How to Stay Productive While Working from Home Pt. 1

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I’ve seen the wide range of statistics that 30-60 percent of the American workforce could potentially work from home, and that is now being put to the test. Whatever the real-life percentage turns out to be, suffice it to say millions of people are currently trying to do just that, some of them for the first time in their career. Unless the remote work processes were already established and proven, chances are many remote workers are less than thrilled with the experience.

I started working remotely in 2008. Aside from software updates, which still make my skin crawl, after 12 years most of the kinks have been worked out. Still, I’ll admit, things still come up that threaten my productivity. Over time, I’ve established some basic rules to work by, and they have served me well.

1. Love what you do

To really be successful at working from home, you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing. There are just too many other things to distract you if you don’t. And make no mistake about this, loving your work is about 80% choice and 20% emotion. Sure it’s fun when it’s fresh and new, but as you mature in your career (and life in general), you discover that the smiley-face emoji isn’t enough to carry you through the challenges.  

2. Be intentional with the use of your time

If your day would normally begin with a commute to the office, you may now have an hour or even two hours of extra time on both ends of your workday. Do something productive with it. Go-to activities nowadays might include webinars, podcasts and online learning. In this industry, if you’re not learning you’re sliding backward. This could be the perfect time for you to learn a new skill, accumulate CEUs and improve your career path. Keep in mind that learning is only the first step. Be sure to do something to improve your job performance using what you learn.  

3. Adjust your expectations

Things aren’t always going to work as well or as fast or as streamlined as they do at the office. Getting angry about that doesn’t usually change it. Face these challenges pragmatically, and adjust your plans accordingly. And nine words of advice that will continue to be useful for years to come, don’t take your frustrations out on the I.T. department. They’re being tested now too, and it will benefit you greatly in the long run to foster goodwill with I.T.

4. Treat it like a “real job.” 

You (most likely) don’t go to the office without taking a shower or brushing your hair. So make a point of getting dressed “for work” before you sit down at your remote workstation every day. If you want to project a businesslike demeanor, you’ve got to feel businesslike, and that might be hard to do when you’re working in your pajamas. You never know when your manager or a customer will want a video conference with you. Another thing to remember for those of you who are borderline workaholics, when you’ve accomplished what you need to and the workday is done, shut down and enjoy your family. Life can get away from you, so maintain a healthy balance. [We’ll talk more about this in part two of this series.]

5. Shut out distractions.

Designate a space in your home that you can call your “office.” It doesn’t have to be large, but it needs to be a place where you can shut the door against the noise of your  barking dog, your cats fighting, your kids arguing, or the doorbell ringing – or all of them at the same time. I usually ask myself, “If I were at an office right now instead of home, would I miss something really important by not knowing this is happening. Usually the answer is “no” unless it’s a pizza delivery. So learn to shut it out.

6. Be accountable

When someone is paying you to do a job, they expect certain things to get accomplished. Never let “working from home” become an excuse for not achieving what’s expected of you. Strive to be your best in spite of the challenges. Be the same “you” no matter what else changes.

7. Back up your data

Things happen. Drinks get spilled. Computers crash. Power goes out. If you’re used to taking risks with your personal data, it might not occur to you to safeguard your company’s data. Many companies are set up to back up employee files to OneDrive or another cloud service. If the data you produce for your company is important, check out Panzura for one option to protect it.

8. Present your best self on video conferences.

You should know what you look like when your picture is on a 30” monitor, and you should be aware that your image will freeze on that monitor from time to time. You probably don’t want everyone to see you frozen in time while eating an apple or sneezing. Also, position your camera so it isn’t looking up your nose. Such images can be hard to forget. Turn off your video momentarily if you must do something odd.  

For more information about working from home, see the Applied Software on-demand webinar, “Working from Home: Best Practices.” When you choose to partner with Applied Software, you’ll discover that we’re in this together, and you can be a little more thrilled with the experience.

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