Now that COVID-19 is upon us, more and more people are being forced to discover just what it’s like to work from home, communicate over video, and manage teams without ever leaving your house. For many, this productive form of communication and work has been counterproductive, stressful, and just plain confusing!

Here, we share our tips for working from home for the small businesses that are being forced into it.

Wait, isn’t working from home easy? 🤷‍♂️

Working remotely requires more attention to detail and purposeful communication to keep the wheels turning when compared to working in-person. However, if you make a few changes to *how* you work remotely, you’ll find that this additional effort produces much more efficiency and productivity overall.

How do we know? Well, at WESFED we’ve been 100% remote for over 10 years. We’ve tried and tested hundreds of project management, video conferencing, chat, and productivity-boosting apps. We’ve also been through a number of different management–both project and personnel–methods that have resulted in different outcomes for our clients.

We’ve also seen the pitfalls of a poor work-from-home routine. So here’s an idea of what to be focusing on.

Rules & Boundaries

You’re alone. There is no boss reigning over you or teammates to keep you in check. It’s just you. A big part of being productive when working from home is going to be about freeing your mind and creating ways to stay focused, self-motivated, and accountable.

1. Set Business Hours (but be flexible) 🕘

Working all day every day is not healthy. You need to ensure that your mind stays productive during work hours which means you need to be able to schedule downtime. The easiest way to do this is to create “time blocks” in your schedule for work/play. This means set designated times in the day when you’ll be working, and when the time expires, be done. Just like at your real job.

A big part of being productive when working from home is going to be about freeing your mind and creating ways to stay focused, self-motivated, and accountable. Share on X

However, you may quickly realize that you’re more productive from 12pm-8pm, or 3am-11am. If your job allows for it, don’t feel the need to work the normal 9am-5pm. Work when you’re most productive!

2. Wear Pants 👖

Working remotely and communicating through video immediately opens the opportunity to just work in pajamas or only dress from the waist up. Don’t lie, you know you’ve already thought about it.

But no matter how tempting this is, don’t make it a habit. Getting dressed for the day as if you were going out will make a huge difference in your energy and focus levels. Brush your teeth, fix your hair, and put pants on.

3. Dedicate Work Space

If you think about it, you can do almost anything from your bed. You can eat, sleep, play, workout, watch tv, attend conferences, order food, order replacement batteries, you name it. So, why don’t we do that?

Because it makes us feel lazy. 😴

When working from home, it is important to keep certain areas reserved for certain activities if you want to be as productive as possible. Sleep in bed. Eat in the kitchen. WORK in your designated workspace. It doesn’t have to be a formal office, it can be a specific seat on your couch, a certain corner of your bedroom, or even outside on your porch ☀.

The important thing here is to designate it only for work and keep it that way. Reserve your workspace for work activities and nothing else. If you feel the urge to browse Facebook then get up and go sit on your lazy bed. 😴

Making this designation will help you maintain a healthy balance and be more productive when you’re actually working.

Effective Collaboration & Communication

4. Ditch Email 📧

Email is great for emails. But it’s not great for team collaboration or project management. We will be coming out with a list of our favorite project management tools soon, but until then, it is enough to say that emails are not the way to go.

Emails get cluttered, re-sent, out of order, delayed, put into spam, ignored, etc.

There are a plethora of project management tools out there that can aid in team collaboration, communication, and accountability, and are far more effective than an endless thread of CC’d emails.

5. Hold Regular Meetings

Nobody likes long or recurring meetings because, unless they are well-managed, those meetings can turn into a big waste of time. However, when working remotely or from home, regular meetings are very important.

Each team member needs to be able to see, hear, and virtually jab 🤛 each other in order to maintain a level of connectivity. Working apart makes it easy to feel separated from the group, so hold regular meetings to keep projects moving forward, but also to keep your team engaging and happy.

6. Make it fun 🙂

You have to hold meetings slightly differently. In-person, you can be stone-cold, serious, and boring 🥱. But online, you need to put a little effort into smiling every now and then. You’re not actually talking to your computer, you’re talking to another person. Keep it professional but remember that your facial expressions play a much bigger role in communicating your message and keeping the other person interested in a virtual call.

Focused Productivity

7. Try Pomodoro (or at least take breaks!)

⏱ The “Pomodoro” technique is basically the idea of working in 25-minute blocks then taking a 5-minute break. The intent is to increase productivity within those 25 minutes and to also provide breaks. If you haven’t tried this before, then give it a shot. You will be surprised at how productive you can be in 25 minutes after starting the timer!

But even if you don’t want to go all ninja and adopt Pomodoro, you can still greatly increase your productivity by taking scheduled breaks. Why?

  • When you have a mandatory break coming up, it is much easier to put off checking that social media notification.
  • When you set a time limit (a mini-deadline) on a task, you are more likely to accomplish more during the time period compared to giving yourself all day to complete it.
  • Leaving a task and coming back to it with fresh eyes often allows you to create a better result.

8. Eliminate Distractions (it’s that easy, right?)

Notifications (social media) are your worst enemy. The sooner you can eliminate them during work, the sooner you can become more productive. Here are a few ideas:

  • Turn your phone off. Now, you’re probably not going to do this, so let’s move to the next idea.
  • Turn your phone on silent (or “do not disturb”) and turn it over. Seeing a blinking notification icon is just as bad as hearing the vibration sound. 👋
  • Sit your phone in another room. This way, at least you will have to put some effort into distracting yourself.
  • Stay off social media. Just say no. 🤚

The sooner you can notice what is distracting you, the sooner you can take action. Remember, distractions are your worst enemy when working remotely or from home!

9. Stay Accountable

Set daily goals, share them with your friends, and then take the actions necessary to complete those goals. Here are some ways to stay accountable:

  • Announce it on social media and post honest progress.
  • Have a daily call/meeting with a close friend or teammate and keep each other in check.
  • Give your friend $50 and make them hold onto it unless you can complete your goal on time. 🤷‍♂️ It works

The TL;DR Summary

  1. Set “time blocks.”
  2. Dress for success
  3. Designate a workspace
  4. Ditch email for other communication tools
  5. Hold regular meetings
  6. Make meetings fun
  7. Take regular breaks
  8. Eliminate your worst enemy (distractions)
  9. Stay accountable

Keep an eye out as we reveal our favorite tools for working remotely. As I said, we’ve been doing this for a long time. Not everyone is going to work the same way, but perhaps we can introduce you to one or two tools that you’ll grab hold of easily!

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