Work from home effectively – tips and tricks to stay productive

With the current global situation, many people are being asked to work from home. The hashtags #StayHome, #StayHomeChallenge, and #WorkingfromHome have been making their way around the internet. For some, it’s the first time they’ve been asked to work remotely. For others, they’re used to it. For the majority however, they may have only worked from home once or twice, and now been asked to do it indefinitely.

Take your work home! (Image: Christopher via Unsplash)

I’m one of those people who’ve been working from home and working remotely for a number of years. I work for a global team and been doing the #StayHome challenge for a number of weeks. With that in mind, here’s some tips and tricks I’ve picked up and implemented in order to work effectively from home.

First things first, THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

Okay, you’re being asked to work from home? The first thing you need to note is there’s a big difference in working from home… and working at home during a global pandemic. Usually, when you’re working at home, the rest of your life is normal. But right now it’s completely different. Most people can’t go to the cafe and grab a coffee. You can’t go out and play sport. You can’t just go and see your friends. People might have others at home and maybe look after – older people or kids. You could be trying to fit multiple bodies in one room. Or you might (like me) not even have a dedicated work space.

Whatever the situation you’re in, it’s basically not the norm. On top of these, remember, WE’RE IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. This means people are more anxious and uncertain than ever. This is going to affect productivity. At times like this not everyone CAN work from home. There’s lots of humans out there who are working hard in essential services to keep everything running.

Thus, when you’re starting out working from home, just know this isn’t what normally happens. Be aware of other people’s situations. Understand everyone isn’t in the same situation as you. Once you got that, then you can build on what you already know about remote work, or implement an effective work from home routine.

Does an effective routine include sitting on the couch? Sometimes! (Image; Dillon Shook via Unsplash)

Recreate everything virtually

This right here is one of my number one pieces of advice when it comes to working remotely. Reads this carefully!

Replicate as much as you possibly can… virtually. This means taking everything you normally do at work and doing in remotely. Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t interact with people or have meetings. We’re lucky in this era to have a wealth of tools at our disposal to be able to work remotely.

Schedule meetings in a virtual environment

Reschedule all your usually meetings – just do them online. And I mean ALL your meetings. If you have 1:1s, standups, team meetings, check-ins, customer calls, continue to have all these meetings. Just because you’re working at home, it doesn’t mean you don’t interact with your team. Companies all around the world have now taken this approach. Simply watch your Twitter feed fill up with screenshots of people’s virtual hangouts.

When I say interact, I don’t just mean in a work sense too. If you and your team usually head for coffee in the morning, still do it! Simply do it virtually. Schedule a virtual hangout where everyone can BYO coffee and chat about life. Do you usually have Friday night drinks? Do you have lunch and learns? Schedule those in too. What about playing table tennis or Mario Kart in the afternoon? Put those in the calendar too. It is however important to note these more ‘social’ gatherings, should be optional to allow for different people’s crisis situations.

Virtual social sessions

Having these virtual check in sessions – both for work and social – is really important for ensuring you and your team stay and feel connected during this pandemic. It’s super easy to do with all the tools available – Zoom, Hangouts, Skype, Teams. Find one that works for you. If you work in a globally distributed team then you’ll probably be practicing this already. But remember, internet in some parts of the world isn’t as good as others (*cough* Australia), and be mindful of timezones.

Have virtual check in sessions. Fun fact – this photo was taken of a young person doing school work at their home in the UK after schools shut down due to the coronavirus (Image: Annie Spratt via Unsplash)

Tips and tricks to keep you motivated and productive

There’s lots of content out there for keeping motivated and productive whilst working from home. The Conversation put out an article on it. Microsoft has some tech and written a piece on it. GitHub is known for having a globally remote workforce. Trello wrote up a guide. But how do you implement things?

There’s MY tips and tricks. This is what I find works for me and hopefully some of them works for you too. What works for some people won’t work for others. There’s no “template” to working from home. Take the pieces that work for you.

Make your bed

This is a big one for me. I always get up and make my bed. The reason for this is because of US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven. He says if you make your bed in the morning you’re ready for the day. You’ve already accomplished one thing. And then if you have a bad day you can always go back to a comfy bed! Watch the whole speech 👇

Do you get dressed?

This is an interesting one. Most people say “get up, shower, get dressed into your work clothes, and then start working”. For me however, it’s a little different. Yes I shower, but I often don’t get changed into work clothes. My go-to-gear is ugg boots and either trackies or PJs. Controversial! Most people say PJs and trackies are the worst and you should avoid them. But there’s a specific reason why I wear these things.

You need to create a good working environment. For me, that’s wearing trackies and ugg boots. And it’s because I used to do this throughout university. I’d be writing essays, smashing out assignments, or studying. At the start of every SWOT Vac (the study time before exams) I’d go buy myself a new pair of fluffy trackies. So for me, wearing these things puts me in my “get stuff done, smash out work” mode. Find what puts you in this mode and do that! Don’t just listen to what everyone else is saying.

Work to a routine

If you have a regular routine at work, try as best you can to recreate it at home. Often the type of work you do will be different. You still need a good routine and stick to it. Have things you regularly do everyday, each week, every fortnight. Having a good routine will remind you you’re at work and you’ll be more productive. Set time aside to do the things that need doing as well as keeping your mental and physical health in check.

