The coronavirus pandemic has suddenly forced millions of people to work from their homes. While I haven't done the math to figure out approximately how many companies that involves, it's fair to say that it's a ginormous number. And since this COVID-19 crisis came up very quickly, it's also safe to assume that the majority of those millions of people didn't have a lot of time to prepare for their telecommuting futures.
But as we've done with the previous insights in this series, your inbound marketing pals at Creative Cave are here to lend a bit of well-earned guidance on maximizing productivity while working from home. You see, we've been remote working in some capacity for years now and, as you would guess, have some tips to help companies and their remote employees start off on the right foot. So on that note, let's get to it.
1. Set Some Household Rules
Moms and dads aren't the only ones suddenly working from home. Millions of kids from sea to shining sea are also grinding away on word problems and flashcards at the dining room table. Although I'm all for family togetherness and quality time with the kiddos, children and a productive home office usually don't go hand-in-hand.
Therefore, if you find yourself a bit frustrated trying to get some work done while establishing parameters for others in your household, you're definitely not alone. However, there's a big difference between a toddler and a kid in junior high school so, depending on your situation, there are a few directions to turn if you're lagging on the productivity front.
If your kids have not yet hit middle school, there's a very good chance you'll need some help. If you live with your significant other, try splitting the day into halves, if at all possible. Granted, conference calls and work deadlines won't necessarily care if your three-year-old insists on sitting on your lap while trying to work, so split days or highly regimented schedules aren't always feasible. That said, if you're a single parent without a lot of options, you're probably looking at some early mornings and late nights to get your work done. I wish I could sugarcoat a bit more.
It's quite a bit easier if your kids are older and relatively self-sufficient. Sit down with them and have a talk about work time rules and make it clear that, assuming they want to continue having a roof over their head and food to eat, getting your work done is essential.
As a reminder, you can hang a sign on your office door while you're working so your kids – at least in theory – won't interrupt you. Also, it might be a good idea to leave a whiteboard outside of your office where your kids can write down things they need to talk to you about or issues for you to resolve. This way, you aren't walking into an avalanche of crises as soon as you call it a day.
2. Work From a Designated Place
Earlier in the series, I wrote about the necessity of creating and maintaining a remote work schedule. Expanding on that concept, it's not only important to begin each morning with a fairly typical workday ritual but also to designate a place in your house or apartment as your office space.
Have you heard of the floor is lava game? Well, when it comes to working from home, just assume that your comfy couch and recliner are both made of molten volcanic rock bubbling up from the earth's crust. Remember, just because you get a strong Wi-Fi signal from your La-Z-Boy doesn't mean that it's a good place to set up camp. Ideally, you want to find a place that won't tempt you into naptime, gives you plenty of space to spread out, and won't strain your neck or back. If your home is quite enough, then the dining room table would work just fine.
3. Natural Light Rocks
Fluorescent lighting is great for your garage or the bathrooms in a big-league ballpark, but aren't particularly conducive for energized, productive work. Look for a place that provides enough sunlight and maybe even a view if possible. The point is, you don't want to work from a spot that feels stagnant and taps your energy, creativity, and drive.
4. Take Breaks & Create an Atmosphere
Believe it or not, guilt is a common roadblock for new remote workers. Most people are just plain used to commuting to work, dealing with office politics, and coming home exhausted. Without those daily travails, many telecommuters will somehow feel as if they're cheating themselves or their company and, thus, work even longer hours.
Naturally, such feelings are neither necessary nor warranted. Stick to regular office hours and don't forget to take breaks throughout the day. Needless to say, there's an awful lot going on in the world right now, which means you and billions of other people have quite a bit on their minds. Take care of yourself throughout the day, maybe go for a few walks to break up the monotony and breathe some fresh air.
Also, take advantage of the work-from-home perks as long as they don't impede your productivity. If you're able to work to music without getting distracted, then, by all means, go for it. Obviously, everyone's different, so what works well for your coworkers won't necessarily work for you. Find your groove and ride it for all it's worth.
Other Tips for Remote Working
Finally, don't forget about some of the other topics I've discussed throughout this series. Technology will play a crucial role in your ultimate telecommuting success. If you haven't done so already, get familiar with tools like Slack and Google's G Suite along with video conferencing software like Zoom and Skype. Likewise, if project management is going sideways now that you're working from a home office, Trello might be a good solution, even if you only use it for yourself and not across an entire team.
No matter what, just make choices that allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance and remain productive while blocking out the white noise of the quarantine life. From a business perspective, maybe this perpetual Twilight Zone is the perfect time to refine your branding, retool your messaging, spiff up your website, or embrace the inbound marketing you've been setting aside for far too long now. If that's the case, then Creative Cave is always here to lead the way.