remote work

How to work productively while being in isolation?

March 27, 2020

It’s an understatement to say we’re currently living in challenging times with the current COVID-19 outbreak. 

Many of us who usually commute to work are now working from home, and it can be quite an adjustment. While most of us are no doubt grateful that we have that possibility in the first place, it also comes with its challenges.  It’s hard to jump from the COVID-19 headlines to the high concentration you need to finish that report, for instance. 

The answer to the concentration challenge is to create clear boundaries. Clear boundaries will help you be more productive and protect you against the pitfalls of too much freedom. It’s about knowing yourself and putting in the rules that will help you. 

Create a routine.

Creating a routine not only gives structure to your day, it can also be a comforting thing in de midst of all the uncertainty. But for some people it doesn’t come naturally. 

Give yourself working hours. While it’s unnecessary to keep the same hours as you were while commuting (unless it is company remote work policy), it will help you keep a level of normality. Create a routine of getting up at the same time, put on your work-outfit (you never know when you will have to jump into a conference call), schedule your moments of exercise, meals and television watching. It will help you stay productive. 

As for the work-outfit. It may seem irrelevant, but it taps into the ‘act how you want to feel’ idea. You want to feel professional and productive, then dress accordingly. 

Ease yourself into the day.

Transition yourself into the workday. Normally, a daily commute creates a clear start and end to the working day. Currently, while you are working from home,  there is no such thing. 

So after you’ve finished reading the news headlines, start doing some easier work tasks. It may be a bit of filing, reading and answering emails, or catching up on some professional reading material. The key is to shift your focus away from the current affairs and your home life and immerse yourself into your job. Once you’re in the zone, you can start tackling that report that will need high-level focus. 

Set-up a designated workspace.

Suddenly, many of us find ourselves working from home. But so is our partner, and the kids are home too. Your home may be not set up for remote work. So, the best thing to do, if that is the case, is to consider moving some things around. 

A workspace is the physical and mental boundary you create in your life. Work belongs in the workspace, and everything else that is your personal life belongs outside of that space. Obviously, the ideal would be a designated room. Call it a home office. However, budget may decide otherwise. If the ideal is not an option, it’s time to get creative: set up some room dividers, get a cheap office desk that you can close at the end of the day. Even if you decide to work outside in de garden under a tree, choose a ‘work tree’. 

Tips to stay focused.

Getting rid of all the things you don’t need may clear some space to work in. But it won’t do any harm in your ability to focus either. And then there is the psychological side: taking control over our environment, makes us feel more in control in general. And boy, do we need some control in our lives at the moment. 

Try to eliminate visual distractions such as people walking by or a blaring tv screen in your peripheral vision. Make sure lighting is good enough. If you have a lot of noise around you, a good pair of noise cancelling headphones might be just what you need. Depending on whether you are one of those people that enjoys working with music or just can’t focus with it, a white noise track may be the answer. 

But most of all…

But probably what needs to be said most, is that there is no one size fits all solution. The key is to figure out what works for you. What allows me to be the most productive in this situation? There may be a lot of things we can’t control, but some things we do have a say in. Keep well!