Working from home during lockdown: 6 tips to stay productive and social
LAUREN KRESS, THE BUSINESS SCIENTIST® | BUSINESS
Looking for tips on how to make the most of working, learning and socialising from home? I'm your gal!
Not only have I run my business from home since 2016 but throughout primary school I was homeschooled.
If you're wondering if I'm just the homebody type, er, no...I am literally the most extroverted person I know.
I get cabin fever easily and if you've worked in close quarters with me you would have noticed that point where I crack from the pressure of being indoors and say something like "but the chiii (hysterical laughter)...the chiiiii (more uncontrollable laughter) chiii...ck...eeeeen..." because I dunno, there was a chicken. Seriously, it's like I'm drunk.
My idea of a relaxing way to wind down is to go out and find new people to talk to and make friends with. Friday night dinner party, Weekend BBQ, Business Networking Events, Friends coming over to talk about life the universe and everything until 3am...that is my idea of chilling out (as long as the music isn't too loud, god I hate that...)
So how is it that so much of my life revolves around being at home? And how have I made it work given my outgoing personality?
First of all, the working from home thing has really helped my business to keep chugging along when, as a startup, we are so vulnerable to cashflow issues. It's also better for the environment (yay, making a difference!) and great for productivity once you get the hang of it (Nothing like a ticked-off to-do list.)
So working from home hasn't just been a great way to save on overhead costs - it's become a way of life that now I can't imagine living without.
See one thing you need to understand about working from home is it is a GAME CHANGER.
It goes without saying that not every job can be done from home, and some jobs can only be done partially from home. My husband is an emergency doctor for instance, he can't really do the bulk of his work from home, but there are still things he does do from home (studying never seems to end for him...).
For some of us right now there might be only aspects of our work that we can sink our teeth into or maybe this is an opportunity to learn something new, regroup with our colleagues, design a new product for online consumption or formulate a new route-to-market strategy.
For many of us who don't need to be in an office, I'm here to tell you, once you know how to make working from home work for you, you won't want to go back.
So to get you started on your work from home journey I wanted to share all the things I wish I knew when I left my office job to launch my business from home:
1) Learn more about yourself and how you work best
Before you do anything else, it's really useful to take a step back and get curious about yourself first. Dig up the psychometric test results from your employer or, if you haven't done any psychometric testing before, take an online quiz.
Two of my favourite online assessments for learning more about ourselves is 16personalities (free) and Belbin (paid).
Belbin is particularly good if you're a team leader looking for how to best cooperate and manage your team - consider having each team member fill this out as well.
If you're higher on extroversion (16personalities) or in one of the "People" roles on Belbin (Resource Investigator, Teamworker, Coordinator) then staying social while you're working or learning from home is going to be particularly crucial for you.
If you're more of an introvert or don't rank highly in any of the people roles then keep in mind that it's not that socialising isn't important for you, it's just you might find that you don't need to do as much of it to feel like you have filled that cup in your day.
2) Find your flow
On average it takes 10-30 minutes to get into a flow state where we are the most productive, creative and able to best absorb and remember information. After 20-50 minutes however, most of us will start to lose concentration and need a break.
There is no hard and fast rule on this, and it's important to learn your own rhythm which you may find varies depending on what task you do.
In flow state we are much better at solving problems and dealing with the difficult challenges that are occupying many of our work (and personal) lives right now.
Keep in mind that you may find it easier to achieve a flow state at particular times in the day or evening.
For me I'm all about the morning - mornings are my peak time for productivity and I don't like to keep a 9-5 schedule.
5am-9am is the best time for me to get "actual work for my business" done as are weekends.
9am-3pm is the time I'm best able to help my clients and work with my team to make sure we're keeping on top of project deliverables.
3pm-6pm my brain is mush and whilst I can take a few calls, I usually leave this time for lunch and connecting with new people via zoom video conferencing or just not working if I'm in a position to take a longer break.
6pm-8pm my brain switches back on and I'll check my emails one more time and make a plan for the next day or send reminders and updates if I'm still chasing things for the next day from my team/clients/suppliers.
8pm-10pm Time out to relax and unwind before bed
3) Work in intervals and take intentional breaks
It's important to take regular breaks, especially when working from home. In the office there are cues to take breaks and we are often interrupted which, whilst annoying at times, can break up the day and the monotony.
You don't want to sit at your desk all day without realising it (it's happened to me so many times...) and then find your back aches, your head hurts and your completely wiped out from the day. It is not sustainable. Trust me, I speak from personal experience.
I find the pomodoro method is a great way to get the most amount of work done and stay energised throughout the day. Combine this with grouping similar tasks together and you are going to feel super productive (and energised!) thoughout the day.
Here's 4 bonus pointers to really make the most of this style of working:
1) Start your day by writing a list that you can add to as new things pop up that you need to deal with
2) Only check your emails at scheduled intervals throughout the day
3) Don't answer the phone when you're in the middle of another task - schedule calls the same way you would meetings
4) Schedule tasks in your diary eg. "Write debrief report for client A" gets scheduled the same way a meeting would - consider how long the task will take and block that time in your calendar. If it needs to change, find another time in your diary to make it happen.
