The Art of Working from Home: Tips and Tricks on Productivity

About this blog: With a crisis situation worldwide, more and more offices are allowing employees to log in from home and get work down! A gift of time has been ushered on us, albeit unexpectedly, so much so we do not know how to utilize this abundant palpable flow of time! This blog post contains my personal experience of getting used to with the art of working from home, once I quit corporate. Here, I note down the tips that worked for me to be effective and productive while working from home and how I hope you will be able to implement some of them on your life too!

It has exactly been a year that I quit my job. I was working as a market research analyst for a beverage company, that even traded in remote countries like Lesotho. My work shift was from 11 to 8 which often stretched beyond 8 in the evening. I remember selecting a comfortable chair at the beginning of the shift and placing my neck-pillow as a cushion. Sometimes, I would put that neck-pillow as an elbow rest and work on the computer.

This was also a time, I had started with my travel blog and knew this is where my future lies. I persisted on both the jobs, anyone with an ambitious travel blog will know the amount of effort I had to put in henceforth!

The widespread allure of digital nomad wannabe usually pictures a workplace by the beach and a coconut shell by the side. I mean, that is lucrative but that is not how I jam, or could jam ever!

Once my blog started to pick up, it brought in opportunity to travel more frequently, I quit my corporate career. This is the time when I had to muster the art of working from home perfectly. My travels were consecutive but blog posts were precarious. Besides, my plan was to earn enough from the blog and travel at my own speed and condition, not always with deliverable in mind! This story can wait though!

While I could still run technical errands on the blog while on the way or scribble instantaneous IG posts, I craved for the downtime at home. Home is where I could truly write, while the world devoured its own beauty outside.

I could, also write well, really well when I was at office. I remember the tiny break-times I had in office, I would finish writing a blog post in 30 minutes. Looking back, that sounds magical! Of course those write ups were more personal in style, shorter in length and not exactly SEO optimized. They oozed out the confidence of a newbie writer and not necessarily expertise, which I miss nowadays!

Allow yourself some time!

The first step to be productive from home is to understand your mind needs to adjust with the changes. It is just not the favorite system or the most comfortable chair anymore, you are dealing with a prolonged period of human absence.

Neither the colleague from the next team will be comfort you post board meeting, nor the HR lady shall ask you to prepare for a dance performance on an ethnic day celebration. You can not go to the boss asking for an easy explanation of the task at hand. Alone, you are to log in remotely, almost in a solitary confinement. Suddenly, the hustle of preparing lunch and skipping breakfast is amiss. It can drain out a person, with no clear goal of defined activities in coming days. “I have never seen anything like this in my life!” Told me a friend from Canada and I echo him too!

Eventually, you shall gauge the depth of fear of missing out. We grew up playing benign Chinese whispers, but that can be all consuming in a corporate career being conducted from the realm of work from home. Your mode of communication is crucial. It reminds me of lessons of legal system, be as detailed as possible in your statement, in the email, in your call. Do not miss out on anything!

With time, you shall learn all the tricks of the job. However, the sooner you are prepared, the better at productivity you will be while working from home!

However, you are a lot more than your productivity!

I hear you, it is boring to Work from Home!

I craved the comfort of working from home while I was on the road. There will be a new travel everyday and I needed to move and create content in between and hustle and the hustle was thrilling!

I literally had less than a week scheduled for home every month. Home was sweeter than ever!

I beg your pardon, it is just not home. I could also work at ease from the bed of a hotel room. It fact, I worked better from there! The static of AC machine, the comfort of a soft bed and a glass of cold water: the mind would flow into a fountain! Mist would fill in the void of the valley in front.

The bloom died a quick death though, as soon as situations changed. With consecutive travel plans being barred and no crisis containment success in close vicinity, I panic every now and then. No, not now and then, I panic with every new whats-app forward. I was recently forwarded a whats app forward that whats app forward will be banned and declared illegal in India. Another whats app forward came stating do not pay heed to whats app forwards. I threw away my phone.

Home is a nook you have created in this world to rest upon, temporarily. Deep down your mind, you know you have the world to explore and conquer. Right at this moment, it just does not fit into the plan!

For example, I have at least 600 articles to write and publish on the blog. I genuinely enjoy the art of creating, writing and publishing blog posts. Yet, the fact that this is enforced on me, and I can not go out on will, makes me restless and want to go out at once!

To calm your heart is a task in itself and needs a lot more delving deep. I am learning more about it on a daily basis. However, a few strategies are helping me to stay productive while working from home and finish task and gain self actualization (straight out of Maslow’s pyramid). I hope they help you too!

Find out Your Place at home!

