Public health safety is top of mind today and the driving force behind the Work From Home movement amid COVID-19 fears. Both internally and externally I’ve seen a number of questions on how to handle these changes. I’ve been working from home almost exclusively for the past 3 years and have gotten quite comfortable with my routine. I still visit my local company office 1-2 times a week, but the majority of my “8 to 5” is in “the basement.” As I was thinking about ways I could share helpful information with the community on how to work from home efficiently, I discovered a common theme threaded throughout every suggestion: Create the environment that fosters your productivity
Identify your home office
A dedicated working space has been essential to my productivity at home. My house has a basement and in that basement is a small corner room with a window and no closet. It’s the perfect spot for a home office. I believe what’s made the most impact for my productivity at home is consistency with this space. This room is where I work. As soon as I close the door, I’m on the clock. It’s a mind-shift migrating from my kitchen that needs cleaning after having breakfast with the kiddos, to now I’m at work. If you have a spare room that could be transformed into a dedicated place for focusing on work, it will dramatically increase your thinking power.
I believe what’s made the most impact for my productivity at home is consistency
Not everyone has the space to achieve a dedicated office, so use this as an opportunity to get creative. I have a buddy who moved his office into his closet. I know someone else who built a corner desk into their loft. Your home office doesn’t have to be a typical closed-door room, but you may find that after a day or two or three of trying one thing, you might adjust and try something else. Loft not working? Try a corner of your bedroom. Couch not conducive to productivity? Try setting up on your patio. However you go about it, I believe you’ll find consistency helps you change gears into work mode.
Once you’ve identified where your home office will be, you’ll want to set it up in a way that reduces distractions. This will mean so many different things for different people, but here are a few that have helped me:
- No TV
My office doesn’t have a television where I can “keep tabs on the news” or have a movie playing “in the background.” I know that I would end up spending way too much time staring at that screen and not my computer screen!
- Keep it clean
Most professional offices have a dedicated cleaning team that shines the counters, dusts your monitors, vacuums your crumbs, etc. Their important work is often overlooked by the regulars in the office and taken for granted. You’ll become more aware of the necessity of their function the more you work from home because you’ll likely be cleaning up after yourself!
It’s been said that A cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind. Therefore that must mean that a clear desk fosters a clear mind. Having your desk free of trash/junk/toys or any thing that is simply taking up space can help keep you focused and on track. This doesn’t mean you should clear your desk of all non-work related items! I suggest that it means you should only include on your desk that which encourages you to be creative.
Tightly coupled with de-cluttering is the idea of promoting success for yourself in your new home office. Following the path of finding what encourages your creativity, take a moment to discover what inspires you to be great. Maybe it’s a professional hero. Maybe it’s your kids. Maybe it’s a spiritual conviction. For me, it’s all 3. You may have more, or completely different inspirations.
One of my professional heroes is Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware. I don’t have a picture of him at my desk or anything, but I know some folks that do! Talk about an example of utmost work ethic while still putting his family and faith first. If you haven’t read his book, I’d highly encourage you to check it out.
My kids and their future is a great motivator. They’re counting on me to lead them and provide for them. It’s my fatherly duty! I have their pictures on my desk.
I’m also told in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (ESV)” … as a Jesus follower this means integrity is incredibly valuable and I should be performing at my highest caliber at all times. Verses like these are great to write out on a sticky and keep near your eyesight.
Another thing that I’ve found promotes success for me is catering my office to my personality. What things make me happy? A simple idea, but it can have a real impact on your attitude toward work once you walk into your office. For me, this means music, superheroes, and an electric wall-mounted fireplace!
Bonus tips and tricks
Invest in a Stand Up Desk
I’ve been thrilled with my Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Business Edition (pictured above!). I find that adjusting it throughout the day can really help with sore backs and sore butts! Be sure to use my referral link to get a discount on your order!
Listen to instrumental music
Whether it’s classical or EDM (or both, like I tend to listen to!) music without words can help you focus.
More monitors isn’t always better
At times in previous jobs I’ve had up to 4 monitors. In my current role, I’m more productive with 1 to 2. Try out some different configurations and see how it impacts your work.
Schedule lunches and breaks
It’s easy to become a hobbit while working from home! Be sure to get up and stretch the legs every once in a while.
Keep a consistent schedule
Set your alarm, get dressed, start working at the same time every morning if you can.
Invest in a good headset
For remote conferences, customer calls, team meetings, you’ll want to be able to hear clearly and be clearly heard.
The Mute Button is your friend
When on a call, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS remain muted if you’re not talking. You don’t want to be that guy who forgot his mic was hot.
Find your Todo solution
When I look back on my day to see what I accomplished, it helps if I have a list of things I checked was able to check off. This can be Apple Reminders, Microsoft Todo, sticky notes, or a notebook.
Avoid windows in video chats
Lighting is important when on a video conference. You don’t have to go buying all the streamer gear to get the perfect studio, but consider using windows to your advantage by NOT having them right behind you.
All of these suggestions support the common theme mentioned at the beginning of this article: Create the environment that fosters YOUR productivity. Your perfect working environment will not be the same as everyone elses. What helps is collecting the ideas and suggestions from others and trying them out for yourself. I hope you found this helpful. Now get back to work!