Based on the latest employment data, more people prefer to work from home even as the world continues to recover from the pandemic.
According to Pew Research, when the pandemic started, 20% of Americans reported they preferred to work from home. A few months after the US economy started to open up for business, the number of American workers who preferred a work-from-home arrangement ballooned to 71%.
If you’re one of those former brick-and-mortar employees who have transitioned to a work-from-home arrangement, we know that you’ve experienced challenges to having a productive day consistently.
We’re here to tell you that shouldn’t be the case. You can have a productive work-from-home schedule by following our 10 tips outlined below.
1. Dedicate a Space for Work
Finding a space for work inside the home isn’t easy for everyone. Not all homes have a spare room that they can convert into an office. If your space is limited, dedicate a table as your work area.
It would be great to have enough surface area to work with a PC and large monitor. But if this isn’t possible, make sure you have enough space to move around and work with your laptop.
After all, you want to be as comfortable as possible when working in a confined space.
If you’re using the same laptop for personal use, create a separate account for work. It might seem like a small thing but having different usernames and passwords for work and personal use can go a long way in maintaining work-life balance and focus.
2. Establish a Work Schedule
You had to abide by a work schedule at the office, why should things be different now that you’re working from home? You can’t accomplish your business goals if you don’t put in the required hours.
That said, the biggest benefit about working from home is that your work hours are more flexible. Why? For starters, you don’t have to deal with the inconveniences of traffic and the daily commute.
You can start working the moment you get out of bed or after you’ve had your first cup of coffee. The most important thing is to set a work schedule and commit to it.
3. Have Process Flows In Place
Process flows are built-in systems that help organize work and make everything more efficient. Systems are composed of programs and other types of tools that have been developed to provide a specific function.
What do we mean and how do these processes, systems, and tools apply to your work from home schedule?
Incorporate software programs that can help you manage the different areas of work such as communication, project management, file sharing, marketing, and accounting.
Here are a few good examples of software programs that address these key areas of responsibility:
- Communication – ZOOM, MS Teams, and Skype.
- Project Management – Asana, Trello, and Basecamp.
- File-Sharing – Google Drive, Dropbox, and MS OneDrive.
- Marketing – Buffer, HubSpot, and ActiveCampaign.
- Accounting – QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Wave.
You don’t need all of these programs in your process flow. Choose one – preferably the program that you’re familiar with.
Once you’ve selected the programs, create an outline of the steps of the process flow.
For example, if you’re managing projects for different clients, this could be an effective process flow:
Step 1: Project assignments and details will be posted in Asana.
Step 2: Files can be retrieved from Dropbox.
Step 3: Completed files will be uploaded to Dropbox.
Step 4: Status of the project and a direct link to Dropbox will be inputted in Google Sheets.
Step 5: Progress timetable will be updated on Asana.
Create process flows for marketing, communication, and accounting and circulate the details to the concerned parties.
4. Plan Your Day – The Night Before
If you go to the supermarket without a shopping list, you’ll spend most of your time stressing about what you need, which aisle to go, and how much to pay. Chances are you won’t get everything you need and end up going over budget.
If you don’t plan your day the night before, you’ll start the day not knowing which tasks to do and to prioritize. Chances are you’ll overlook the most important tasks and end the workday with not much to show for.
That’s the problem with guesswork – you waste so much time. Guesswork is a productivity killer.
So how do you plan the tasks for the next day? There are a several ways to approach this:
- Prioritize the task that results in the highest ROI for your business.
- Attend to the task that gave you a sleepless night.
- Attack the task that is closest to completion and will put you on the “board”.
Regardless of your approach, the outcome must be productive for your business. By planning ahead, once you get out of bed, your mind is more focused and you’ll be less stressed.
A quick jolt of caffeine is all you need to hit the ground running, get your day started, and start ticking tasks off the list of things to do.
5. Set Your Business Goals
Setting business goals is important because it creates direction for your company. Having a goal gives your day purpose. It’s the reason you don’t just rise out of bed but jump out of it to seize the day.
You can have a primary business goal then break the steps of achieving it into smaller goals.
For example, your primary business goal is to drive more traffic to your website. It’s not realistic to expect website traffic to increase in one day. Driving inbound traffic to your website requires planning, implementation, monitoring, and consistency. It can be touch and go for a while where changes to the overall strategy will be needed to generate the desired results.
Thus, a typical day could consist of performing the following tasks to keep you moving toward your goal of increasing website traffic:
- Write a blog.
- Post content on social media.
- Email the latest newsletter to subscribers.
- Engage with followers on social media.
- Review performance on all the social media platforms.
- Work with the production team on the creation of new short videos.
Can you have more than one business goal? Yes!
Your other goals might be to improve the sales conversion rate, streamline costs, develop a content strategy, or look and qualify resellers and distributors.
Whatever your goals are, make sure they are realistic and measurable. Most importantly, work on them every day. Those steps might be small but with persistence and consistency, they can help you achieve big results.
