The year is 2020. The global economy is brought to its knees by an ancient viral infection that’s spreading around the world at an alarming rate. Stock market prices are plummeting. Bars and restaurants are closed down indefinitely. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper reserves are running dangerously low. Social distancing is the phrase on everyone’s lips, and washing your hands to the tune of “Happy Birthday to You” is the only viable option to stop the virus from spiralling out of control.
Nope, this is not the script from Roland Emmerich’s latest movie or an introvert’s ideal world. As of March 2020, many of us are under a government-mandated Netflix marathon. With most of the economy on lockdown, companies have to do their part to keep the virus from spreading.
Thus, for the first time in human history, working remotely has become the norm. That’s right, even though most ordinary desk jobs can be done over the internet, it took a global pandemic for the corporate world to consider this as a viable solution!
How to stay productive when working from home
Thankfully, here at Stasher, we’ve always had a pretty flexible remote work policy. Many members of our team (the writer of this article included) are scattered around the world, working from our homes, cafes, libraries, and airports. However, we realize that working from home is a new experience for many.
Staying focused can be a challenge, especially for those who are used to socializing at the office. Therefore, we have prepared a handy guide with tips on staying productive when working from home. So, make some coffee, put on some pants, and let’s dive straight in!
Get out of the “pyjama mindset”
As any experienced remote worker will tell you, the number one rule for ensuring a productive mindset is to follow a daily ritual that tells your brain, “it’s work time”. For all of its sophistication, the human mind can easily be hacked into submission by following a few easy steps.
- We know your PJs are snuggly and soft, but it’s doubtful you’ll do any real work in them. Follow your regular workday routine and put on some proper clothes. While that’s not guaranteed to keep you productive, it will definitely play a massive role in determining your daily mood.
- Groom yourself as you normally would. Do not neglect basic hygiene and maintain your morning regimen. Even when there’s no one there to see you (or smell you).
- Get away from your bedroom. Don’t even try to work from your bed – it will not work.
Designate an office area
You managed to get out of bed, follow your daily routine, and get dressed up. Hooray! You’re well on the way to becoming productive. The next step is to find a spot to work from. Somewhere comfortable and ergonomic. But most importantly, a place that you can leave when your day is over.
Let’s see our options:
- Bed: Comfortable, but a bit too much. Bad posture. Easy to fall asleep. Not recommended, 0/10.
- Couch: Not too comfortable. Too many distractions if living with family/flatmates. Bad posture. Too close to the TV. Good for a few minutes, but otherwise, hard pass, 3/10.
- Desk: Voted “the best spot to do an office job from”, the desk remains the industry standard for desk jobs for over 500 years. The perfect choice, 9/10.
Ideally, you’ll want your office area to be isolated from distractions such as family and pets, so bonus points if you can slam the door behind you.
Typically, we’d also recommend going to cafes and libraries, but this isn’t an option with most of the world still on lockdown. However, it makes total sense to do it when things go back to normal, especially if you’re working remotely full-time.
Master the art of communication
Lack of facetime is a pain when you’re part of an office team. Luckily, the miracle of broadband internet has made it possible for each one of us to broadcast anything all over the world. While that has had some questionable applications (looking at you TikTok), over-communication is incredibly important among distributed teams.
Seriously, don’t assume for a minute your colleagues know what you’re up to. They’re knee-deep in their own projects. Communications consultant Amanda Schumacher says, “If you question whether your colleague will want to know something, share it.” The peace and quiet of isolation can be a double-edged sword. You need to show people you are thinking of them, so even a short email can go a long way.
Here are some of our favorite communications tools here at Stasher:
- Slack: The “Paul Scholes” of Instant Messaging platforms. Versatile, reliable, and efficient, Slack can be used by small or huge teams for efficient communication and advanced meme sharing.
- Google Hangouts: Although somehow, Skype is still the golden standard for video calls, Google Hangouts is more efficient in every way imaginable. Also, it doesn’t take an eternity to load.
- Loom: Not good with words? Need to explain something complicated to people who don’t understand it? You’re probably a designer or a software developer! Do not fret, as Loom is here to save you. With this handy app, you can record any part of your screen and share a video snippet with your team. Then, get ready to answer all the follow-up questions on Slack!
- Zoom: A tool very similar to Google Hangouts, Zoom is a video conferencing software for those who really need it. Specifically, it works better for larger teams and offers more integrations.
- Trello: Trello is a project management tool that lets you organize your projects into boards and lists. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. A lifesaver for complex projects, Trello will become your best friend. Fun fact: mention Trello to a tech-savvy friend and measure how long it takes them to say “Jira is better”.
Given the circumstances, you could say that the above tools are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But we’ve been through worse as a humanity, haven’t we?
Use cloud-based productivity tools
Technically that could go on the previous section, but we believe it deserves a spot of its own. Ready?
DO NOT EMAIL ACTUAL FILES BACK AND FORTH.
There are countless cloud-based platforms for real-time collaboration and editing. That way, you can make sure that the whole team is working on the same version of a presentation, document, spreadsheet, code, etc. It’s easier for everyone, more efficient, and eliminates the need for filenames like these:
The Google Suite is the most obvious example, but chances are you can find something similar for your profession as well.
Maintain a team spirit
We have a fantastic team here at Stasher. One could say that the positivity in Stasher HQ is …infectious. It’s tough to miss the little things that make office work worth living, such as random lunch break discussions, food, human interaction, and food.
In these trying times, maintaining company culture is more important than ever. Take some time to send a well-crafted meme or GIF over Slack. Organize a long-distance Netflix marathon after work. Talk about your life plans after the pandemic. Chat about stupid stuff and don’t forget to be human (within reason). Isolation can hit some of your extrovert colleagues harder than others. Think about them.
Take care of yourself
Contrary to what you might instinctively think, the real danger of remote working is not sleeping in or binge-watching stuff instead of working. A home office with no distractions and coworkers can easily make you work harder than you need to. As important as it is to set up productivity rules, it is equally important to take regular breaks, drink lots of water (NOT coffee), and eat healthily.
Here are some vital self-care tips for remote workers:
- Make sure you maintain a correct posture when you’re working. Sitting for prolonged periods is not natural to humans, and your body will remind you of it daily if you’re above 26 years old. Make sure you use a chair with back (and if possible, neck) support. You should be able to work without slouching, so place the screen directly in front of you. If you work from a laptop, consider connecting it to a monitor and get a wireless keyboard. Standing desks are also a great option, and you can easily turn anything into one!
- Break up your day. One popular way to maximize productivity is to take regular breaks every 30 minutes or one hour. Stand up and walk around the house. If your country is not on lockdown because of a global pandemic, take a walk outside.
- Make sure to turn everything off after you’re done. Disable email notifications, log out of everything, and resist the urge to check on work-related stuff outside work hours. The dangers of burnout are very real, and your mental health is more important than “being productive”.
Above all, stay safe from the virus and avoid contact with people, at least until we have a better understanding of how to stop it from spreading. Protect your loved ones and the elderly. Remember, we’re all in this together – and we’ll get through it stronger than ever.