Top 10 tips to make working from home efficient

Kate Laing Sortable Updates

Remote working is something of a hot topic in the job market these days, with upwards of 56% of companies offering a work from home, or “work from anywhere”, component. Indeed, 83% of those surveyed indicated that a remote working option would make them happier in their job. So, it should come as no surprise that Sortable has given their employees the option to work from anywhere.

With the rise of the novel coronavirus however, working from home is no longer an option, but a necessity. So we thought we would put together a list of our top ten tips to make your work from home experience efficient, and hopefully enjoyable!

1 – Stick to a routine

The human brain thrives on routine—an automation of your daily processes—because it frees up precious executive functioning resources, which is why we’re recommending that you hold to your normal routine. Get up at the same time and go through your daily getting ready steps. Get dressed! Put your makeup on if that’s your thing. Act like you’re going to the office. 

You may not have a morning commute anymore, but we recommend using that time for some self-care activities; that does not mean spend half an hour on Facebook or worse, trying to stick more work in there. Consider picking up meditation, doing some morning pages, or your favourite form of physical activity.

Consider what your high productivity hours are and take into account the added responsibilities you might have now that you’re working from home with a full house. If you have kids, you’re less likely to be able to dedicate hours of uninterrupted time, so make sure you bake that in. Plan for it and it won’t feel as disruptive to your flow.

2 – Create a workspace

Whether you have a dedicated office space at home, or you’re going to be setting up shop on your kitchen counter, do your best to create a workspace that’s conducive to you getting some good quality work done. Keep it organized. Invest in a good pair of headphones (noise cancelling headphones are a Godsend if you have kids!) and don’t forget to investigate some sit/stand options. Budget sit/stand desk options are available for purchase, but don’t be afraid to drag out some old textbooks and use them to elevate your laptop and keyboard to a more appropriate standing height. Make sure you consult appropriate guidelines for how to make sure your workspace is set up for your body to avoid any ergonomic issues, and remember, you should change positions every thirty to forty minutes.

3 – Schedule breaks

Along with changing your body position regularly, you also need to give your brain a break! Consider blocking out half an hour segments in your calendar to go for walks, do a puzzle, or generally just give your brain a distraction that isn’t work related. Stepping away from a project can bring fresh perspectives, and new solutions to your problems might come to the foreground.

Good news for parents—hanging out with your kids counts! Use these half hour breaks to relieve your partner if they’ve been doing a lot of the child care, and give your kids some of the attention they’re no doubt craving with school being out and missing their friends. If you’re feeling ambitious, plan ahead and have some simple crafts or activities planned for your breaks.

4 – Look into productivity tools

Productivity tools are everywhere on the Internet, but one of our favourites is the Pomodoro timer. It’s great for breaking your work up into bite sized chunks, and as an added bonus, it’ll help you remember to change up your body position. For anyone who struggles with focus, this can be a great way to keep you on task too! Last, but not least, it will also give you a good idea of how long your tasks are actually taking you, instead of how long you think they’re taking you. This can be helpful for planning ahead.

5 – Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Whether it’s in your professional relationships or your personal ones, communication becomes key when everyone is trying something new—like working from home with a houseful of people. Now is the time to communicate more, not less. So make sure you’re keeping the appropriate people in the loop on your work projects and deadlines. If you’re behind on a timeline, or running into roadblocks, make sure you’re clear and concise about the hurdles you’re facing and what you need to overcome them. Also, communicate with your partner about when those thirty minute breaks are going to be so that you can take over and they can plan ahead too.

6 – Learn and remember the difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication

Knock, knock. The notification noise heard around the world, whether you’re working remotely or not. Slack, and other communication tools like it, have been a major boon to the organization that requires collaboration. But it can all go horribly wrong if team members aren’t sensitive to what needs to be dealt with right now vs. what can wait until later. Asynchronous communication is one of the things that allows remote teams to be more efficient than their office-bound counterparts. To this end, know when it’s appropriate for you to schedule a virtual call, or when you can drop a message in Slack for your colleague to answer at their convenience. It will respect their flow and allow them to get their best work done—it should do the same for you too!

7 – Be seen AND heard 

Weekly Marketing team check-in

Listen, we get it—one of the perks of working from home is that you’re supposed to be able to show up to work in your PJs and no one can say a thing about it. But as we discussed in our first tip, getting dressed and showing up are major factors in staying efficient and effective during your work from home periods! To that end, being seen and heard on daily conference calls and zoom meetings is important. The ability to see the body language and facial expressions of the people on your team is invaluable. It can lead to faster and more effective collaboration, and helps keep relationships alive. 

Additionally, we know that chiming in on a teleconferencing call can be awkward with lag time and being afraid to cut someone off, but it’s more important than ever to make your voice heard. There’s a reason your company hired you and it wasn’t for your ability to stay silent when you see a problem, or even more importantly, a solution to a problem. Speak up! Be heard. Your coworkers will thank you for it.

8 – Be social—virtually!

Does your workplace have a weekly meet-up, or Cocktail Friday? Do you regularly participate in fitness challenges as a community? Are you missing your lunchmates? There’s no reason your social activities need to stop just because you’re working remotely. Use all of the technology that you have at your disposal and get creative. Host a Zoom lunch, or create a Slack channel for sharing quick videos of you crushing your daily sit-up challenge. Being seen and heard isn’t just about your corporate responsibilities, it’s about keeping things light and social with your work colleagues too!

9 – Give the benefit of the doubt

This one comes straight from our Sortable Culture Manifesto and we find that it’s crucial to our team success. If you’ve received something from a colleague that rubs you the wrong way, consider the fact that tone can be misconstrued when reading text, and be transparent about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling about it. Generally speaking, if someone has made a poor decision, assume that they made it with the best information they had at the time, and then give them any information they could have used to make a better one. Be direct with people, but reach heavily into your empathy reservoirs. Times are tough for everyone; if you’re feeling the strain working from home, chances are others on your team are as well.

10 – Be compassionate

We saved the best and most important for last—because we all need to remember this in these uncertain times! We need to be compassionate with our teams, and also with ourselves. These are new circumstances for us all and we’re doing our best to make it through. Some of us are work-from-home veterans, and some of us are experiencing it for the first time. Go easy on yourself and lower your expectations. Now is not the time to guilt yourself into picking up that extra hobby, or committing to a house cleanliness challenge! Pace yourself, remember to take care of yourself, and if you have some extra energy, make sure your team is taking care of themselves too.

What do you do to stay efficient when working from home? We’d love to hear what’s helping you while you’re working from home, so make sure to share your best work from home tips with us using #WorkFromHomeHacks on Social Media!