. That’s it. A pro tip? Do it at the end of the day for the next one. And don’t forget to check things off that to-do list every time you finish a task—it feels good! ;) 

5. Take a break, again and again

Working from home—in a study or in the living room—means working in a space of comfort. While this can be fun, it can also mean getting lost in the flow… for hours. That’s probably alright, once in a while, but you want to take regular breaks to get up, stretch those fatigued muscles, and hydrate yourself. Trust me, it’s very easy to keep working for hours when you’re lying on the couch. Set an alarm to eat on time, get a cup of coffee, or just stretch your legs, so you can stay active throughout the day. Personally, I set Flock reminders to take a short break every hour. I might ignore it sometimes if I’m in the middle of something that needs to be finished, but it helps ensure that I don’t just sit in a corner all day. Also, taking breaks helps us reset and recharge as needed throughout the day—always a productivity win!

6. Save meetings for mid-day (or later!)

Save early mornings—when energy levels are high—for your best work. Scheduling meetings towards the middle of the day means you can continue being productive throughout the day. Distributed teams will want to find an overlap of hours to talk, or mix it up with async team standups. Post a series of meetings, give yourself a break to refresh and recharge before you get back to work. Plus, when you take meetings in the middle of the day, you can also take a power nap immediately afterward—in your own bed. Sleep is a superpower, and working from home means you can get more of it every day.

7. Make time for a video call or two

Unfortunately, working from home also means missing office banter and post-work parties. Over time, the lack of in-person collaboration when working remotely can foster a feeling of isolation and loneliness. As Buffer’s State of Remote Work report shows us year after year, loneliness is one of the biggest struggles remote workers face outside of remote work bias.

Make some calls!Make some calls! » Illustration by Bogdan Magenta

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, but simply connecting over a quick video call with a teammate (or two) every day to talk about your respective days and shoot the breeze can be a big help. Make this a separate one from regular work meetings, so it doesn’t feel like work. ;)

Bonus tip: Bring out your favorite playlist!

Working at home also means you are surrounded by family (and sometimes friends), so there is usually quite a bit of background noise throughout the day. And then there are kids and neighbors to worry about too. Listening to music can help you cut through the noise and focus on work, but your mileage may vary (YMMV).

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