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COVID 19: Work from home ideas to improve productivity and efficiency

Kajetan Wyrzykowski
Kajetan Wyrzykowski | 7 min read

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The rise in Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and mortality rates brought the world to its knees in what seemed like an instant. 

Governments have had to introduce strict social distancing rules that have significantly affected the way we go about our daily lives.

As a result, companies all over the world have been scrambling to set up remote work facilities for their employees. This response to COVID-19 has, for many, resulted in working from home for the first time.

In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the best tips to get the most out of your remote workday.

You’ll also see:

  • Tips on how to treat a remote workday like it’s any other
  • Technology making the remote working experience easier
  • Ideas on maintaining camaraderie in the remote workplace
  • General work from home tips and ideas

COVID-19 Background

On 11th of March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially labelled the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic.

After the initial outbreak in China, countries like Italy and Iran saw a huge spike of infection and mortality rates.

Countries from across the globe were beginning to record their first official cases of the illness. In order to control the spread of the illness, extreme measures had to be taken. 

man in white t-shirt and black shorts standing on black bench during daytimeGovernments began to close borders, then the social distancing laws were put in place that limited movement. This, in turn, affected the way we work.

No one can predict when life will go back to normal. Some experts are even predicting that the pandemic has the potential to permanently change working patterns

That’s why it’s vital you make the most out of your remote workday

Here are our tips:

Work from home as if it’s a normal day

Making the adjustment to remote work is not easy because it doesn’t feel like a typical workday. The routine of getting up, pouring a cup of coffee, getting dressed then heading off to work is how many of us start the day.

The absence of all that can have confusing psychological effects that impact your attitude towards work. The best way to be successful in a remote workday is to treat it as any other workday.

man wearing grey long sleeved shirt working on a computer at homeThat means having an ‘up and at em’ attitude, rather than working from bed in your pyjamas.

Here’s a bunch of actionable tips for making a remote workday feel like any other one:

Have a shower and get dressed

There are people out there who have been working remotely for years. Many of them would attest to the power of showering and getting dressed for a normal workday. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean putting on a suit or a dress, but rather wearing something that sets the workday in motion. Wearing appropriate clothing has a major impact on your mentality and helps you start the day the right way. 

Getting changed out of your sweatpants also means you’re ready for any incoming conference calls with colleagues, clients, etc.get a quote banner with special box

Maintain regular working hours

It’s important to maintain regular hours even when you work from home. The Coronavirus has forced most of us into home working situations which has, in turn, freed up a significant portion of the day by not having to commute to work.

In order to get the most out of your day, you should be doing everything possible to make it as consistent as a regular workday. That means, no sleeping in or staying up late watching Netflix just because all of sudden you can.

Analogue clockThe idea of tweaking with the routine is tempting but it is not sustainable long term. 

Ravi Gajendran is a professor of management at Florida International University. She writes:

 

“When you're working from an office, there's a natural start and stop time. It’s important to have similar boundaries and routines for your remote work.”

 

Maintain consistency and be sure to move onto something else so that when your work is done for the day you don't go back.

Set up a dedicated workspace

At home, there are distractions everywhere that can stop you from getting stuck into your work. Whether it’s Netflix, gaming consoles or dirty washing, it’s easy to find something other than work to do while you’re at home.

That's why it's vital to set up a dedicated workspace.

Having a space set up for the sole purpose to work will help you be more productive

home office set up with pattern chair and green deskThis working area also makes it’s easier to walk away at the end of the day. Spending so much time at home is confusing and it’s easy to blur the lines between work and home life. 

With a dedicated workspace, you can stand up, move to another part of the house and ‘clock off’. 

Accountability

For some, working from home means an easy way to slack off or be lazy. Others just find it difficult to stay on track with the absence of a manager or team leader present. 

Accountability is about ensuring you meet your expected workload. At Packhelp, we introduced a number of remote work practices to ensure our own accountability. 

Every morning, each member writes a day plan in their team Slack channel that includes the following:

  • Working hours
  • Tasks for the day
  • Approximate time for each task

Like the one below:Screenshot of remote work day plan This task is then repeated at the end of the day, summarising our day’s work.

Setting up a group call each morning or at the end of the day is easy enough to implement and will keep everyone on track.

Managers can easily check on the amount of work that each employee is doing every day and ensure everyone is pulling their weight. 

Obviously this process isn’t possible for every job, at every workplace. But the point is by making each person accountable and adding structure to the day, everyone will get more done.

Work from home but stay connected 

Loneliness is a very real side effect of the COVID-19 outbreak. People that live alone are particularly vulnerable to feeling lonely during this period of lockdown. 

With no one knowing when or how long it will take for things to normalise, everyone needs to be taking steps now to ensure mental well being. 

people using phone while standingThis is particularly important whilst working from home. Work takes up a significant part of your life and the sudden loss of contact with your fellow employees takes a toll. 

Here are our tips for staying connected:

Ensure everyone has the right equipment

This goes out to all the employers, managers and team leaders reading who are responsible for employees. In order to stay connected, they need the right equipment. 

