27. March 2020
5 min

So you woke up in your home office... Now what?

I often heard from my friends and colleagues that they rather spend time commuting to the office than work from home. The main reason is the feeling that they are not really productive in their home office. Work from home can be an experience involving a lot of distractions, which leave you with the feeling of guilt and/or urge to be online all the time. Here you will find some tips, that have helped me to be more productive in the home office.

Arrange your environment in a way that is good for you.

Step 1: If you have no dedicated office room at home, this is where you will have to start from. Find a room or space that you can turn into “working area”. Think what helps you to focus while doing so.

Step 2: Look around: is there anything that distracts you? It can be from wash that needs ironing, tax report that is not finished or dirty windows. Be creative and make sure you immediately eliminate things that distract you. Sometimes this means washing that one window that you see from your desk before you start.

Step 3: Think about all the motivators that encourage you to work. Do you need to be accountable to someone? You can, for example, call your colleagues to tell them about your plans and have a chat in the evening about how it went.

My experience: I have learned that I have too much energy to sit at the table for hours in a row. In the office I could adjust the height of the table, change between sitting and standing, or kneeling on my office chair (it is more comfortable than it sounds). In my small flat, I had to get creative and I change between working at the dining table and couch. I put the second monitor on a cutting board placed on the couch and that works surprisingly well.

Give yourself a structure you need.

Spending many days at home, you might be tempted to question many routines, for example: Should I have a breakfast? Should I start working earlier? After all, there is no need to spend time commuting. An average adult person makes 35,000 remotely conscious decisions per day, and this mental load is reduced with routines and structures. Therefore, in a new situation, you may require new routines and new structures to support your productivity. Find out what helps you to concentrate or to remain focused. Be creative!

Here is one way to gain more focus:

Step 1: Write down everything that swirls around your head. Include other thoughts and to-dos that are not related to work. Even though we can write all our to-dos electronically, crossing things out on the physical list gives a feeling of an achievement. Try it out! Write one thought on each sticky note or piece of paper. Make sure to write with a pen that allows you to read from distance.

  • Call back the customer xy
  • Finish the blog post
  • Do the wash
  • When do I want to do the tax report?
  • Call my parents
  • Cleaning the car in my lunch break?

Step 2: Prioritize – which tasks are important? Use a pin-board or stick the notes on a surface – be it could be a door or a window. It should be visible from the place where you sit. The most important things should have the highest position.

Step 3: Plan your day and consider, what can and should be done today. Make a good mix of work tasks and free time activities. Consider the time that each of the tasks could take in your planning.

Step 4: Work through your tasks. You can use Kanban board with columns “to-do”, “in progress” and “done”. To keep your focus on a certain task, you can limit the number of tasks “in progress”. If you feel that things are going differently than expected, make a new prioritization in your coffee break. Consider this as an experiment! Learn in the process. Adjust or disregard what does not feel good or does not help you. Introduce more of the things that work best for you!

Treat yourself like you expect your colleagues to treat you: respect your own breaks and celebrate when you do something well.

Kanban

If you are not the only one working from home, and there are also partners, spouses or kids at home, it makes sense to visualize your day in a bigger format, for example, on the door. This can help to increase the transparency about your breaks, and when you can take time for yourself and for your loved ones. An additional benefit is, that you will know when you started to work, and it will be easier “to finish” the work and turn to offline mode without feeling guilty. You have also visualized what you have accomplished during the day!

Plan

Take care of your body

Not having to go out of home might end up in staying indoors all day long. Make sure that you have enough physical activities built in your routines. These use other areas of brain pushing yourself to calm down. Coming into sweating reduces stress (Cortisol) in your body and pushes out happiness hormones (Endorphins). If you cannot go out, roll out your gymnastics mat or lay down a blanket and choose one of the thousand YouTube videos for exercises, yoga or meditation. For peer support, you might consider creating a group chat for exercising, for example, with your colleagues.

Take care of your mind

Throughout the day I often find myself wondering in thoughts. Sometimes it is a thought that I should remember or something that worries me. It is not unusual to be “lost” for 20 minutes before I even realize it. What helped me was to register these moments, write down my thought, and continue working. Depending on the issue, I could deal with it in a break or just leave it there to think about it in the evening.

In the evening, you can ask yourself: “How am I doing?” Write it down or talk about it with someone. Make sure that you are honest to yourself. Even if many things seem to go wrong, remember to focus on the opportunities: every situation in life brings a new learning. What are you learning right now? How or where can it help you in the future? I have been learning a lot about patience in the past couple of weeks, and I am sure it will help me to become more resilient in many situations in life. How about you?

Finally: practice gratefulness. It is not bringing you any single step forward, if you think about all the things going wrong and all the things you do not have. What do you have? What are you thankful for? I answer these questions for myself in the form of a diary and can assure you that after a short time you will feel that your body and mind are grateful for these thoughts.

…and another game changer.

If you have kids, this could create further challenges in mastering the home office. However, children can also benefit from a clear structure. You can avoid family conflicts and support your children in becoming more independent by creating a list of daily tasks for them as well. Here is an example of Corona-Vacation rules from my work colleague.

His family is following the plan for one week already and see positive impact of having it in place.

How do you cope with home office?

Let us know, what kind of challenges and problems you have while working from home office. Who are we? We are a team of coaches, who are now also working from home office. Together we can address your challenges. It does not matter if you are looking for new structures, ways to avoid long lasting boring remote meetings, or you are looking for advice how to keep contact to your colleagues. You can find more information on this website.

Image Sources: (c) Emma Matthews - Unsplash

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