Staying productive: Work-from-home tips for lockdown

Young Thai Melayu female freelancer wearing hijab work using a laptop on wooden table in coffee shop. Modern woman life style.

Your coffee table is now your desk and your conference calls are being interrupted by pets, children and Amazon deliveries.

But if you’re finding it difficult to stay focused whilst away from the office, it might be time to rethink your work from home strategy.

So, these five handy work-from-home tips will help you get things done, hold onto some essential work/life balance and maximise your productivity during the lockdown.

Create a space that’s yours

Not everyone has a dedicated home office. Many of us are balancing our laptops on top of laundry piles or even Zooming from the bed. It doesn’t really matter where you work at the moment — we’re all just testing out what does and doesn’t work for us.

Try to carve out some space in your home that’s entirely yours. Design it around how you like to work. Clear the clutter, light a candle and choose your perfect concentration music. If you’re working around kids and a partner you probably won’t be able to maintain complete zen, but at least you’ll always have somewhere to return to when it’s time to get down to business.

Stick to a routine (but don’t beat yourself up if it’s difficult)

Pyjamas all day? Margaritas at 3 pm? Sounds fun on a Saturday, but a bit dysfunctional for a Tuesday.

Routine helps you maintain a bit of normality and keep your mood consistent. Get up at the same time, get dressed, make coffee, have lunch at 1, clock off at 5 – whatever helps you work, stick to it as closely as possible.

Some days will feel more difficult than others, so don’t feel too bad if you want to lie down in the garden for an hour.

Set ground rules with your family

You need some uninterrupted work time. That’s going to be a very one-sided negotiation with babies and small children, but your partner, family, and older children can understand what a closed door means.

Talk to who you live with and work out a system that works for everyone. It could be giving you a full hour first thing to get the most important stuff ticked off with the promise of undivided attention at lunchtime, or swapping between tasks so both you and your partner get equal opportunities to focus. It’ll never be completely harmonious, but it can work if you’re all on the same page.

Keep multitasking to a minimum

Working from home — and potentially taking over from the national curriculum — is really tough. It might seem smart to try and balance as much as possible throughout the day, but multitasking often leads to feeling overwhelmed and making mistakes.

Try to keep your attention on one thing at once, even if it’s just for a short burst. You’ll tick more tasks off and be less likely to put your phone in the fridge and your Bluetooth mouse in the washing machine!

Know when to take a break

Having the TV remote right there might be an easy temptation for some, but others will worry about letting their productivity slide for a single moment. You can’t treat your home exactly like your usual workplace, even if you really want to. There’ll be moments where you need to take a breather, go for a run, play outside with your kids, walk your dog, whatever it is. Make time for it and you’ll find it easier to go back to emails and spreadsheets later.

Working from home can be tricky under normal circumstances. During this extra challenging period of internet speed problems, childcare, social distancing and conference call etiquette, you’ve got a lot on your plate. As well as setting routines and keeping your ‘desk’ uncluttered, not being too hard on yourself is the number one way to ensure work-from-home success. We’ve all got plenty of time to practise, too!

About the author

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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