A Gallup survey recently found that 43% of Americans work from home occasionally, and 3.4% of Americans work from home over half the time. Joining those who have been working from home are the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people working away from the office as a result of the coronavirus.
Amazon, Apple, Google, Twitter, and Airbnb all have at least some of their employees working from home. Even before the coronavirus, working remotely is accelerating in the U.S.
So how do you stay connected, productive and engaged when you are working from home? Kevin Roose in The New York Times recently wrote that “working from home impedes the creative sparks that fly when we are interacting with actual people”.
Beyond the loss of creativity comes the loss of social interaction – we as humans are born to interact with others and social bonds create productive teamwork.
Hallway chatter, while may seem annoying to you on days when you have deadlines looming, the constant blur of hallway noise can be comforting. So let’s look at things we can do to make working from home as good for you as it is for the projects you are working on.
Things, like sticking to a schedule and staying hydrated, are important, but lets also look at ways to maintain your relationships and feeling connected while working remotely.
Pick up the phone.
Touching base with your peers is a great way to start the day. Set up a morning coffee chat with your team and don’t forget to engage in a little non-work related banter.
Set up calls with your boss a few times per week to check-in and make sure you’re on the same page. If you are leading a team, keep scheduled calls on the calendar with them every day. Staying connected will help everyone keep motivated and productive throughout the whole week.
Setup video calls.
Face to face interaction is good, you can read how someone is really feeling about a project by their facial expressions. If you are working as a team on a project, leave the video call live and work together. Use technology to your advantage to stay connected.
Stick to a schedule.
Setting up a schedule and sticking to it is key to having a successful work from home experience. Having a plan is half the battle. So keep a project and task list handy. Choose from this list of task organizers to get started.
Then, hold yourself accountable — and be strict about it. Set primary work hours and stick to them. Downtime is important, so do things that are good for you during downtime. Reading, meditation, exercise, and gardening are all good ideas to incorporate into your new normal.
Set up an official office space.
Designating a separate space for your work is very helpful to keeping focus. It’s especially important to have a space where you can close a door or section off your attention. Even in a small apartment defined workspace is helpful.
Get comfortable but not too comfortable. Create a space that feels like yours. If you have room, a desk is an important part of any good office space, so invest in a great desk.
Our favorite is the standing desk by Vari.
Get dressed, at least from the waist up.
You just feel more productive out of pajamas. So bite the bullet, and get dressed — be comfortable but be prepared to answer a video call anytime they come in.
Being dressed helps maintain a professional attitude. Just because we are working from home, we can’t forget that we are still working.
Take every opportunity to engage with your clients, managers, and colleagues recognizing that in order to approach our workday professionally, it helps to have a professional attitude.
Getting out of your PJs promotes productivity and is affirming that work actually has to be done.
Get up and move around. Taking regular breaks can help you refresh your focus and get more done. Research shows taking a break every 75-90 minutes is a good thing. “When people do a task and then take a break for 15 minutes they help their brain consolidate information and retain it better.” Robert Pozen, MIT Sloan School of Management and author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours.
Get a little dirty.
Bring nature into your day. Step outside, breathe in fresh air, water your garden…whatever you do, incorporate breaks that incorporate greenery. Nature helps you focus so you can work your best.
Gardening is nurturing, to you and the environment. Being part of growth is a good thing both mentally and physically. You don’t have to have a big garden to reap the benefits; a small patio garden of fresh herbs or spring tomatoes will yield significant wellness benefits.
Additionally, keeping a plant on your desk can actually offer huge benefits for your focus levels, creativity, and general well-being. Having plants in your workspace is proven to increase productivity by 15% as well as reduce stress by 37% and reduce fatigue by 38%.
Garden Inspired Living’s money tree (complete with a bamboo planter) is the perfect plant to deck out your office space.
Ultimately though, whether we are working at home by choice or circumstance, it is important to maintain good mental health.
While stress levels are high, it is important to keep in mind and practice things that help guard us against loneliness and feelings of disconnectedness. Doing things that are good for us will also be good for our work.