You may want to adjust your work-break-work schedule depending on on how long you can find you can concentrate for and how long it takes you to settle into your work after a break.
For me I find working for between 45-90 minutes and then having 15-30 minute breaks between works best.
The important thing is that you're break isn't checking social media, texting, watching TV, reading a book, gaming or doing something where your mind has to use the same mode of operation as when you're working.
There's plenty of things you can do in your break that don't involve this part of your brain - things like:
- Make yourself a cup of tea
- Setup an exercise circuit you can do at home with some stretches, sit ups, burpies and lunges
- Sit down with the family for a meal or snack together
- Do a short yoga or pilates routine
- Take a power nap
- Cook something new
- Tend to your plants or your pets
- Jump on a treadmill or exercise bike if you have one at home
4) Turn your phone calls into video meetings
It took me a while to realise the significance of this but it really does make a difference in how you connect with people.
Whether you're studying or working, social interaction is key. Be intentional with your meetings and treat it the same way you would a meeting in your office or a coffee catch up at university.
Make your tea or coffee before you sit down, dress appropriately and lean into the discussions you're having.
When I'm on a video call, that person has my full attention. My phone is switched to silent, my desk is clear of other tasks and distractions, my email notifications are turned off.
Staying social whilst we're quarantined at home depends on staying virtually connected and whilst a phone call is good, as we largely rely on our vision to understand what's going on, don't miss out on the extra information these meetings can provide you.
Zoom conferencing is super easy to use and for one-on-one meetings for any duration or group meetings under 45-minutes it's free.
5) Connect and collaborate with people (it's so easy to do on LinkedIn)
Every week I meet and speak with people from all around the world from my home office but when I first started my business, I had no idea how to make these connections.
When you're used to working at an office and networking at conferences the idea that you can network more efficiently and effectively from home can seem quite strange.
But the most amazing people I've met in my life have been from connections I've made right here on LinkedIn. Not on a Facebook Group (although it can be another way to meet people with similar interests). Not at a Webinar or on a Virtual Group Training Activity. Right here on this channel and it is simple and it is free.
All you need to do is be genuinely curious about connecting and collaborating with others.
Find people who are posting about things you're interested in by searching for a related hashtag in your search bar.
For instance if you're looking to develop your skills on LinkedIn search #Linkedin in the search bar. If you're looking for people who post about executive coaching or change management try #leadership or #change.
Who is posting interesting content?
Follow them, request a connection and write a short introduction letting them know why you're connecting - it could be as simple as "Hey <Name>, just came across your recent post on <what post is about> on LinkedIn, love what you're talking about it would be great to connect. - Name, Title, Business"
Ask that person if they're open to having a chat and discussing how you can collaborate or work together (and make that chat a video call!) To make finding a time easier with timezone differences, calendly is another great tool to check out.
For me, as a podcaster, I'm always looking for guests and content contributors to speak with, and this proves to be a great conversation starter when meeting new people.
6) Put your work away
One of the things I had forgotten since my homeschooling days when I returned to running the bulk of my productive life at home, was that you need to be able to put that sh*t away.
Growing up we had a "school room" where we had all our school stuff - draws with workbooks and pencil cases, the whiteboard, our desks and our musical instruments. After the day ended the door to the school room closed and my sister and I hung out in the lounge room or in our bedroom.
Having a whole room for office work when working from home isn't the "norm" might be difficult and for me, when I started my business, I certainly didn't have that luxury.
My work, er, station? Yes station... that sounds official...my work station for the first 3 months was the dining room table. Then it evolved to a desk in my bedroom and then, when I moved down to Wollongong, a desk in our lounge room and then, after 2 years my business got to a point where I really needed an office to keep everything together in one place.
As soon as my husband and I spent a day converting our bedroom to our office and our guest room to our bedroom, my work-home life changed.
We set up two desks, two desktops and two desk chairs and I felt I finally regained that sense of "arriving" and "leaving work" - it might seem like a small thing but it really makes a difference.
My recommendation is, if you and your partner/flatmate are in a position to setup a dedicated work space in your home, it's worth doing. You can order a basic setup online and if you only have a laptop then use that, just grab a usb keyboard and prop your laptop up so you're not hurting your neck (learnt that the hard way too).
It will make managing the boundary between your time working and your time doing other things a lot easier.
If you simply don't have the space, that's ok, there are ways around this. It's time to get creative. Think about how you can easily "setup" and "pack down" for the day. It could be as simple as having a foldout portable desk and a box to store your work equipment that can be slid under the lounge at the end of the day.
Working from home has it's ups and downs but there are certainly things you can do to make your transition to working from home much smoother.
If you're looking for help adjusting to remote work, seeking new business or employment opportunities or you're not sure how to connect with your customers without a physical front desk, feel free to schedule a complimentary consult with me here to discuss.
If I can't help you with your particular business or career problem, I usually know someone who can!
I also invite you to follow my new Facebook Page where I'm sharing updates from Season 2 of Grow Your Brand: Coronavirus Response Business Podcast.
Connecting with each other will be a win-win for keeping our business community virtually close as we are required to physically distance from one another.
Social distancing doesn't mean you can't be social.
Reach out, connect and let's have a chat. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org