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15 Productivity Tips for Home Workers

As someone who has worked from home since 2014 I can tell you that working from is great, it works, both for employers and employees.  But, if you’re new to remote working or you manage a team of people who are or will be new remote workers then there are a few tricks to getting it right. I’m lucky, I’m part of a company that has always supported working at home, and I have the very best tools to make my work as easy (if not easier) as it would be working in an office. Hopefully I can pass on some tips from my own experience as well as some from other home workers on how they stay productive as, let’s face it, everyone works differently.

Top IT tools to make working from home a breeze

  1. Hosted Desktop

While a lot of apps have gone online using Software as a Service, some of the most ubiquitous business software applications need installing on a desktop PC and connecting to a shared database server. When working at home this may not be technically possible or may work but very slowly. This is where Hosted Desktops come in.  With a hosted desktop the business applications, databases and documents all move to a hosted server that you and your colleagues working in an office can connect to over the internet and run your apps as if they were on your PCs.

  1. Dedicated phone number and VoIP

It’s important both for your sanity and to present a professional image to customers that you have a dedicated business telephone number. Don’t use your personal mobile or home phone for work calls, especially if you’ve trained your kids to answer the phone. Using a dedicated line will discourage customers, colleagues and bosses from calling you after you’ve “clocked off” for the day.

Using a Voice over IP phone system means you can use your business phone over the internet, by plugging in a VoIP desk phone into your broadband router. Many VoIP systems will work through your PC speakers and mic, or via a smartphone app using mobile data/wi-fi rather than mobile call charges.

  1. Communication Tools

There’s a plethora of online tools and apps that make communicating with colleagues really easy. We started using the free version of Microsoft Teams from the start of lockdown in 2020 and haven’t looked back.  It’s a great way of keeping everyone abreast of what’s going on with the company, different projects, and general banter, and can also be used for video calls.   Home workers can often miss out on communication whether business related or social. Tools like Teams or Slack are great for you to stay connected.

  1. Modern Workplace Tools

Industry speak for the online services provided by Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Keeping documents online, means that you can access you documents remotely, either from home, or hotels, or the beach – seriously, don’t do that.

A Microsoft 365 subscription lets you install Microsoft Office on multiple devices, and all connecting to your data held in SharePoint or OneDrive. Google Drive using apps like Google Docs and Sheets will provide similar functionality for those companies who don’t have a defined need for Microsoft Office.

  1. A bad workman blames his tools

If your job requires you to work from home then make sure you get the best equipment to do your job and stay productive. Don’t use your home PC, the one you share with the family, make sure your employer provides a dedicated computer, as much for data security as fairness to your other family members.

If you make a lot of video conference calls with Teams or Zoom then get a top of the range web cam, and a decent microphone.   You will present a much better image to your clients and colleagues than using the inbuilt webcam and mic on a laptop or mobile phone.

The speed of your broadband connection may be out of your control, but get the best available for your area. It also needs to be reliable for you to stay connected, if it’s not then get on to your provider.

Stick to a proper routine

If you work for yourself you can choose whatever working hours suit you, but most home workers will likely need to follow the same hours as they would if working from an office. Either way, to be most productive find a routine and keep to it.

  1. Pretend like you’re going into the office and set a schedule

Home working should be no different than office working, just a much shorter commute.   Go to your working space at a fixed time, have breaks, take lunch, at the same time you would in an office.  When you get to the end of the working day then STOP.  Don’t be tempted to work over those hours you used to commute, this is your time not your employers.

Agree a schedule with your employer that works for both of you. Your employer will need to know your working hours if you want to avoid out of hours calls or irritation when you don’t reply to emails.

  1. Plan your work

Making a plan for your work activity (and sticking to it) makes you a lot more productive. Some people love lists, but even if you don’t, keeping track of what you need to achieve for the day is important.

Don’t get hung up about completing everything on your list, you can get stressed and demotivated if you do, but do prioritise things.

Tackle the difficult stuff first, once that’s done everything else is a breeze and easier to manage if something unexpected comes in.

Just like in the office, plan work for when you are most productive. For me my mind is on top form when I’m first starting work thing in the morning, but if you want anything doing at 3pm in the afternoon you’ll need to wake me up first.  Other people are night owls and take a few hours before they hit their productivity peak.

If you have a morning routine, do the boring prep work for important tasks the night before so you can get straight to it as soon as you start.