Ensure everyone has access to cameras, microphones or computers that have those features built-in.

It is vital to maintain as much face to face contact as possible so having the appropriate equipment is an absolute must.

Bernardo Tirado, an industrial psychologist and project management executive says:

“I realize many people are not comfortable being in front of a camera; however, doing so will allow you the opportunity to see your friends and colleagues and, in turn, it will give the impression that you are still connected.”

Make the most of available resources

There are several resources out there that make the work from home experience that little bit easier.

The oldies like Skype and Facebook are always handy for staying connected, but there has been a rise in platforms such as Zoom and Slack caused by the pandemic.

black and white pug and brown and white long coated small dogZoom is a platform for video conference calls and online chat service. The best thing about Zoom is definitely its ease of use. Simply create a meeting, send an invitation link and then those invited can join in. 

You can set up your screen view so everyone in the meeting can be viewed at once. Interacting and seeing your colleagues faces is about the closest thing to a real meeting in the current climate and has major health benefits

Slack is a business communication platform and it’s power lies in its instant messaging function. Instant messaging is much faster compared to email and is similar to a back and forth real-life conversation.

Slack’s searchable archive is another great function. You can find anything from past conversations, documents and files quickly and efficiently. 

The ability to create different channels makes it easier to navigate and keeps the conversation relevant. At Packhelp, we have channels ranging from customer care to Packhelp pets.

pachelp pets slack channel black dog and orange cat

The outbreak of Coronavirus definitely increased the awareness of these platforms but the functionality and ease of use made them popular. 

If you want to read more of our articles. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

Keep up the camaraderie 

Water cooler conversation is not just a break from work. It builds company culture, brings people out of their shells and leads to improved collaboration.

two people fist pumping wearing rubber glovesJust because you're no longer in the office doesn’t mean the water cooler talk should stop.

If anything, you need to be increasing social interaction between colleagues because of the current situation. 

Check out our tips for keeping up team morale:

Video coffee breaks

Grabbing a coffee with a colleague is a nice way to take your mind of work for 15 or 20 minutes of your day. 

three person holding beverage cupsA coffee break allows time to de-stress and relax. 

With platforms like Zoom or Slack, you can pop on the kettle and schedule a video coffee call with your work buddy. In doing so you’ll not only take the time to de-stress but make your remote workday feel a little more like a normal one. 

You can check out Packhhelp's response to Coronavirus here

Team events and gatherings

Team integration events and company gatherings are an important part of building a strong work culture. The COVID-19 outbreak has kept us all locked down with no places to go (even if we could). 

That makes it a little tricky to throw a team integration event or company-wide gathering which would take place in normal circumstances.

But with a little ingenuity, it’s possible to create an awesome gathering from home.

At Packhelp, we have an annual Easter gathering where the entire company comes together for a function before the Easter weekend. 

people holding beer glasses toastingThis year, our clever HR department came up with a completely remote event that was held on Zoom, adhering to social distancing restrictions. 

There was a dress code, a company-wide address, then a series of smaller break off chats were created to replicate a normal party. For instance, there was a dance room chat, a DIY chat and a games room that people could join in throughout the event. 

The event was a blast and it goes to show that with a little creativity we can still make the most out of a cruddy situation. 

General remote work tips

You’ve seen some important remote work ideas on how to improve efficiency and productivity. These ideas should serve as the basis for your successful remote workday.

In this section, we’ll be going through some general tips and ideas to get the most out of your day. 

Here they are:

Exercise 

You can’t stay cooped up in your home all day long. Although there are tight restrictions on movement, most countries still allow you to get outside for the purpose of exercising. 

Exercise is vital in maintaining not only a healthy body but a sound mind. Regular physical activity helps combat mild depression, anxiety and stress

In the current climate, these are symptoms that people from around the world are facing every day. 

Whether it’s getting out for a jog, walking your dog or doing a Youtube workout video, exercising is vital to staying sane in these trying times. 

Take regular breaks

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to stay glued to your screen all day.

If you were in the office you’d get up to stretch your legs and have a coffee, meet with a colleague or grab a snack.

It shouldn’t be any different when you’re working from home. 

man laying down with a cap over hit face Considering humans are not wired to be productive for the full 8 hour day, taking breaks is vital in maintaining productivity. 

Finish the day

Working from home makes it difficult to separate home and work life. One easy trick to fix this is by finishing the end of the day like you would a normal one.

Here’s how:

  • Set strict work hours
  • When you finish, pack up and tidy your workspace
  • Get changed into different clothing (remember the earlier section about getting dressed for work)
  • Move to another part of the house

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Food for thought

The COVID-19 outbreak has completely altered the way we work.

Some believe that the pandemic has the potential to permanently change working patterns as the world grows accustom to remote work.

Hopefully, after reading this article you’ve gained a better understanding of how to work remotely. The absence of distractions that are created by going into work means it’s possible to actually increase productivity whilst working from home.

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