Last year, the Wall Street Journal provided me questions to answer for an article they were writing about productivity while working from home. They wound up using a few of my answers in their article.
It’s now been 14 months since the majority of U.S. towns and cities went into some form of lockdown mode and asked its citizens to shelter in place. After more than one year of working remotely, it’s definitely time to be proactive about our work settings – no matter what percentage of time is spent working from home – instead of reactive. Even though these answers are from 2020, they still apply today.
– What are the biggest obstacles people face while working out of the office or while working from home?
Even though it sounds freeing to work out of the office or from home, one of the biggest challenges my clients have with this is not having structure in the day. Without some type of plan – and without sets of eyes on them to cause the paranoid thought that they must always be working on something because somebody might be watching – they work less efficiently. Creating a daily plan of attack based on project and task priorities will be key.
Another challenge folks working from home face is not having the ability to physically leave the worksite and transition to home. Exiting the building and commuting home is a physical and psychological ritual that reminds us we’re closing out one part of our day and opening a different part. You don’t have that when you’re working from home; that’s why it’s important to create a variation of this ritual. Perhaps your ritual will be turning your webcam toward the wall, closing your laptop, turning your tablet face down, or loading up your work supplies into a basket and tucking that on the other side of the couch or kitchen table.
– Why can working from home feel so full of procrastination?
There are more interruptions in an office full of people, but there tend to be more distractions at home. Unless you have a designated work space that contains only work-related items, you might get distracted each time you look up at an object or area in your house and get reminded about tasks that you need to complete in your personal life. This can lead to a halt in work, which feels like procrastination. Or, if you act on the impulse to complete the task while you’re thinking about it, that can feel like you’re procrastinating because you’re putting off work.
If you are monitoring children schooling from home, it can feel like procrastination when you set work aside during traditional work hours in order to help or supervise your kids. This is quite different than making the decision to allow a distraction to sidetrack you from your work. Checking on your children’s educational progress isn’t a distraction; it’s a necessity. Feeling guilty about this can definitely bog down productivity. You shouldn’t feel guilty because being a responsible parent is not procrastinating – unless you become that helicopter parent who hovers about when you don’t need to be there.
– Why can working from home actually be more productive than working in a traditional environment?
The number one benefit of working from home is that you’re not interrupted by co-workers or supervisors stopping by your desk. Some of my clients lose more than an hour each day from these types of interruptions. If you work from home – and if you’ve set expectations with fellow humans who might be home at the same time – you have the benefit of more uninterrupted time.
A second major benefit of working from home is gaining back time from not having to commute. This gives you more time in the day to complete tasks you otherwise wouldn’t have time for if you had to commute.
A third major benefit is being able to have more numerous and shorter customer/client check-ins. A number of my clients aspire to hold individual quarterly or yearly meetings, reviews or contacts with their client base. It was a struggle to get those in-person meetings scheduled, get everyone to the correct location on time, and wrap up the meeting in time to leave for the next one. With online scheduling platforms and people appreciating communicating through Zoom but not wanting to stay on it for an eternity, my clients are able to meet their goals – with the byproduct being that their clients and customers remain satisfied and feel taken care of.
Another benefit which many people have discovered but don’t necessarily take advantage of on a daily basis is being able to fit in exercise during your breaks. You can dance around the house, take your dog for a quick walk, or stretch out on the floor for yoga. Allowing your body and mind to rejuvenate through exercise will maximize your focus and productivity throughout the day.
Next week, we’ll look at four tips for maximizing productivity while working from home. In the meantime, pause for a few minutes of reflection. Are you still facing any of the challenges mentioned above? If not, be sure to give yourself a pat on the back! However, if you are losing time to these challenges while working from home (or a remote/onsite hybrid) decide how you’re going to address the causes and implement the solutions.