  1. Get dressed, don’t work in your PJs

While you don’t necessarily need to don a suit or pencil skirt it helps your mindset to be properly dressed.  Nothing wrong with wearing comfortable cloths, but staying in PJs or tracksuit all day doesn’t foster a business-like approach to your work. If you do get called into impromptu video calls your customers don’t want to see your string vest or curlers.

  1. Take breaks

Take regular breaks, especially if you hit a brick wall, get up stretch a bit, set your mind to something menial for a bit, before tackling it again. Take a good lunch break and if you can get out, go for a walk/run/ride, your mind will be much more focused and alert when you return.

If you are someone who finds it harder to switch off when working from home find an end-of-day routine to do. Firstly, something you do in work time such as planning or prep for the next day, then something once you’ve finished such as walking the dog or going to the gym. This will help replace the “commute” as a way of winding down.

  1. Limiting home life distractions and setting ground rules for your family

Don’t be tempted to use Social Media during your working day. I find it astonishing that people who would feel it is wrong to phone up their family and friends for a chat during work hours would think it is perfectly OK to use Social Media.   It’s not!   Social Media is designed to distract you, don’t be interrupted by constant notifications, turn them off.   Take advantage of apps that are designed to help you manage how you use Social Media. Don’t let it manage you. Who’s in charge of your life here?

Some people work better listening to music, for others it’s a distraction. If you do listen to music, set the tempo to something that doesn’t send you to sleep halfway through the afternoon. If you have a customer facing role remember to pause or mute the music before taking calls.

When you first start working from home it’s very important to set expectations with those you share your home life.  I know I had to explain to my wife that no it wasn’t OK for me to duck out for half an hour to hang the washing out.  An excuse that has worked well for many years. But seriously explaining what is OK and not OK to your family or flat mates will prevent many distractions later on.

Of course, you have to play fair with family members, setting up your working space in your living room is hardly fair on them.   If you do live and work in a noisy environment consider noise cancelling headphones.

Make yourself a proper workspace

I appreciate not everyone has the luxury of a study, home office, or spare room, but it is vital that you set yourself up with a proper work environment to ensure physical as well as mental health.

  1. Have a tidy and welcoming workspace

Having a clean, tidy, clutter free, dedicated work place will help eliminate distractions, but be creative with your working space, with pictures and plants, so it is somewhere you want to hang out in.

  1. Become an expert in ergonomics.

If you are going to be sat in your home office for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, then that space needs to be as close to perfect – ergonomically – as it can be.   You need a proper office chair with a 5-star base, height and back rest adjustable.  Working on 4-legged kitchen chair all day is going to give you back problems.

Get a decent monitor and adjust the height so that the top of the screen is at eye level when sat up straight.  Laptops are convenient but staring down at a laptop screen is not good for the back and neck.

Put yourself first

There’s a thing I like to call “Working from Home Paranoia”, an assumption that because you are working from home then everyone else will think you are sat on the living room sofa watching daytime TV.   In my experience, and most likely 99.9% of every other home worker’s experience the opposite is true.   You end up working harder, sometimes longer, and feeling guilty for doing the things that everyone else does all the time, like stopping for a cup of coffee, having a full lunch break, or answering the door to the postman. While working from home may be considered by some to be a cushy number, don’t feel guilty about it.   You are probably saving your company money on office space, and on instant coffee.   You also need to put your interests first, or at least make sure they are heard.

  1. Communication

Over communicate, and make sure your colleagues do the same.  If you feel you are missing out on communication then make sure your immediate line manager does something about it.   Where you can use verbal communication, pick up the phone to your colleagues instead of messaging all the time, whilst being mindful about causing distractions for them.

Make frequent trips to the office, such as a couple of days a month. This helps foster workplace camaraderie, communication and motivation.

Where you can try and make time to socialise with your colleagues outside of the work environment.  If your work mates are planning a work night out then make sure you get included.

  1. Training

Put yourself forward for training and development opportunities. Remote working can sometimes be out of site, out of mind, so you sometimes need to work that bit harder to make sure you get the same development as office-based colleagues.

  1. Sick leave

One advantage of working from home is that if you get a mild cold then you don’t spread it about. However, it is then tempting to work when you have something worse when if you were in the office you would have taken sick leave.

I hope this article has given you some pointers about making home working a positive experience.

Your Office Anywhere provide tools to help with providing remote workers access to the same IT systems as office workers. If you are struggling to work your business applications remotely then please take a look at the services we have to offer and get in touch using the form below.

 

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