So you’re working from home. Whether it is long-term or temporary, the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. You just know that you want to be as productive as possible. I spoke with local Ft. Wayne resident and productivity expert Erik Fisher about this very topic. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when working from home?
I think the biggest thing is to have a dedicated workspace. If you have a laptop, you’ll probably migrate to the couch, right? There’s an inherent problem with this. If you sit where you normally sit when you’re at home relaxing, you’re sending your brain mixed messages.
To avoid this, consider using a desk or even moving to the kitchen table. Move to a chair. Last case scenario, move to the other side of the couch or another part of the couch you never use. At least that will help your brain realize something is different.
Ideally, you want to have a work computer versus a personal computer. If those are one in the same, consider using another device for personal use such as your tablet or your phone. This will help you stay on track and cut down on distractions.
That's great. What is another thing that you know will help when working from home?
Set some rigid working hours so you can stay on task. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have lots of time now. The truth is, time goes by very quickly when working from home. Schedule in time to take breaks as you would do in the office, so you remain productive and ready to start the next challenge.
Without a set structure in place, it is very easy to get distracted and then your work time will end up eating into the precious time you spend with friends or family after your workday should be over.
I know a lot of folks struggle with communication when working from home. What do you recommend there?
When working remotely, you must communicate well with your co-workers. For example, it might not be as clear as if you were discussing a project in person. Spend more time focusing on communication.
Personally, I would recommend checking in via video chat if possible. Email is not ideal (and it is often a time suck too). Direct communication over video chat or the phone will help convey tone of voice and body language. When in doubt, ask for clarification. You’ll be glad you did.
Any other tips that you wish someone told you when you started working from home?
This one is surprising, but it really makes sense. Whenever I stay in my pajamas or wear a hoodie or sweats, I’m always less motivated to work. When you dress up, you will find many benefits. For starters, it will help you with your morning routine and help define the line between work and home.
Remember the first thing I said was to have a dedicated workspace? Wearing your comfy clothes is going to make you want to watch Netflix and take a nap. When you wear professional clothes, you’ll also be prepared for the inevitable impromptu video meeting.
How do you handle distractions when working from home?
There are different distractions that pop up when working from home. I live in a small home in Fort Wayne, and sometimes the neighbor starts cutting their grass right by your office. You have to sign for the delivery of a package. You notice the dirty dishes in your sink. You realize you need to move the laundry over. The dog needs to go outside.
Some of these distractions can be avoided, others cannot. Many of these distractions can be handled within your daily routine and the boundaries you put in place. Others cannot. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family members with some of these things if possible.
Thanks so much to Erik for all of these helpful insights. Do you work from home in the Indianapolis area? If so, what is something you do to stay productive?