If you haven’t worked from home before, one of the risks is that you feel the need to be “always on”.
This is something that managers and teams need to actively fight against. Nothing will burn you or any knowledge worker out faster than checking email or work texts from the moment you wake up to the moment your eyelids close.
Easy #WFH structures
- Set one over-arching goal each morning (e.g. I will accomplish X by this time)
- Tell yourself that once the task is complete, you can take a break or keep working depending on your energy level 💫
- Turn off ALL distractions, mute your phone, turn off notifications on Slack or log out. CLOSE YOUR EMAIL INBOX!
- Break the goal into pieces and tackle the hardest subtasks first, then, move onto the easier pieces
- Don't get up until you complete at least 25 minutes per segment, doing this in cycles of 3, then take 5 minutes in between - this is called the "Pomodoro Technique" and it's magic!
This kind of focus isn't what we are used to, especially when working in "open floor plan" offices where colleagues distract us or when our instant communication tools are always pinging. It will probably take a few days, or weeks, to get the hang of this technique - but once mastered, you'll see a boost in productivity. It makes "logging off" and feeling good about the work you've done much easier.
As I think about how I define “a really productive day,” yes, I think of tasks I’ve checked off, conversations that have gone really well, and solving complex problems with my team. But relying solely on those things to feel productive is impossible. People, problems, and opinions change. So, I took a look at what I was doing to set myself up to have productive days and have found some ENJOYABLE patterns emerge.
🎵When I’ve got to focus on creative or technical work, I listen to music. Research shows 70 decibels stimulates the creative centers of your brain. Pro-tip: 70 decibels is equal to the volume level of your vacuum cleaner.
📆On Sundays, I timebox my calendar for the week. There’s something about doing this on Sunday that makes it easier to look at what I need to get done objectively without the distractions of my workday influencing how and when I spend my time on things.
💪I exercise before work. This is admittedly the hardest thing to get into a habit of doing, but when you enjoy what you’re doing at the gym, in your basement, or even a virtual class, you’ll look forward to getting up and doing it. I feel far less restless throughout the day and find I have more patience for those meetings we all have that seem to drag on.
💤I have a bedtime. I praise those of you that are high-functioning with 4 hours of sleep. I’m not that gal. I get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I’ve found I’m more productive when I’m well-rested. No brainer, right? Science shows you’re 20% more productive with 7-9 hours of sleep.
🌲I stare out the window. Bear with me here. We all have those productivity slumps. You’ve hit a roadblock that requires a creative solution, or you’ve heard “No” one too many times that day. Sometimes the answer truly isn’t staring you right in the face. For me, it’s helpful to look away from my computer and stare out the window for a bit. Leaning into the slump rather than trying to avoid it by pressing on is sometimes all I need to come back to the problem with fresh eyes and perspective.
Setting limits (e.g. when to stop working)
Hopefully, you have a manager or boss that helps with this, but if not, it is important to take your well being into your own hands when working remotely.
- Set a starting and stopping time (whether you are on a strict schedule or not), then log out of Slack, your email inbox, etc.
- Work with your team to outline emergency lines of communication and clarify what constitutes an emergency (e.g. if the website goes down it's alright to text with the subject line urgent)
- Schedule breaks (be sure to get up, stretch, take a walk, etc)
- Set time limits on projects so you know when to stop (taking breaks is scientifically proven to improve your work when you resume)
- Create a end-of-the-working-day ritual (whether it's yoga class, fixing dinner, taking kids or pets to the park, it helps you mentally make a clean break between your work life & home life)
- Feel the need to be “seen” by being online constantly, instead focus on results
- Work in your lounge clothes or pajamas (instead get up, wash yourself and get dressed in clothes that signal 'I'm at work')
- Beat yourself up if it takes a while to develop good work-life balancing techniques when working from home
"For my lunch break I set a timer for 30-60 minutes at exactly the same time each day (or as close to it as possible), depending on the day. During this time, my laptop is closed, my notifications are turned off and I do nothing but eat my lunch. If I have a little time leftover...I go for a walk, read a chapter of my book, or call a friend or family member. When the timer goes off I turn all of my notifications back on, open my laptop and get back to work. I feel like I have actually had a break and therefore I am productive through my afternoon." - Lizzy Bannister, Coordinator at Avra Talent
Combating social isolation
This is a tough one, as we all know now this is *not* a normal time. Depending on your government’s warnings, your own health and where you live—you may or may not be able to pop into a cafe or take a walk around the block. We've also put together some suggestions from teams who have been operating office-less for years.
Remote work socialization
When there is no office to influence spontaneous informal communication, you must be intentional about weaving it into your day.
- Schedule regular coffee chats with people using a video call.
- Let your kids connect over Zoom! We call them Juicebox Chats, enabling children from around the world to experience new languages and cultures as they laugh, play, and learn together.
- Experiment with video-based chat tools like Yac, or create an always-on video conferencing room that your team can work from (remember, in a remote setting, it's OK to look away!).
- Talk about what you normally would. If sports, vacation plans, and hilarious tales of insubordination by children are common water-cooler material, work with your team to establish a chat channel to discuss things outside of work. The medium may be different, but the connection is the same.
- Drop any shame or embarrassment. Everyone is in the same boat — a forced work-from-home arrangement with no preparation. Don't worry about your background and feel welcome to let your pets and family find their way into calls on occasion. It humanizes the experience and reminds everyone that we're people first and colleagues second.
- Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab
In crisis times there are a variety of ways to support others which fills you with oxytocin and helps combat the feelings of social anxiety.
- Delivering food or medicine to those in the community who aren't mobile
- Checking on others via phone to see how they're holding up
- Many animals need fostering or adoption desperately right now! Check out local non-profit animal shelters for more information
- Connect with family and community. Working from home gives you an opportunity to spend time with a different set of people than just your coworkers. Look for opportunities to build bonds with family and community, which may have been impossible or limited when you had a commute
Other ways to combat feelings of isolation 😢
- Cleaning. Reading. Pushups and realizing that this is only a period of time
- Video calls with friends, colleagues and family (there are lots of free options from FaceTime to Zoom or Google Hangouts)
- Reading biographies, or historical fiction about different times and places helps transport us to different times and places without leaving the safety of our own homes
- Start a passion project or finish up a project you’ve been meaning to find the time for
- Spending time with your pets
- Crushing out all those small items on your to-do list that you have been avoiding for months or years 🤭
- Virtual workouts
- Virtual Bookclubs (A few of our faves: Power to Fly, Our Shared Self, Oprah’s Bookclub)
- Meditation apps like Calm
- Workout apps (like Whoop) or websites that allow you to challenge friends
- Multi-player online games
- Online therapy like TalkSpace
We'd love to hear from you as well - please submit any suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember: