The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus brought a barrage of changes in our lives. Everything from education to entertainment has seen a paradigm shift. Our systems are simply not the same, and with over 20% of the world on lockdown and 3 billion people in isolation, systems will change.
With the lockdown in various cities, companies have had to shut down in-office operations, leaving employees with working remotely as the only viable option. I am one of them.
My name is Ayo, and I am a software engineer living in Lagos, Nigeria. Over the past weeks, I have had to work from home. It has been a different experience – but one thing I don’t miss is the Lagos traffic.
Before we move on, I’d like to share an observation from my team’s Slack workspace with you. For some of us, this seems like a time where energy levels are at their zenith but for most people, the transition may be difficult and can lead to unproductive spells.
Working remotely has often been categorized as the ‘future of work’, but it has its pros and cons. Being able to save on factors like commute time (and money) as well as the overall flexibility, are some perks.
However, there are setbacks, such as the ease of distraction and procrastination.
You suddenly find yourself doing laundry on a Tuesday morning and your 30-minute ‘break’ becomes a 3-hour stint on Netflix. Finding focus is usually tougher when working alone.
So, how do you make a meaningful change and get back on track?
How can you boost your productivity levels to make sure targets are still met?
Here are some steps I have taken to maximize productivity which you can apply to get back on track:
Create A Safe Space For Work
First off; Stand up from your bed.
It is tempting to work from the comfort of your bed but it can hamper your productivity as your mind has probably registered that area as your place of rest.
On the flip side, working and resting in the same space can keep your mind from fully functioning from a place of rest when the time comes. You may find it difficult to switch off work and tune in to rest if both are done in the same space.
Designate a specified area for work and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be a fancy home office- a table and chair in a well-lit area in your home, preferably in a room with closed doors and minimal distractions.
Inform your family members or housemates sharing the space about the said area so they respect your time and space when you are in the location. That is your zone- own it.
Create A Realistic Routine
The power of a routine cannot be overemphasized. The human mind is wired to mould repetitions into habits, and creating a routine is no different.
Considering the fact that you don’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. to beat traffic, it may be tempting to stay in bed longer.
Nonetheless, sticking to a similar routine will help maintain productivity. You can replace activities such as using your commute time as a time to catch up on your reading.
Take the extra step to dress up a bit. A suit and tie may be dramatic, but having daily changes of pyjamas will cause a faux relaxation in your mind. Stick with comfortable workwear, and see how much it changes your outlook on productivity.
Stick to your workout and personal time, as much as you usually would if you had a standard day of work. If you have children at home, try to incorporate their own routine too.
To ensure that no one is exhausted, set out time for your breaks, just as you would at work and the kids, in school.
There may be times when it feels like the days run a lot faster when you are working from home, and this could tempt you to want to work past time. It is important to realize when it is time to log off work, make the effort to consciously do that.
Look Out For And Eliminate Time Wasters
Recognize your vices and come up with a plan to eradicate them. Introspection is critical when you have to make such a lifestyle change like working from home.
Do you stress eat? Or are you prone to sitting for long hours without moving?
What easily distracts you? Scrolling through Instagram? Watching unending murder mysteries? Hiding within the pages of books?
Mine is the third option and I had to sit up and time myself, so I don’t keep getting lost in the episodes.
To get the best out of yourself, you must get past yourself.
Making the best of your mental and physical health is paramount. Looking out for unproductive habits and taking baby steps to eradicate them will set you forward in making the best of staying at home.
It may seem daunting to take down vices, especially in your comfort zone, but it is possible. You may not win every time, but you will win sometimes- and that is the focus.
Keep In Touch
Having to spend a large fraction of your time indoors, as opposed to when it was within the four corners of an office filled with people can cause loneliness.
I understand this.
The feeling of isolation can creep up, and if not checked, it can lead escalate to anxiety and other mental affectations. A 2017 report from the International Labor Organization reviewed several studies on work-life balance from 15 countries and reported that employees who work from home tend to have higher stress levels and have more trouble sleeping than their counterparts who work from the office.
Maintaining human connections is critical, and although face-to-face conversations are limited, it is best to keep in touch with co-workers via other platforms.
Video and chat apps like Zoom, Slack, WhatsApp have proven to be effective in helping communication.
Create A Meal Plan And Get Your Nutrients
With the lockdown, you have probably gotten your food items for the upcoming weeks (or months.) Carry out an inventory check and see what you have, then seek different ways to eat them so you don’t get bored.
Since there is no work timetable, you may forget to eat at the right time (or eat more than you should), so having a meal plan and setting time aside will help you remain in check.
You may not be able to get the full nutrients you need daily and may require supplementation. Mutti-nutrient supplements can be gotten online from my-medicines.com or walking into any branch of myPharmacy in your immediate environment.
Being intentional about your nutritional health is a game-changer.
Have An Accountability Partner
Currently, there are 3 billion people living in isolation. More than ever, this is a good time to have someone in your corner rooting for you. There may not be a ton of physical stress, but you need a virtual pick-me-up once in a while to get you out of a funk.
Having a friend with whom you can share goals, meal and exercise plans, to-do lists, victories and even obstacles can be the fixer-upper you need to amp your productivity.
Working remotely is a relatively new process, and as with most lifestyle changes, it may require some time to adapt to the processes. The key is to stay with the process, and most importantly, enjoy it as it comes.
If you fail, dust off and try again. And again.
Practice Good Hygiene
Needless to say, we need to make sure that we remain protected- not only for ourselves but for everyone around us.
You may be at home but constant contact with various surfaces is one reason why hygiene must be taken seriously.
Remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face (especially the eyes, nose and mouth) and stay calm and maintain a positive attitude.
We will get through these times.