Working from home has been a bit of a ride. After a couple of weeks of wearing a dressing gown down to the makeshift office, or occasionally making my bed the office for the day, I thought it might be time to inject a bit more routine into the day! The new plan of action has, for the most part, been in place for the last few weeks. Except for one or two small instances of falling off the wagon, I’ve been putting a few practices into place.
A Cheeky Top Tip
Okay, this first one starts off as the complete opposite to productivity, but it was an inspired idea nonetheless! At the beginning of lockdown, when we started working from home, I hooked up the PS4 to the second port on the office screen so I could take mandated cheeky breaks to play Resident Evil II… Obviously, this was bad for productivity, distracting me to no end.
The first strategy for success should be quite obvious – you need a list of ‘don’ts’ (how do you spell that?!) to keep you in check. Otherwise, you’re going to come up with fascinating ways to procrastinate. Don’t work from bed or a sofa as that’s where you sleep and it’s terrible for productivity. Avoid working beside a room where there’s a load of ruckus (my neighbours have been making the most of lockdown, getting up to all sorts…) And, lastly, don’t work where you can be easily distracted, like in front of the TV, or your monitor that’s hooked up to your PS4.
The Beer Belly
I think since this whole thing started I’ve put on at least a stone. It’s at least a stone because I stopped weighing myself after I hit that milestone. Not cycling to the office, sitting all day, and being tempted by snacks all the time makes for a well developed belly. The pints don’t help either! I decided to start setting a timer so I would stand up and inject some movement into the day (more on this next).
Then I came up with a better invention! It’s an office chair with a built in timer that sets off a poking device. The poking device pokes you right in the arse every hour so you have to get up off the chair and it won’t retract for 10 minutes. Haven’t seen anything like this before so if you’re in product development HMU. This is set be the next big work from home thing!
When you’re stuck with one task after another, and there’s no office banter or distraction, it’s easy to become disillusioned with what you’re doing. A colleague told me about a practice called the Pomodoro Technique. You can use a timer, hourglass, clock or your phone; set it to 25 minutes and do your tasks in this short time interval. After the 25 minutes is up you can take a short break.
There are six steps in the original technique:
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
On Fridays you and a couple of your close colleagues can do this in a group. After the 25 minutes are up you each go on a quick call, do a shot of your drink of choice, have a five minute chat, then get back to your tasks. Last man standing wins! In all seriousness though, this is a helpful approach to doing your work at home as unpleasant tasks don’t seem as endless.
I’m the annoying colleague with the ten empty cups at my desk, a stack of paper that’s unnecessary for my job and a load of other random shit just thrown in for good measure. This is still my downfall, so if anyone has any recommendations for organising they would be well appreciated. This is the next area to get a makeover, as it’s actually a pain being such an untidy person.
Zoom socials were clearly a fad that we’ve all overcome now. We still have the work Zoom call: a tedious duty when you get to number 4 in the day.
A member of my team read about using some of what would be our commute time to create new ideas over a Zoom chat in the morning. Now, initially, I was absolutely fuming with the guy for making such a suggestion, cutting into my precious lie in time. Three days a week, we now host a creative brainstorm with an infinite scope on anything the business could do (I came up with the chair that pokes you but it’s not going to be going into production!)
In fairness, we are a couple of weeks into this now and it was a decent idea. It’s a nice distraction and keeps things interesting and the team engaged while working from home.
The Bright Side
This one has me really interested; looking at the physical home workspace setting. My first office was in the kitchen. Aside from being beside the noisy neighbours who seemed to get their daily exercise in bed at 9am every morning… the room was fairly dark. Fortunately, our housemate moved out just as lockdown was happening, so we converted their old room into an office. It’s amazing what a well lit room can do for your productivity and health!
There are a few basics to creating a productive work from home environment. Having a dedicated workspace without distractions is number one on the list. Having natural light in the room is also a vital component. I find this a fascinating area, as, after only a couple of days in the new setting, I definitely started to feel better! In a Heschong Mahone Group study they looked at the effect of daylight on human performance, specifically focusing on skylighting in this case. The interesting outcome they highlighted was that sales in the stores with skylights and more natural light were 40% higher. This is compared to stores with only fluorescent lighting. They noted that this may be less to do with employee productivity, and more to do with the presentation of the store to customers.
However, a second report on students who had classes in rooms with skylights supports the idea that natural lighting has a direct effect on productivity. They found that “students with the most daylight in their classrooms progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% on reading tests in one year, than those with the least.”
There are so many aspects to improve your work from home ethos, and I’ve only covered a few here. Some of the most simple ones can be the most effective. Shifting my office to a brighter room has definitely had the biggest impact on my productivity. If you want to let me know of your top productivity tips you can fill out the contact form and send them my way.