6. Create Ground Rules
It wasn’t only businesses that had to shift to an online model when the pandemic hit. Even schools migrated their programs online and had students studying from home.
As the world slowly opens up to the realities of co-existing with the pandemic, many schools continue to run their curriculums online out of safety concerns. Chances are, you won’t be the only one working from home.
Your children might think that since Mom and Dad are at home most of the time, you’re at their “beck and call” 24/7. If you allow this to happen, the work-from-home arrangement won’t be productive.
Set the ground rules at home. Let everyone know that while you’re working, no one will be allowed to contact you unless it’s really, REALLY important. Tell your children to take the phone calls and to attend to anyone who’s at the door.
Leave a voicemail on your phone that advises everyone who calls that you can’t take their call because you’re working. In fact, we would advise you to keep your phone locked away in a drawer during work hours.
If your spouse expects you to run some errands, inform your spouse that you’ll attend to those tasks after work.
7. Schedule Rest Periods
When you were reporting to an office, you had 30-minute breaks every 3 to 4 hours. At home, you can schedule 30-minute breaks every 1.5 to 2 hours.
Why should rest periods be more frequent when you’re working from home? According to studies, the brain can process and consolidate information for only 75 to 90 minutes; 120 minutes maximum.
Scheduling rest periods every 75 to 120 minutes will allow your mind to relax, recharge, and retain information better.
During your rest period, you can:
- Take a nap – highly recommended!
- Exercise – also highly recommended!
- Get a snack
- Check your phone for messages
- Check on your kids
- Run an errand that can be done within 30 minutes
The important thing is to be able to rest and decompress after attending to a task. After 30 minutes, you’ll be ready to handle the next task and move closer toward ending the workday productively.
8. Set Aside Time for Your Colleagues
You might find working from home to be a more fulfilling arrangement but not everyone on the team might feel the same way.
Some people have a hard time adjusting to a work-from-home schedule. They’re used to shared-space collaboration with colleagues and prefer to work in a traditional office setting.
Yes, believe it or not, some people don’t mind the commute, the office politics, and having the supervisor hovering over them.
If you’re working with a remote team, always set time in a day for them. You can use Zoom or Microsoft Teams to run conference calls. This will help those on your team who are struggling with the work-from-home arrangement adjust and adapt to the new conditions.
A few ideas:
- Schedule daily pre-shift or post-shift meetings.
- Have short 30-minute coffee breaks with the team.
- If it’s someone’s birthday, set up an online party with food and drinks.
- Schedule one-on-one consultations with team members who you know are struggling the most.
- Have a virtual night out with your colleagues; kick back a few ice-cold beers and just chill out. After all, no one’s drinking and driving!
Maintaining regular communication with your remote team will help build stronger relationships and keep everyone more committed and focused on their jobs.
9. Keep the Learning Process Going
It’s not just your kids who should pursue higher education. Everyone, including you, can benefit by keeping the learning process going. You can always get better by updating your current skill set or learning new ones.
For example, everyone can benefit from improving their business acumen. If money management is a weak point, sign up for short courses on business accounting.
If you want to improve the existing workflows in your business, spend an hour each day learning a new project management software program.
Why not sign up for online foreign language courses so you can network and promote your business to other regions?
You can also research your industry and find out the latest trends and developments. You may have been immersed in managing the micro details of your business that you’ve been out-of-the-loop with the macro factors affecting your industry.
Keep in mind that the world doesn’t standstill. In a global economy, events in one region can have repercussions in another. Market conditions can change without warning.
It would be a good idea to adopt a flexible business model. This means learning new skills that can help you identify shifts or changes in the horizon and implement the appropriate courses of action right away,
10. Take Vacation or Sick Leaves
Just because you’re working with the comforts of your home doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick or need time off to recharge. There will come a time when the 30-minute rest periods every 75 to 120 minutes won’t suffice and you’ll need time away from work.
When that time comes – get away from work. If you get sick, schedule a few days’ leaves and get much-needed rest.
Depending on the situation in your region, if pandemic guidelines allow you to travel across the country, schedule a short vacation. Head off to a place where you can get fresh air and sunlight. If possible, disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in nature.
Our company is called “Mountaintop” for a reason. Whenever we feel the need to decompress and recharge, we get away from it all by climbing mountains in Colorado.
Mountain climbing is a great form of exercise and helps clear our minds from the challenges at work. It’s also a wonderful way of building teamwork. Getting to the top of the mountain requires everyone to perform at their best and to keep the team’s interest the main priority.
Reaching the pinnacle of the mountain is always a rush and an amazing accomplishment for the team!
Working from home is an opportunity for achieving a work-life balance. However, its success will depend on being able to maintain a productive schedule daily.
You don’t have to implement all of our 10 tips discussed in this article to ensure a productive work environment at home. Choose the ones that best apply to your situation and nature of work.
The important takeaway is to understand that when you work from home, you still have to work and put in the needed hours to succeed in your career.
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