Hybrid Work is Here to Stay: How to Maximize Productivity When Working at Home
The pandemic taught us many things about ourselves, our world, and our priorities. During the lockdown, people slowed down, families were playing with their kids on the street in the middle of the day and big bonus…there were hardly any cars on the road. We realized that there were options available for us to do many things in a different way.
One of those things is how and where we work. We quickly discovered that the need to work from home was essential and doable. I’m still amazed at the speed at which we adapted to the new workplace, aka our homes. After we figured out how to use Zoom and share our space with all of our family members and bewildered pets, we were up and running.
Now, fast forward to 2023, many businesses and their employees have discovered that we don’t really need to be in the office full time. Hybrid work is here to stay. Turns out that a large percentage of both businesses and workers prefer the hybrid model. Sounds great, right? Roll out of bed and you're already at work! You can work from home in your sweatpants and occasional business tops (for Zoom meetings, of course). My clients loved that, but then it became very old, very quickly.
We realized that working from home has its own set of challenges. I’ve found myself busier than ever trying to help my business clients adapt and set up their home offices. Here are some tips that I give my clients for a better chance of long-term success when working part time or full time from home.
Follow a daily routine and set a work schedule. Even though you do have a great deal of flexibility when you work from home it is important to set up your work hours for the same time every day. End on time and start on time…every workday.
Establish clear boundaries with other family members. I find that for myself, when I am working on projects for my clients, I am very focused and do not want to be interrupted. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door or desk. Asking others to respect your work time does not mean you are being hurtful or selfish…you are working. If you do not protect your work-focus time, a simple task can take twice the time to complete and of course increase the likelihood of errors. Starting and stopping your train of thought with interruptions is not productive or efficient. Other members of your home can and will (eventually) learn to respect your boundaries.
Create a designated space for work in your home. Make the space a place that you enjoy going to work. Set it up so all the items you need–computer, notepad, earbuds, pens–are nearby. Buy plants for your home office…because they make us happy! Face a window...I promise, it’s a mood changer for the better!
Invest in a quality ergonomic chair and headset. This goes without saying…really. It is never ideal to work from an uncomfortable chair (or your bed or couch) for obvious reasons–posture problems leading to back pain. Note: It’s less expensive and time consuming to purchase a good chair than to pay for and go to a chiropractor. Using earbuds or headphones as a headset will allow you to work handsfree and provide a clearer connection than relying on your computer’s microphone.
Set up your home office for success. Many of my clients are more efficient when they have 2 monitors instead of just one. Make sure you have high speed internet with a strong signal in your workspace.
Do not eat at your desk. Not only is it important to take breaks for your work space for snacks or lunches, you will also save a keyboard or two by making a “no eating at my desk” rule.
Take Zoom breaks. If possible, do not schedule back-to-back meetings. Take time to regroup between meetings and absorb the information you just heard, take notes, and prepare for the next meeting or project. This is an ideal time to step outside, take a short walk, and refresh. Zoom fatigue is real.
Eliminate distractions. For obvious reasons, this is often more difficult to achieve when working from home. This is where boundary setting becomes critical. Pets, kitchens, and phones can be distracting (TVs too)! Strategically schedule a short dog walk, snack time, and lunch time into your workday. Turn off your email notifications and check your email at a scheduled time throughout the day instead of reading each one as it comes in. Better yet, did you know that you can program your devices to have a “do not disturb” function. It goes without saying, social media equals rabbit hole, just don’t look during work time.
Make time to wind down after work. No commute time has its advantages, but it can also mean no time to decompress from work. Even though we might have complained about our commute, it gave us time to clearly mark the end of the work day and wind down before we began our evening activities with family. After your workday is finished, take a little time to refresh and shake off the workday before you head into the family room, go to the gym, or start dinner.