A number of people prefer to go to a cafe and work as a part of WFH. A number of them lay back on the bed and work (yours truly). You choose where you feel the most comfortable to work from (and productivity shall follow), and carry on!

Working from home is high on productivity when you are comfortable. The time, the venue, you choose, At the middle of the night? At the crack of the dawn? At afternoon when the woodpecker plays a background music? You know the best. Finish your chunk of work at that time.

Make sure the place you are working from home meets following criteria to ensure higher level of productivity:

It is clean.

Spray some home freshener or get a stick of Rajnigandha. Sweep it clean before you start working. I remember my previous manager stating, “Dokan khulbo… let me open the shop” as he would start his day and turn on the machine! Arrange a few aesthetics, say a few flower petals, or a photo of your family on the desk, get a water bottle by side.

It has plenty of sunlight (or light)

I usually find myself at my most productive self while working under the bright sun! I am writing this knowing not all of us has the privilege of working at day light. The world is a global village in the kingdom of world wide web! We work remotely, oftentimes, complying with different time-zones.

Ensure your work place is brightly lit lest you end up napping by the machine. To get a beef of task accomplished, you ought to have the luxury of working for a couple of hours straight. Prepare keeping that in mind. Should you say work by the veranda and sun sets at the west, you should be able to quickly light up the room. A dark room is a fun game but brings gloom to a working mind!

Choose serenity!

When I work from home in Kolkata, I love it when in New Town. It is unprecedentedly calm compared to Behala, where at least ten people shouts and 8 stray dogs barks at any given point of time. The thought flow stops. The mind is bewildered. Sometimes, the neighbor would play Rabindra sangeet on a loud speaker (not exactly loud speaker but you get the drift!). It helped me in high school to get done with math lessons. It still helps me with chores like Pinterest threads, but for writing, I need the calm of a mortuary.

Choose that silent corner of the room while working from home, specially when you are connected with a team. I am a lone wolf, you may not be! You do not want your colleague to groove on “Nrittero Tale Tale…” right?

Ditch them the distractions…

Even after I have found a calm nook at home, I can not stay away from my smartphone. Honest confession!

But if I could, I would write volumes and finish the pending lot of 600 articles in 2 weeks. This statement has some exaggeration but we can deal with that.

To win on the battle of incessant productivity while working from home, you must not get sucked into the evil Instagram vortex! To fight it, so far, all I have done is to stop frequenting Instagram altogether. That means I am not posting frequently in Instagram too! Which is not good for my work and triggering mild panic but my goal at the moment is set to reach a certain page view on the blog so I shall pass Instagram for a few days.

To be fair, this vortex is present in Facebook, YouTube and Twitter too! Stay away from (or rather, do not waste your precious time on) these social media channels like you would from an infected aircraft, if you know what I mean! Ultimately, if and when the system collapses, we have only time as a currency to trade in!

Pro tip: The only way I have been able to get rid of annoying habit of checking social media is to put my phone in a different room. I am at my most productive self when I am not connected. No regrets there!

Pro tip 2: Ensure you have killed the notification setting on your laptop.

Prepare back up and Contingency plan!

Remember, you mind is the most powerful tool in the process of getting accustomed with work from home! Put your faith firmly on “I M Possible” and look out for the practical resources to render the plan a success! Do you have a power back up? What about your internet connection? Does it work fast? You have a back up plan if internet fails? Do you have enough water at home?

Ensure Privacy of Your Bedroom

We all remember the BBC dad, don’t we? It was all cute but we do not want to fall in that garb willingly, I am hopeful.

If you are working as a part of a remote team, chances are you shall conduct multiple virtual meetings. Ensure your background does not flaunt a Che Guevara poster or anything that gives away your personality. After all, you are letting people access your home. You have all the rights to protect your privacy!

Tip: Remember to switch off your camera every-time a meeting gets over!

Tip 2: DO NOT lie down on the bed while working out of home!

Work from home ≠ Work from Bed?

More often than not, experts suggest to work from a chair-tabel set up.

I do not do that.

However, my reason is not because I am lazy.

I do not work out of the chair and table because, simply, my hand hurts. I do not have a chair designed ergonomically. The Neelkamal plastic chair I have, usually wears me out. I have tried the sofa but it is not comfortable either.

I rest my back on the headrest of the bed and write. So far, this is the work style I have been practicing without a serious impact on productivity.

However, what works for me may not work for you. The idea is to be comfortable from where you are working and NOT ending up with a back pain or shoulder ache. If a chair table set up is allowing you to work better, I urge you to sign up for it!

Things you must keep in mind if at all you are on the bed while working from home:

  1. You are not sleepy. You have rested well.
  2. You would not give in to an afternoon siesta.
  3. The comfort of bed shall not occupy your mind with “other things”
  4. You take accountability!
  5. Mind your posture. No work position must compromise your body immunity and make it susceptible to ache.

