No, Marissa Mayer hasnâ€™t blown the whistle at me yet. I am still perfectly well ensconced in my own chair, in my own room, and drinking coffee in my own mug. The second reason is that I donâ€™t work for Yahoo. I work forÂ MakeUseOf.com and like our legionÂ ofÂ readers, we authors are also spread around the world. But thatâ€™s not to say I donâ€™t know what life is like on the other sideÂ ofÂ the â€œIron Curtainâ€. 10 yearsÂ ofÂ copious sweat has flowed in corporate cubicles.
Is working from home (or toÂ useÂ the term â€“ telecommuting) more productive than working from an office? The debate was re-ignited after Marissa Mayerâ€™s clarion call to all Yahoo employees. Just like all blah-blahs, this one too has two sides to it. But for me the question is not important. The answer to how can working from home be made more productive is more vital. The answer is weightier than the question because this is the digital age and thereâ€™s a substantial demographic that is working from home. Thatâ€™s nearlyÂ 10% in the U.S. alone and rising.
To get back to our question and its solutions, letâ€™s hash over these points andÂ makeÂ working from home a more productive job.
Set Your Clock
- Understand the timeÂ ofÂ the day when you work optimally. For some it could be late nights too.
- Set up a daily start time and (more importantly) a daily stop time. Routines will help with discipline and productiveÂ useÂ ofÂ time.
- Track time with the apps likeÂ RescueTimeÂ and others.Â Capture missing timeÂ and account for it in your routines.
Get OutÂ OfÂ Your Pajamas, Shave, & Get Ready For â€œOfficeâ€
- Personal story: I finish my breakfast and other daily chores before I sit for work.
- Create a personal dress code for working from home. It could be a comfy tracksuit too.
- The actÂ ofÂ dressing up alone could help trigger your brain to switch to work mode.
Productivity = Daily To Dos
OneÂ ofÂ the hidden dangersÂ ofÂ working from home is procrastination. It creeps in unobtrusively because we telecommuters think that we have all the time in the world. If I donâ€™t do it in the morning, I can always snatch an hour for it in the eveningâ€¦and there you go and blow the time schedules you had set. The answer lies in writing and maintaining daily to-dos. Getting things done in the right time is the yardstick for productivity.
- Plan out your day the night before.
- UseÂ the manyÂ GTD appsÂ available for free out there.
- Alternatively, justÂ useÂ pen and paper but have your plans written down.
- Do at least one productive long-term goal oriented task every day.
Put up A Do Not Disturb Sign on the Door
- Set ground rules for both friends and family.
- Have a home office separate from your residence.
- UseÂ an answering machine or set upÂ Google VoiceÂ (Google Voice is not available in all countries).
- Donâ€™t get frustrated. Accept that distractions are pitfallsÂ ofÂ working from home.
Design Your Workspace
- Keep your computer organized.
- Keep the television outÂ ofÂ this room.
- DeclutterÂ your cable clutter under your desk.
- Get some office plants for your home office. Plants are soothing.
- Consider aÂ standing desk. A good idea not only forÂ health benefitsÂ ofÂ standingÂ while working, but also for focus.
- UseÂ the right kindÂ ofÂ sounds and music toÂ drown out the noise and stay focused.
Â Change Your Workspaceâ€¦Once In A While
- Coworking and shared officesÂ are great for human interactivity and work.
- OneÂ ofÂ my favorite areas to work is a public library. It is noiseless by default.
Stay Tethered To Your Colleagues
OneÂ ofÂ the complaints against working from home is the disconnect with others. If you are telecommuting for a company with a physical address, it is important that you maintain regular contact. Your bosses, colleagues, and clients need to be constantly updated with your whereabouts and the statusÂ ofÂ any project you are working on. Even if you are your own boss, you probably have clients. Not only professionally, it helps to occasionally chit-chat with others so that you donâ€™t feel isolated from the world.
- Just pick up the phone and give a call.
- UseÂ Skype or Google Hangouts for impromptu video chats and face time.
- For kinship visit your office once or twice a week. To keep credibility interact in the real world with clients.
- Proactively schedule meal-meetings because face-to-face conversations are more open.
Donâ€™t Lock the Doors â€“ Socialize
- Join a gym or a club. Get into community service.
- Set up joint ventures with others who have similar interests.
- Get a physical hobby that forces you to walk outÂ ofÂ the front door.
- If you run a blog or an online business interact with your readers or customers face to face.
- Take working vacations if need be. Always on connectivity ensures that you can work from anywhere while having some fun.
- Try not to work during the weekends. This is the time when the restÂ ofÂ the world is also free and available for some back-fence talk.
Set Up Your Own 80/20 Google Styled Innovation Rule
Insulated from the outside world, it is very easy to fall into a routine and then fall headlong into a rut. Google has this fantastic policyÂ ofÂ giving their employees 20%Â ofÂ company time to run with their own ideas and create something that can benefit the company. When you are working alone, itâ€™s easy to lose sightÂ ofÂ the big picture and your long-term goals. To keep your motivation going, set up your own 80/20 projects. I have often found that personal productivity can be the trampoline for work productivity.
P.S: Folklore has it that it was Hewlett Packard that started the practice. Companies like Google and 3M simply popularized it.
UseÂ Downtime to Do Household Chores
This is a personal little thing I put into practice. I create â€œdowntimeâ€ and work on the little things around the house. These personal downtimes are likeÂ mini-breaksÂ between two work-related tasks which allow me to walk away from the computer. I get some household chores done and also manage to walk away from the computer, only to come back refreshed. I personallyÂ useÂ theÂ Pomodoro techniqueÂ to break down larger tasks into smaller parts. Maybe, you can consider this productivity boosting method.
After working on both sidesÂ ofÂ the wall, I can safely say that working from home has its perks. The lower stress factors if you are lucky and the absenceÂ ofÂ daily commutes are definitely on topÂ ofÂ the list. But thereâ€™s also the dangerÂ ofÂ looking at the gift horse in the mouth. Evils like social isolation and procrastination can be managed wi th some discipline. Yes, at the endÂ ofÂ the day telecommuting isnâ€™t for everyone and for every profession. But if you are among the percentage that does work from home, take it as a blessing (in disguise). The bottom line: it gives you a lotÂ ofÂ time to be your own man and woman.
Reprinted with permission.Â All rights reserved.
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