The spread of COVID-19 has led several companies to ask their employees to work from home. Even though most of us are used to this, but working from home could be challenging. We are logged in the system for more than 10 hours a day still struggling to complete our daily tasks. Working from home has unique challenges when it comes to productivity, communication, and managing a team. In this article, we’ll discuss best practices for working from home including staying motivated, productive and healthy.

Staying Productive

While working from home has its perks, it can be distracting. Household chores, buying groceries, family, flatmates, TV, social media, and pets can easily shift your attention. Here are some tips for eliminating distractions and boosting productivity while working from home:

  • Dress for success: It can feel tempting to roll out of bed and just log on to your laptop in your nightclothes. If you’re dressed for sleep, it can be harder to get your brain in productivity mode. Try maintaining your regular morning routine to set boundaries between working and living at home. Instead of your morning commute, you might try another activity to boost productivity, such as a walk, light workout or meditation. Then, get dressed and ready for your day and make a healthy breakfast.
  • Set and follow a schedule: It is important to set your working hours apart from your personal home time. For transparency, tell your manager when your working hours are when working from home and indicate on your calendar when you are available. Take regularly scheduled breaks to stretch, get some fresh air, and rest your brain
  • Create a separate workspace: If possible, it is best to set aside a separate space in your home for work. This will help you separate your home and work activities, and boost productivity when you’re working in your designated space. Let your family, friends, and flatmates know that even though you are at home, you are off-limits during your scheduled work hours.

Healthy Communication

When working from home, in-person communications are limited. To maintain healthy communications with colleagues while working from home, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Clear out miscommunication: Communicating at a distance can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. The ability of face-to-face communication to convey meaning (through body language and facial expressions) tends to fall flat in the written format. Everybody has had a moment when either a text or email has been misunderstood. When in doubt, talk it out. Ask questions to understand your colleague’s intentions.
  • Make other channels: Many companies and teams use online chat to stay connected both personally and on work-related topics. You might consider creating light-hearted channels or Whatsapp groups where people can share updates about non-work-related subjects such as cooking, exercise, or pets. You should also use chat regularly to communicate as frequently as possible around key goals and progress towards them.
  • Keep the team spirit: When working from home, it is more important than ever to create spaces and opportunities to interact with your teammates beyond projects and status updates. Working from home can unexpectedly bring about feelings of loneliness. Virtual team building can help replace valuable in-person forms of communication that are missing when working from home

Managing Remote Team

Leading remotely can present several unique challenges, especially if this is a new transition for your or your team. Planning, communication, and expectation-setting can help maintain team happiness and productivity. Following are some tips for managing a remote team:

  • Communicate clear expectations: Take a moment to plan. What do you need to achieve, by when and what changes might you need to make to your original quarterly plan and goals? Type it up so you can start discussing it with your team. You will avoid misunderstandings when you create a document that serves as a source of truth. You might also share the document with stakeholders and other teams you collaborate with.
  • Cherish and protect your 1-1 time: 1-1’s are a time to make sure you and each member of your team are working towards the same objective(s), that the right work is being completed, and most importantly to check on the well-being and engagement of your team. Try allocating between 30 minutes to one hour with each of your direct reports for a 1-1 each week.
  • Provide feedback often: If employees are more familiar with working in an office environment where they receive feedback daily, the silence due to a work-from-home situation could cause uncertainty or confusion. It’s easy for people to assume the worst when they don’t get regular feedback from their managers. Regular feedback lets employees know where they stand and reduces the chance of surprise and disagreements during a more formal review.
  • Keep your team informed: Keep employees informed by sharing information broadly with all team members in a timely manner. Your leadership is necessary for sharing relevant information that you need to trickle down to your team. Take time to understand what’s being communicated, why, and what is being asked from your team. Choose the right medium or a combination depending on the message and its implications. Some messages will require an email followed by a team meeting. When working remotely, especially in the beginning, more communication is better than less.

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