We’re living in weird times right now, to say the least. In efforts to keep COVID-19 (coronavirus) contained as much as possible, companies all over the world are doing their best to limit person-to-person interaction by letting their employees work from home.
If you’ve never worked from home for more than a half-day or a couple of days, it can be pretty jarring at first. Yes, there are tools to help, but it takes a while to adjust to the new rhythm and find your own was to be productive.
We’re new to this, and as such, we’ve been asking friends who work remotely full-time what advice they have for staying productive while working from home for an extended period of time.
Here are 7 productivity tips we learned about working from home.
This time in and of itself carries a lot of change for everyone. With enough things changing outside of work, there’s no need to flip your schedule around. We asked Alayna Mines, Director of Sales at Dribbble, about keeping your schedule, and this was her advice:
“If you’re new to working from home, you might feel almost like this is vacation time! Stay up late and sleeping in is fine. Right? Wrong. Making sure you keep your same sleep schedule keeps your body in “work mode” and allows you to better prepare and manage your workday. For example, if you wake up at 7:00 am, workout at 7:30 am and get to work by 9:00 am, keep doing that! It’ll keep your body in routing, won’t interrupt sleep cycles and hey, it’s healthy to not throw your body time clock out of whack!”
Making sure you keep your same sleep schedule keeps your body in “work mode” and allows you to better prepare and manage your workday.
Alayna Mines, Director of Sales @ Dribbble
Whether you realized it or not, your body is in a rhythm with your day-to-day schedule. Keeping some sense of normalcy will help you continue to be productive.
Another tempting aspect about working from home is, well, that you’re home, a place you’ve likely made very comfortable and cozy, which makes it easy to decide to work from your couch or other comfortable spots.
When we asked Leah Knobler, Director of Talent Acquisition at Help Scout, her tips for working from home, her first answer was:
“Create a space that feels like a dedicated work area — don’t just sit on the couch all day (also that will hurt your back!)”
Leah Knobler, Director of Talent Acquisition @ Help Scout
Sure, spending some time on the couch is okay, but not having a dedicated space to go when you really need to get work done can make it hard to focus. Dedicating a specific workspace, even if it means temporarily turning a dining room table or counter into a desk, will be worth the effort for a foreseeable future.
It’s funny that one of the biggest hesitations about remote work from a leadership perspective is the lack of ability to monitor employees to make sure they’re at their station and working, when in reality, a lot of remote employees actually have a hard time making sure they take enough breaks during the day.
"..if I’m stuck on a problem or am feeling blocked creatively, I’ll move things around to break then and not waste time and mental energy by keeping the wheels spinning.”
Evan Travelstead, Product Designer @ Facebook
Office employees often don’t realize how many micro-breaks they take during the day. Talking to a coworker, grabbing a coffee, or getting a snack are all their own forms of breaks, and when removed from an office setting, it’s strangely easy to feel guilty about doing those things.
But, taking breaks is good (even productive!), and you should make time for them.
Evan Travelstead, Product Designer with Facebook even schedules his breaks. “I have pre-set times to take breaks throughout the day, but if I’m stuck on a problem or am feeling blocked creatively, I’ll move things around to break then and not waste time and mental energy by keeping the wheels spinning.”
He mentioned exercise as his go-to method for clearing his head and feeling refreshed and ready to get back at it.
This one is applies to anyone, but particularly the parents in the room. Noise-canceling headphones can be a major help while working from home.
They may sound like an unnecessary cost at first, and not everyone will need them, but if home gets noisy during the day, noise-canceling headphones can be a huge help for maintaining focus during deep work, and thus, are worth the investment.
It’s okay to miss your coworkers right now. You just went from seeing them 40 hours a week to not seeing them at all. Those micro-interactions we mentioned earlier aren’t necessarily happening anymore, and though it’s not something you’d think of at first, it’s something you’ll likely miss a lot about working in an office.
Sarah Mcllwain, Product Design Manager at Abstract, says that she makes an intentional effort to make these organic, non-work related interactions happen. "If I read a book that someone on my team would love, I’ll shoot them a Slack DM. And if I find a restaurant I’m really excited about, we even have channels dedicated to the cities we live in."
"If I read a book that someone on my team would love, I’ll shoot them a Slack DM. And if I find a restaurant I’m really excited about, we even have channels dedicated to the cities we live in."
Sarah Mcllwain, Product Design Manager @ Abstract
This is always a great habit for productivity, but with things as chaotic as they are at the moment, it becomes particularly important. Starting your day by laying out specific goals, and giving yourself a realistic timeline to get them done is a major help.
Evan Travelstead even recommends scheduling your day out based around when you know you’re most productive. “For me,” says Evan, “my most productive time is in the morning, so I try to knock out my most difficult tasks or ones that will take the longest at the beginning of the day.”
“..my most productive time is in the morning, so I try to knock out my most difficult tasks or ones that will take the longest at the beginning of the day.”
Evan Travelstead, Product Designer @ Facebook
Time blocking is a method worth considering if productivity has been tough since transitioning to fully-remote work. Per Doist, "Time blocking is a time management method that asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks."
Blocking your days into tasks or groups of tasks helps make sure that tasks get seen through to the end, and it can be wildly productive.
When researching for this post, we came across this tweet of golden tips from Kamauri Yeh, Creative Director at Nike:
Those are all great tips, but the last one is one we feel particularly strongly about.
Schools are pretty much all closed right now, moving their classes online, leaving some parents scrambling to figure out how to look after their kids. Giving parents some grace right now will be a massive help for them. Not to mention, they’ll be grateful for it, and showing that kind of grace, flexibility, and understanding is more likely to make them want to stick around once this thing is weathered.
Like we said, these are weird times. All of this comes with a steep learning curve, so give your people all of grace, encouragement, and support you can while we get through this thing together.
Want to send your newly-distributed team a surprise pick-me-up? Consider sending them a soft company t-shirt to wear in their remote role. If there’s ever been a need for comfortable company gear, it’s right now. Click here to start an order online, or click here to talk to a human.
Plus, we can send directly to your employees so you won’t have to worry about distributing them. For more details, ask an Account Manager 🤗