Have a good to-do list

Know what you want to accomplish – daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly. Having a good to-do list can help you prioritise work, schedule things in, and ensure high productivity. There’s lots of programs out there to help you manage your to dos. Personally, I use a mix of GitHub Project Boards, OneNote, and good ol’ fashioned paper and pen!

Have a good to do list and review it regularly. (Image: Cathryn Lavery via Unsplash)

Take regular breaks

Even when you’re working at home, remember to take regular breaks. Big breaks for lunch are essential. During the day, take little breaks like you would at the office. These little breaks are called “recharge time”. You’ll probably know them as grabbing a coffee, going for a walk around the block, or chatting to a colleague. If you don’t continuously recharge you’ll be constantly running on low battery and you’ll burn out. Recreate these little breaks at home for the situation you’re in – take the dog for a walk, brew a cuppa, play with the kids, jump on a virtual chat. You’ll find you’re way more productive if you stay energised.

Create your work space

Again, it’s important to remember everyone isn’t in the same situation. Many people (like myself) aren’t lucky enough to have separate rooms for work and play, or even separate spaces. Some households have multiple people in one work area, and others are so small  the only place for the desk and computer is in the bedroom – yep that’s me.

Whilst it’s great to have the luxury of a home office, not everyone is as lucky. When you’re communicating with your team, try to understand their situation. Do they have kids at home in the room? Don’t scold someone for their kids showing up on the team meeting. Lots of people are competing with a spouse or partner for real estate room in the house.

Whatever situation you’re in, try to create some sort of work space. Then, keep your space neat, tidy, and clutter free.

Make sure you have the right tech setup

It’s important your tech works! Why? Because you are now 100% reliant on tech to get your work done. Ensure you have a good working computer. Try as best as possible to get the most stable internet connect (yes, it’s still a problem in Australia). Get equipment good enough so people can see and hear you on your video calls. If you’re yet to get video and microphone, check out the review I wrote over at Daily Esports.

Getting the right tech setup is key. If no one can see or hear you, there’s no point meeting virtually! (Image: Razer)

Grab a monitor for work as it can help boost productivity! Apparently lots of people went and panic bought monitors, but there’s still plenty out there. I myself have always have a few screens. Currently I’m running three – I believe productivity increases exponentially with each monitor… jokes.

There’s also tonnes of tech out right now for virtual meeting spaces, online field trips, robots, video games, hackathons, and streaming services. Imagine this happening even 10 years ago! There wouldn’t be near the amount of tech available to help us.

Keep in touch with people

Stay connected to people, especially during this crisis time. If you have others in your household, connect and chat with them where possible. Keep in touch with your teammates and colleagues virtually. In this pandemic situation, people no longer have the luxury of playing sport or hanging out with their mates at the pub. Ensure you’re communicating with everyone on your work team to understand each other’s situations.

Pick up the phone and check in on people – friends, family, neighbours, colleagues (Image: Paul Hanaoka via Unsplash)

Eat food and snacks!

Keep yourself fueled up and eat regular snacks. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are essential. DO NOT skip these! Have gas in the tank to keep you going through this crazy time by eating good healthy snacks too. For me, I can’t go a few hours without eating something. Snacks, coffee (or tea in my case – read the back story) will get you through the day and keep you productive. But that’s just me! If you can just not eat for hours (or even days on end) it’ll mean you won’t have to line up for food at the shops!

During this global pandemic, understand what you can and can’t do

Most places around the world have asked people to practice social distancing. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t leave the house. Whilst in some countries, you literally CAN’T leave the house, social distancing doesn’t mean shutting yourself away in your house.

Where possible, take a walk outside. Getting out and breathing some fresh air will reinvigorate you, keep you fueled, and keep you productive. Plus it’s good for mental health to not confined yourself completely to one room. Read up on your countries current situation to understand what you should and shouldn’t do during this pandemic.

Finally, stay active and healthy

As much as possible stay active! There are LOTS of gyms, health subscriptions, yoga classes, and body fit places who have moved their services online. Virtual Yoga classes have gone viral, and even Chris Hemsworth announced his workout app, Centr, is free for the first six weeks.

Find something you can do to keep healthy and active. Cooking home meals, reading, watching educational content, playing active VR games like Beat Saber… whatever it is, try and find something that works for you. Pick up a hobby you always wanted to try, relive forgotten hobbies, or simply spend time with the kids.

We can all do this. To put things into perspective, you’ve probably seen this quote making it’s away around the internet:

Our grandparents were called to war. We’re being called to sit on the couch. We can do this 💪

We can do this! Just remember:

  • Stay sane and happy!
  • Check in on family, friends, workmates
  • Everyone isn’t in the same situation
  • Reschedule all your usual meetings online
  • Technology can assist you
  • Find what works for you
  • Flattening the curve, staying home, and listen to what your government and health officials are advising and recommending and we’ll all come out the other end
Keep calm and carry on. Have chocolate at the ready! (Image: Chris Adamus via Unsplash)

Stay awesome everyone. And if you ever want lots of positivity, check out my social channels, or tune into a Twitch live stream.


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