Working from Home Productively in 2021
Working from home used to be a theoretical nightmare for some companies, who assumed that their employees would be less reliable and productive, and that their bottom line would suffer. A year after working from home became the norm, we’ve learned that those companies were wrong…well, sort of.
Initial reports from many companies who changed their work-from-home policy due to COVID-19 claimed that this forced experiment was a success. Alan Jope, CEO of The Unilever Group, boasted that his company was enjoying a 41 percent increase in productivity. And according to a Boston Consulting Group survey of workers in the U.S., Germany and India, 75 percent of employees have maintained or improved their productivity.
However, increased or consistent productivity while working from home is taking its toll. There is growing evidence that this arrangement is having an adverse effect on employee emotions due to the lack of interpersonal contact, fears of a recession, lack of boundaries between work and personal life, and anxiety over job insecurity. In fact, most early reports of increased productivity were likely due to panic over job loss and the need to stay visible and relevant. Almost a year later, much of the virtual workforce is burned out, stressed, and hitting a wall.
So, what’s the solution? If you’re finding yourself struggling to work from home productively, implement the following:
Stick to a schedule.
Set work hours, ideally the same ones you kept when you were working in the office, are helpful in staying productive. Sticking to a routine will help you feel more normal, efficient and structured. This also means creating boundaries between work and your personal life. Feeling like you’re on call all the time with work AND as a caretaker, spouse or parent, can lead to rapid burnout.
Take regular breaks.
Research shows that taking regular breaks actually increases your productivity. According to The Energy Project and the Pomodoro Technique, working in periods of 90 or 25 minutes respectively, with short breaks in between, will help you stay focused and efficient.
Create a to-do list.
It is important to keep in mind what you need or want to accomplish each day and writing down a to-do list every morning or at the end of every day, for the next day, is a helpful way to do so. Jumping from assignment to assignment is not productive, but with a list, you should be able to easily focus on the important items for that day.
Stay away from distractions.
Some research has shown that remote workers actually lose less time on distractions than office workers. However, your individual situation will depend on who else is in your home during the day, where in your home you work, and if you’re tempted by your home to-do list.
Communicate with your team regularly.
When you’re sitting a few feet away from your coworkers, it’s easy to communicate throughout the day about both work and personal topics. However, communication can be more challenging when everyone is working from home. Be mindful of any needed communication and set regular meetings where you, your team or coworkers can discuss projects and deadlines.
Prioritize your mental health.
When your quality of life is suffering, it’s time to make a change. Poor mental health, stress, and isolation will dissolve any increase in productivity you may have initially enjoyed last spring. It’s essential to make deliberate choices that will benefit your personal and professional life long-term.