With the events of the last three months culminating in a third of the world’s population under lockdown, many of you will be spending much more time working from home while we collectively wait for the coronavirus to pass. But the question of how you, as well as your employees, remain productive during self-isolation is a tricky one to answer.
Everyone has different working styles, and what works for you might not work for your employees. Therefore, it’s essential to strike the right balance. Here are some tips that should at least help to set some general parameters for both yourself and your employees to stick to, ensuring productivity remains high despite the new situation in which we all find ourselves.
Set Boundaries with Those Who Share Your Home
This step is crucial. You’re transitioning from an environment where everybody is focused on work, to one where not everyone is so keen on achieving the same objectives. Kids, roommates, and cohabitors can be an unwelcome distraction in this regard. Therefore, it’s vital to lay down the law at the outset of your new work-from-home arrangement.
Agree pre-arranged times to spent time with each other, which will help to replicate the routine provided by physically going to work. With set hours in place, those sharing your home will know not to disturb you during those times, allowing you to maintain the quality and productivity levels associated with working in the office.
Choose Your Workspace Wisely
No, you can’t just work in bed. Not only is it not conducive to reliable work output, but it’s also a terrible body position and will likely have an impact on your spine and neck. Ideally, you need to have a desk or table that you can work from, away from any possible distractions. Stay clear of the living room or kitchen where distractions are rife, look for a quiet corner of your house where you can get your head down and knuckle down to some work.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to work from the same place every single day. Studies have shown that the most effective workspaces allow employees to grab a change of scenery, so don’t be afraid to mix things up every once in a while. You could even associate certain places with specific tasks. Handle your emails on the couch, undertake your high-concentration items at your home office desk, and head outside (weather permitting) when you need to employ your critical thinking skills.
Take Regular Breaks
Working at home without the same level of social interaction that you’re used to can quickly become monotonous. By taking regular breaks, you can break up the boredom and refresh your internal batteries. According to researchers at MIT, you should ideally look to take a 15-minute break every 90 minutes or so. Working for longer than that without a break leads to a drop in both quality and productivity.
But make no mistake; this is not 15 minutes that should be spent scrolling through social media. You need a proper break. Get up and away from your desk, stretch your legs, get some fresh air, speak to a friend or family member, or play with a pet. By frequently leaving and returning to your desk, you’ll find that your productivity levels remain high.
Treat The Working Day with the Respect It Deserves
Many regard working from home as an excuse to lounge about in their PJs all day. But this is not a productive practice. You need to treat working from home with the same respect you give to working in the office environment. Get up and dressed with a cup of coffee just like you usually would and get into the mindset of work.
You can use the first minutes of the day to write down your goals and objectives for the day, which helps to tune your mindset further. It will also give you another sense of accountability when it comes to logging off your laptop at the end of the day.
Leverage Technology to Keep Tabs on Employees
All managers in situations like these fear that employees are going to take liberties with their newly-discovered freedom, instead of using it to improve or increase their productivity. But thanks to modern technology, it’s straightforward to manage your employees remotely.
Use video conferencing software such as Zoom to hold multi-colleague meetings virtually so you can all plan the week and set goals for each employee. As a byproduct, by scheduling regular video calls, you can ensure that your employees aren’t in their PJs in bed. Next, instead of focusing on apps that tell you how long an employee has been online, evaluate performance based on tasks completed.
Use apps such as Slack and Trello to allocate work to specific employees and teams, and attach deadlines to every project, even if they aren’t time-sensitive. The deadline aspect will help to keep the structure in what can feel like a shapeless and fluid working environment.
Remember to Switch Off
The downside from working from home is that it can feel like you are at work all of the time. With a less-structured routine, it’s tempting to break out the laptop and get back to work after dinner, for example. However, when we tire, the quality of work diminishes. Worse still, by staring at a laptop screen late into the evening, you’re likely to alter your body’s circadian rhythm, which is not used to working so late.
By keeping your brain “awake” for more extended periods (and closer to our bedtimes), you’re likely to achieve a much lower quality of sleep, which can have detrimental effects on our work. Thus, it makes sense to log off at a reasonable time each evening and relax. Just by switching off and thinking about subjects other than work, you’re already beginning the process of recharging your body for the next day.
Keeping Everyone Productive at Home May Not Be as Difficult as You Might Think
While it’s not a question that these are unprecedented and uncertain times, employers shouldn’t need to worry so much about bringing an entire company form a physical location to a virtual one. It’s quite easy to keep both yourself and your employees in line by taking steps that both minimize the chance of getting distracted and improve your productivity levels.
Here at Offer Accept, we can provide businesses with advice on how to hire, train, and onboard employees without physically meeting them in a face-to-face environment. In fact, we believe many of the steps being taken by companies today in the face of coronavirus crisis are set to stay long after the situation returns to normal, making learning these skills even more critical.
Just give us a call on 305-910-2524 to discuss your recruiting needs, virtual or otherwise, with an expert.