Home office, WFH (work from home), remote work.
Whatever you call it, working from home is on everyone’s lips right now. It is also a huge opportunity. If you are among those that just recently opened up your home office, we would like to point out some common pitfalls. They can be easily avoided and will help you to work as productive, or even more so, as before.
1. Clear rules
Just like in the office, some ground rules need to be set for remote work. If your company has not yet dealt with home office, such rules should be set up immediately. It is important to agree on a common set of tools as well. The messaging service Slack has established itself as the defacto standard in the startup world. You should also introduce digital office hours where everyone is reachable on those tools. If everyone is usually in the office by 9:00, you should also keep that routine digitally.
2. Reduce distractions
As soon as all company policies are in place, it is time to focus on your home environment. It sets the ground stone for productive work. Distractions by other family members and chores are all around you. They should be minimised, if possible. The first step is to create a dedicated work space, ideally in a calm corner of your flat. A proper desk is also highly underrated, so use one if you have the chance. All this helps to flip the mental switch between “I am at work” and “I am home”.
3. Fine feathers make fine birds
Another highly underrated tip regards your personal clothing. At first, it seems tempting to start working in your pyjamas or sweatpants. However, flipping the mental switch to work becomes significantly harder that way. It doesn’t mean you have to dress exactly like you would for work though. If you usually wear a suit and tie, you can comfortably switch to jeans and t-shirts instead.
4. Meetings with an agenda
In order to stay in touch, fixed daily meetings are important. A digital version of the daily standup at 9:00 is ideal. All other meetings need to have an agenda. Period. The golden rules of the Amazon meeting culture are just easy to use in the digital world. At Amazon the written agenda is read by everyone at the beginning of the meeting (Google Docs is a great tool for that). The number of participants should also be kept to a minimum, just like in the real world. The video software provider Zoom has positioned itself as the most reliable contender.
5. Make breaks and stick to your working hours
Especially if your new (home) office space is visible all day, it can prove hard to switch off and stop working. It is just too tempting to quickly check your mails one final time. In the long term this has serious mental health risks. Try to avoid being “always on” and stick to your normal working hours as much as possible. It is easy to forget breaks and lunch when working at home. Create them as “appointments” in your calendar and activate alerts. That way you won’t forget so easily.
6. Reflect and improve
No one is born a home office master and there is always room for improvements. If you follow these tips however, you are set for the right path. Take a bit of time at the end of every week to reflect on your home office productivity. This helps you to find weak spots in your routine. You should also talk with your colleagues to improve collectively. Remote work should be seen as a huge opportunity for every company.
7. To do lists and calendars
Working from home, your personal organisation and planning is more important than ever. If you already have some experience with techniques like timeboxing, they work just as well at home. As a general rule, try to plan your whole day or even the whole week first. Tools like Butleroy support you to plan your tasks automatically in seconds.