Almost 7 million Canadians are now working from home. With Toronto just declaring a state of emergency and other cities following soon, the total number of people working remotely will continue to increase.
Working from home can be stressful for many, especially for newcomers to Canada. How can you make this new way of life more productive and less painful? Here are 7 practical tips to make your working from home more effective.
- Get dressed for work
Do not make every day a pajama day. Have a bath, get dressed and go to work! You do not have to put on the entire three-piece power suit. However, you should aim for business casual with an emphasis on the business. Designate some work clothes, even if they are more comfortable than your regular professional attire.
Dressing for work can actually help you get more done. Humans beings love routine and your efficient brain creates habits and patterns from coinciding stimuli. When you get ready for bed by putting on your pajamas, your brain takes this as a cue to get ready to relax and go to sleep. Conversely, getting dressed and ready for the day, tells your brain it’s work action time.
You can take advantage of this innate Pavlovian mechanism by putting on real clothes each day. The simple act of a change of clothing will tell your brain it is time to buckle down and get to work. Prepare your mind for productivity with your intelligent choice of clothing.
- Set a schedule and enjoy more time
While it is tempting to sleep in until five minutes before starting work, it is better to get up earlier and prepare what you need as if you were going into the office. This is good for two reasons. First, your sleep schedule won’t be thrown off, so you’ll still arrive on time when you have to go into the office. Second, you can reclaim the time you would normally spend commuting and use it to set the tone for the rest of your day.
You have now got time to start each day with a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. You can get in a morning workout, prep a slow-cooker meal, or take time to read. Anything that will help you get ready for the day ahead. This set schedule extends beyond just getting out of bed. Use time blocking to dedicate parts of your day for deep work. It also helps to start and end your work day at the same time you normally would.
One of the main complaints of frequent remote workers is that the line between being on and off work gets increasingly blurred. If your normal hours are 8 to 5, shut down your computer at 5:15 at the latest. This reduces the risk of burnout and helps maintain that coveted healthy work-life balance.
- Stay on track with a checklist
Take time at the start of your morning to list out your key goals you want to accomplish that day. A robust checklist will keep you from forgetting smaller tasks and make sure you stay on the ball. Furthermore, being able to cross something off your list after completing it gives you a little dopamine boost – adding to your sense of accomplishment and motivating you to get more done.
Using a checklist helps you become more productive and encourages more goal-oriented behavioural patterns. Sticking to a daily checklist will maximize the psychology of small wins and help you achieve more everyday.
4. Create a productive workspace
Similar to not staying in pajamas all day, you should also avoid working in your bedroom. At the very least, don’t work from your bed. Working from a bed is not the best for you. It is not very ergonomic. Hunching over your laptop to answer emails for hours every day will cause significant neck and back pain.
Instead, set yourself up a work space with a table and a decent chair. Good lighting is also important – avoid fluorescents or dim lighting. These can strain your eyes and cause headaches. Natural lighting from your window is totally free and has been shown to considerably raise productivity. As much as you possible, grab that vitamin D from the sun and boost your productivity while working from home.
- Take break
Take short breaks throughout the day – and not just for lunch. Do not slog through eight straight hours of work. You will become demotivated, less effective and eventually burn out.
Apply the “Pomodoro technique” which recommends taking at least one 15-minute break for every two hours of work.
Dear workaholic, taking a break doesn’t mean checking emails or having a work-related phone call. Step away from your computer and do something completely unrelated to work. Reading a book, listening to some music or just doing nothing will let you brain recharge. When you are not forcing your brain to engage directly with work, it still continues problem solving in the background.
- Take a short walk
Running may get all the glory, but walking stands tall when it comes to health and fitness. Walking boosts your mood and strengthens your bones. Taking a 10-15 minute walk during your work day will pay off in better productivity, and make your working from home more effective.
- Eat decently and create a plan
Have a proper lunch and don’t just snack on your desk when working from home. Plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time, such as at the beginning of the week or workday. This prevents you from working to the point of hunger and then scrambling to decide what to eat.
You should also avoid eating at your workstation. It does not indicate complete control of your time game. As much as you can, limit your intake of refined carbs, excessive caffeine and sugary drinks.
Extra tips for people who are working from home next to their partners
This can sometimes be tricky. Romance and work can be an interesting challenge. Here are two ways you can eat your love cake and still have it!
- Discuss your work plan in advance
Discuss the compatibility of your working styles. Decide if you want to have designated eating or hangout times or prefer to do your own thing each day.
Let your partner know if you like chit-chat or prefer to work in silence. If your daily work schedules vary, be sure to talk about this ahead of time. By having this conversation, working from home during a lockdown and after can be more effective for both of you.
- Touch base and connect
Check in and see how you can help each other without disturbing. This could be an encouraging note, a quick text or a brief hello. And if you can, have lunch together when possible.
Working from home has changed the structure and psychology of work. Enjoy it and make the best of it, for we have no idea how long this altered reality is going to be part of our lives.