The Corona crisis is about to turn the world as we know it upside down. In order to slow down the spread of the infectious disease Covid-19 as much as possible, many companies have sent their employees home to work. But employees and even the companies themselves are not always prepared for this. Anyone who has become accustomed to a regulated daily routine at the office sometimes finds it difficult to structure their day independently and work productively. We give you 10 tips here on how to make the most of your time while working from home.
1. Set up a dedicated workspace
We all need structure. It’s just better for our minds if certain places are associated with certain tasks: the kitchen is for cooking and eating, the living room is for reading and watching TV, etc. So when you sit down at the kitchen table to work you are in a sense pre-programmed to distraction and lack of concentration. You notice the unwashed dishes, or your partner is already cooking lunch and you start up a conversation. If you haven’t worked from home before, these situations will definitely be new to you, and will be hard for you to avoid.
So if possible, set up a dedicated workspace on your first day, which you will only use for work. Having your own home office would be ideal, but if you don’t have enough room for it, try to set up an area in the living room or your bedroom as an office.
2. Avoid distractions
Distractions are lurking everywhere at home. Whether it’s your smartphone, your email or your guitar, they can all distract you. And once you’re distracted, it will take you at least 15 minutes to get back into your workflow. So make sure you keep all distractions out of sight. Turn off your social media channels, move your mobile phone to another room and unplug your phone and TV. Make your workspace as simple as possible and really keep only the things you need for work. Also ask your roommates to please not disturb you during your working hours – whether it’s for a little chat or even for more important matters. After all, when you’re working at the office those things can usually wait until later. Admittedly, this isn’t as easy with children, which brings us to our third point.
3. Plan childcare
Working from home can be particularly difficult if you have children who currently can’t attend kindergarten or school. Small children in particular can’t easily understand why you are there but can’t respond to them. If you really want to work productively, the children need to be kept busy or cared for in some other way. Here are a few tips on how to get organised:
- Make detailed arrangements with the other parent and stick to the arrangements. If they aren’t working from home, they may be able to work part-time temporarily in order to give you some relief.
- Ask around the neighbourhood to see if childcare is available. You might be able to find out about childcare options on a notice board in the supermarket or on platforms like Facebook or nebenan.de. There are a lot of people who can offer their help.
- Ask friends and acquaintances if they can help you out.
- Older children may also be able to spend some time alone for an agreed period. Give them school work or offer them books, audio books, television, tablets etc. You might want to set an alarm clock so they know when the agreed time is over.
Keep in mind: If possible don’t ask the older people for help! People over 60 years are at particularly high risk of developing complications if they are infected with the Coronavirus.
4. Stick to fixed working hours
It’s also important to stick to your working hours when working from home. The flexibility is certainly tempting – you might want to have a quick coffee or go shopping. But if you keep interrupting your work, the day won’t end in the evening because you haven’t finished everything. After a few days you’ll feel like you are spending the entire day working. This can be frustrating and isn’t healthy. Write down fixed working hours and breaks for yourself and stick to them. It’s also especially important that you turn off your computer at the end of your working hours and don’t look at your emails anymore. Activate the automatic reply function and don’t answer the phone again until the next day when someone from the company calls you.
This strategy will help you organise your work, keep appointments, reduce stress to a minimum and have enough free time.
5. Take care of difficult tasks first
If you delay unpleasant tasks, you will create a mountain of work for later, which will keep you preoccupied, affect your productivity and put you under pressure. It can be tempting to postpone tasks until tomorrow, but the stress and pressure will always be in the back of your mind. However, if you complete an unpleasant task, you no longer have to think about it and can concentrate fully on the next task or enjoy a well-deserved break. This not only increases your productivity, but is also incredibly motivating.
6. Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise
Seven to nine hours of sleep per night are very important for your physical and mental well-being. Sleep deprivation affects your ability to concentrate, and you become more prone to making mistakes. If you postpone your work until night so you can have the day off, you will significantly upset your biorhythm. A good night’s rest, on the other hand, improves your mood during the day, promotes creativity, reduces stress and improves memory.
People often neglect physical activity when working from home. Some days you might only go back and forth between bed, bathroom, kitchen and desk. There’s no question that it’s unhealthy. Lack of exercise also affects your mental abilities. So try to go for a walk at least once a day. A demanding sporting activity such as cycling, jogging, yoga, Pilates, weight training, etc. is even better. Another positive effect of exercise is that you can clear your head for a bit. Don’t underestimate how exhausting it can be stuck within your own four walls all day.
Tip: If a curfew is imposed, you can find a lot of training programmes and exercises on the Internet, which you can also do at home. Just take a look at YouTube or Google.
7. No multitasking
The human brain isn’t set up for multitasking. In fact, according to research, multitasking reduces productivity by up to 40%. That’s because switching between several tasks restricts your focus, reduces your working memory and increases stress and mental fatigue. So increase your productivity by concentrating on only one task at a time. For example, one good way is only to look at your emails once an hour and concentrate on a single task.
8. Reward yourself
Once you have completed a task, it may seem productive to immediately move on to the next. But sometimes you should just reward yourself. Go have a coffee, call a friend or take a little break. Reward your good performance because you no longer have a supervisor who can do that for you. If you develop your own reward system, you will be able to be more motivated at work because you are working towards something worthwhile.
9. Create a daily to-do list
When you work in an office, someone often assigns you your tasks and sets deadlines. Despite working from home you will likely still regularly consult with your boss and your colleagues, so you know what tasks need to be done. But now you are solely responsible for your time management. You should make a to-do list every morning. This will give you a goal for the day, help you keep track of your projects and prevent you from not knowing where to start because of all the tasks you have to do. Just write down what needs to be done on a particular working day and then number each item in order of priority. You can also highlight the urgency and importance or add dates to the list. At the end of the day, you can transfer everything that you couldn’t finish to the list for the next day. The habit of making to-do lists helps you be more productive and organise your workday.
10. Maintain contact with colleagues and friends
One of the biggest pitfalls when working from home is loneliness. Of course, you’re sometimes annoyed by your colleagues at the office, but after a few days sitting alone at your computer, you might start to miss them again. Working from home can be very lonely. In the worst case scenario, you can sometimes go days without talking to anyone. This can quickly make you feel like you are all alone in the battle. So you should pay special attention to maintaining your contacts now. Here are a few tips:
- Schedule online coffee breaks with colleagues. You can exchange news and find out how the others are doing
- Talk to your manager regularly via Skype or a similar app to keep up to date with the situation in the company. If your manager doesn’t propose it on their own, take the initiative.
- Talk with relatives and friends on the phone. You probably want to check in with them to see if they’re ok anyway.
- If a curfew hasn’t been imposed, make a date with a friend to enjoy some fresh air. But avoid enclosed spaces and larger groups, as this increases the risk of infection.
- If you don’t live alone, you might want to set aside extra time for long conversations, board games or movie nights together.
If you follow these tips, the time you spend working from home can be really pleasant. At least you will have some extra time because you don’t need to commute. Maybe you can finally get a good night’s sleep or work late. When this crisis is over, you might even feel like working from home a few days a week. Talk to your employer about it – because now they have no reason to say it isn’t possible.