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Coronavirus: How to be productive while working from home

As someone who's worked from home for over a year, these are my six tried-and-tested hacks

You’ve probably demanded this for years across various organisations – the option to work from home – and you’ve consistently made a case for it. It saves time, saves money, makes you more productive. And now you suddenly have it and are likely finding yourself at loose ends, having to work out of home, managing your domestic chores and your family. Suddenly WFH doesn’t seem all that enticing, does it?

How to be productive while working from home

Truth is, working from home is great for some people. But for most others, who are used to working out of an office, it’s great for, like, two days. Working out of office has often been underrated, mostly because we take a lot of it for granted: the internet connection, the ac, the seating and desk. You’ll have your desk cleaned every morning before you leave, the trash taken out. Try setting up a home office and you’ll likely agree that it is a lot more difficult than you’d think. Things get especially difficult when you don’t have an extra room to spare as your study/office. Add to that the disturbance of the everyday chores – the running of the washing machine, the cooker whistles – that make concentrating even more difficult. And then there are the other inevitable distractions of Netflix. Not to mention your bed that looks particularly enticing after that long lunch. So how does one be productive while working from home? Here are my five tried-and-tested hacks.

1. Create a space for yourself

If you have a room to spare, clear it out and set up your ‘office’ there. If, however, you don’t clear out a space that you mark as your own – this could be your kitchen counter or your dining table or literally anywhere that isn’t your bed. The idea is to get into a ‘work position’ which means no working out of bed or stretching your feet on your comfy sofa but rather a space that involves a table and a chair where you sit up and work. This will help ensure you’re alert and in work mode and not in a position where you’re one step away from falling asleep.

2. Create a schedule

Several of us go through the day without a clear plan, a to-do/priority list. While you may be able to navigate your day without one when you’re in office, chances are you’ll find yourself at a loss when you’re working from home. For instance, it helps me if I list out all the articles I’m working on for the whole week. There’s a sense of achievement to see the tasks being ticked off from the list one after another; it gives me a sense of purpose to go after the next one and then the next one and so on.

3. Set aside long periods of time for work

The good thing about working from home is the flexibility but this can also be a bad thing because chances are you’ll find yourself getting interrupted more often than you would’ve in an office. The way to get around this is to set blocks of work hours and recesses. Say, two blocks of three hours of work followed by half hour of break each and then another two hours of work following which you wrap up your day. Make sure to pack all non-work-related tasks in those two half-hour breaks. Adjust your break timings according to the tasks you have at hand but don’t overshoot it so much that your work day spills into your evening.

4. Get your house in order before your day begins

Your society is likely not allowing any domestic helps inside the building. Or you’ve granted them paid leave for this duration. Either way, chances are you’re going to be doing the household chores yourself – cooking, cleaning up, putting the clothes out to dry etc. It’s best you wrap up all these tasks before your work day begins. That way these things won’t play on your mind while you go about your work.

5. Set boundaries

There’s no telling how important it is to set boundaries when you’re working from home. Whether it’s your kids, your partner, your parents or your in-laws, all of who will find reasons to come to you for the smallest of things. Let them know you’d like to be left alone while you work. Just as important is to set your boundaries with your boss. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean you’re available beyond office hours. Does your boss call you when you’re travelling to or from work? Those hours are yours. If you weren’t at home, you’d likely be in the train or a car, right? Keep it that way.

6. Dress up

This works differently for different people. But generally, I find it helpful when I’m dressed for work from home. Of course this doesn’t mean I wear a set of formal clothes and shoes all day long but I definitely don’t wear my PJs when I’m working. The idea is to get out of your bedroom mode and into the work mode. Having a shower and getting dressed for work is my way of making that transition. It could be yours too?