Plan for the Day

The major issue I dealt with while starting with working from home journey was to track time.

Time flew even before I could grasp the better part of it. The day ended but my work did not. the comfort of home often makes you forget the pressure and you end up with extended trippy schedule. Recognize the risk that comes along. The burn out. It is real!

Use a notepad to note-down day’s task. Make a schedule of essential work to be finished. Ensure you assign a stipulated time bracket for each task and try to stick to that. Small nothings like this add up and help stay a person self motivated in the long run.

Noting the tasks down also helps you stay focused. You can come back and see the pending work. Instead of them getting piled up, you will have a process to abide by and finish according to priority. I swear by notepads and love using stationary while at work.

Reward Yourself

A lot of us work and work better basis on incentive. Come on, who would not prefer a little celebration? a little cheer on the small achievement? This is more useful when you are battling with anxiety and depression. Celebrate every small milestone on a typical workday. This makes you look forward to the next task and usher a sense of self worth! Yes, I can do this! We all love to finish our job, honestly.

For example, I thought this post would take me anywhere between 2 hours to complete and publish. However, a number of things kept me engaged. What will happen to my father? How soon we can start traveling? What about the next visa appointment? How long I can run the show without a proper job? What is the use of my education, a degree in business if I can not earn a living in a world that can not travel any longer?

I tell myself calm the fuck down and go out for a brisk walk on the rooftop. But the city is dark and sinister and I start to cry!

I digress but you get the drift, right?

I came back to my workplace (the bed) and promised myself a bowl of Noeln Gurer Payesh if I can finish this blog-post by midnight. Looks like I have got it! I shall devour the Payesh bowl.

You can choose what reward works for you. Ten pages of the last thriller you picked up? The next episode of breaking bad on Netflix (because no other show on the world is worth your time, let’s be honest). A cheesecake? Go for it! Work like there is no tomorrow, and your life is dependant on it and fetch the reward! It is a race against your own self and it is thrilling!

Set a time Limit for Work

… otherwise, you will burn out soon.

Assign a set time while you are making plans for the day. This is the single most crucial part of the plan! Do not bring or extend work beyond a certain clock position. There has to be a hard stop. Your boss needs to know it too. (If he does not agree, forward this blog post!)

Studies on productivity on work from home has historically shown a healthy work life balance is a necessity even when you are working remotely. Prolonged work hours never necessarily guarantees you will have better productivity.

Pro Tip: Finish your work on time but remain visible to the team members. This can be the green sign on skype, or prompt reply to emails. Do this until work from home becomes a norm among the team!

Take a short walk

Do not forget to stretch or take a brisk walk while you are working from home. This is a welcome break for the human mechanism which was never designed to settle down for a sedentary lifestyle!

All Work and no Play, makes Jack a Dull Boy

Look up for a community to connect with while you are working from home. Share how your day looks like. Share the struggles, talk about the little accomplishments.

A man was created to mingle. A man remains a social animal. Prolonged remote confinement at home can have adverse effect on one’s mental and physical health.

A few things that your team looks forward to if you are managing workforce remotely!

While you may be the boss and heading a remote workforce for the first time, you will have your own struggles, ranging from staying productive to fight your own insecurities. I will let alone be the imminent threats of anxiety and panic mongering ravaging the world at large. Here are a few rules to run a remote show that comes to my mind. You can of course improvise.

  1. Maintain a daily tracker with jobs done and responsibilities assigned clearly. Enforce the tracker on your team members.
  2. Start the day with a briefing with your team. Try to make it a virtual meeting, schedule a time for the same.
  3. Enforce a dress code for the meeting if you want people to stay focused. (People, dressing up while working from home is fun and actually helps in productivity. That red lipstick is my secret power to finish a number of mega blog posts (like this one) I finished in a day!)
  4. Include your team members for every decision making. Everyone should be informed of every task performed.

It is actually easy, the whole thing with working from home. In fact, it has been proven to booster your productivity in certain aspects in the long runs. I even know of a number of offices nowadays encouraging employees to sign up for at least a weekday of remote work. I am wrong. This happened in a world we knew even a couple of weeks back. Now, with our foothold getting flooded drastically at the blink of an eye, we do not even know what holds in the future.

But hey, let us keep hoping against the hope. Once this is all over, we will tell out kids of the trying days the world went through at once. We will talk about beautiful, kind and compassionate people we met in this virtual workplace, the new innovative ways our friendships were cemented and together we sailed through. So, do not be crude with yourself. Allow ample time to learn from mistake. And we will figure it out in the longer run!

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