The mantras of making working from home possibleIf you are looking for ways to boost your performance and tackle distraction while working remotely, here are some tips.
When Nasana Bajracharya was asked by her supervisors to work from home, in light of the outbreak of Covid-19, she had trouble being productive. At home, she found the amount of distractions more. Currently an employee at Changing Stories Nepal, she shares the sentiment with many. More and more people are being advised to practice social distancing for an unknown period and companies are asking employees to work from home, a concept that has already got its own abbreviation: WFH.
For many Nepali employees like Nasana, working from home is a new challenge this global pandemic has brought forth. According to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, working from home led to a 13 percent performance increase, of which about 9 percent was attributed to working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days). However, in Nepal, we are yet to see how this sudden shift to remote working proves in terms of employee productivity.
Working from home demands you supervise your own actions and work amidst a myriad of distractions. It becomes easier to give in to temptations and escape work responsibilities, especially when we can not mentally associate work with our homes. So, if you are searching for ways to boost your performance and tackle distraction while working remotely, here are some tips for you.
Starting fresh for the day
Abbal Dhakal, a freelance writer who has worked from home for the past two years, makes sure he wakes up early and exercises first thing in the morning. Changing into a fresh set of clothes, which does not necessarily have to be work attire, gets him going.
“Exercising helps me fight lousiness, organise my train of thoughts and gives me time to get back at tasks I need to pick up from,” said Dhakal. “For me, it is not changing into office wear, but the act of changing the clothes that transitions me into a working mindset.”
While getting ready for office and the commute helps many mentally prepare for work on regular days, sticking to a similar office routine and resisting distraction can help you mentally associate work at home with regular business days.
Convey your expectations
How likely is your mother to call you for lunch, your grandmother to put the radio on full blast or your cousin to pop up while you’re video conferencing with your boss? Working remotely is just as relatively a new concept for our family members, siblings, or roommates as it is to us. This sudden shift in Nepal demands that we clearly explain how the concept works to our family members, what we expect of them and what they can expect of us during our working hours. Make sure they understand working from home does not equate to a day off.
Separate a dedicated working space and treat it like an office
The comfort of home is boundless—the couch, a cosy bed, a blaring TV, and other distractions you only have outside work. If you’re not careful, you are likely to spill your work all over the place, from documents to web camera stands, if you do not have a designated area.
Setting up a dedicated workspace—even just a separate table and chair, with best wifi reception and good lighting—helps you settle into a working mode. This creates a boundary for you and your work life, too, which will help you separate it from family time. You can activate employee mode once you are in the space and leave it there once you log off for the day, to skip taking the work’s burden to your bed. If you want to play with your creativity to make a customised office space, focus on making it comfortable and motivating.
In addition, no one would like taking office tasks home. But while you’re working from home itself, distinguishing that grey area that looms between home and work is hard. When you do not have to log off and get home, it is easy for you to lose track of time. The overlapping of work and home can impact your work-life balance, which can show negatively in your happiness at work and performance. Set an alarm to call it a day, at a time you’d usually leave the office, and if you yet have unfinished tasks or new ideas, attend to them the next day. Additionally, everyone is different when it comes to getting their work done, so work when you think you will be most productive.
Strategic planning of your everyday goals
In absence of monitoring while working from home, you must take responsibility. Starting without a plan can overwhelm you with tasks you have to finish, unclear deadlines and cluttered priorities.
Goal-setting has proven to improve performance and act as a powerful motivator. Assigning a deadline to your goals can work wonders. You can broadly categorise one to four areas you want to work on, label them over the ‘Urgent Vs Important’ matrix (also called the Eisenhower Decision Matrix). Then make a detailed check-list under those areas to not miss out on small tasks.
Sayomi Prajapati, who began working from home for the past week or so, told the Post, “Goal setting helps me take control of my schedule. I try to allocate time for each task, structure each one, and maintain the flow of work.”
The internet and social media are powerful distractions. Especially at home, you have more excuses to not focus on your work. While setting deadlines, you can also give yourself breaks and attend to your distraction in that time.
Magic numbers of productivity
An experiment by Draugiem Group, an international software company, to find habits that differentiates the most productive employees from the rest, discovered the top 10 percent of their most productive employees followed a similar pattern—52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break.
The Energy Project, a global consulting firm, suggests taking short breaks every 90 minutes because every 90 minutes, human beings transition from an energetic and focused to drained mindset due to psychosocial fatigue.
The magic numbers of productivity vary and work differently for everyone but it boils down to taking breaks responsibly.
Jyotshana Acharya, a work from home employee at Creative SEO, also takes frequent breaks to rejuvenate. For her, even mundane tasks, like drinking water, tea or stretching, helps her stay calm.
“It is about smartly managing your time to boost productivity rather than actively staring at a laptop for hours but getting nothing done,” said Acharya. “Relaxing, breathing, taking power naps and just getting up from that chair every now and then can reduce the constant stress of work.”
Level up your social distancing game
According to the State of Remote Work 2018 Report, 21 percent of remote workers found loneliness as their biggest struggle. Especially in this time of pandemic, anxiety and social distancing is making it harder for employees to reconcile the loss of human connection. At these times, you have to remind yourself: what are social media and productivity-enhancing tools for?
You can smartly social distance by optimally utilising tools like Slack, Trello, Zoho, Wrike, Asana, Microsoft Teams for project management; Google Suite, Office 365, Dropbox for documentation; TeamViewer, Microsoft Remote Desktop, AnyDesk for remote connections and screen sharing; and, TimeDoctor, HubStaff, Harvest, Workast for time and task management.
If working remotely is making you feel lonely and far from your colleagues, you can always get in touch via social media. Even if you’re dealing with it well, you can use them to check on your colleagues who you think might be mentally- or emotionally-down. Combine the tips that best suit you and you’re all good to go.