Earlier this week, I wrote some tips for working from home more productively. I have since recognized some other behaviors that have helped me not only improve efficiency but maintain my health (and sanity), some of which are particular to the current unique environment:
- Exercise, and schedule it. You will find that when working from home, you get much less activity than you normally would (even for those not particularly active). If you do not proactively address this situation, you can easily find yourself gaining weight or generally becoming less fit. To avoid distractions (either intentional or sub-conscious), schedule at least 45 minutes to an hour daily of a specific physical activity.
- Check in with colleagues and your team. One benefit when working in an office is the informal contact you have with others in the office. It may be going for a cup of coffee, chatting about the latest episode of Picard or a pick-up ping pong game. These interactions are important not only for understanding what your colleagues are working on but as an opportunity to vent or for them to vent. When working from home, you can become isolated and so can your colleagues and employees. Schedule time so you can regularly touch base with them, speak to a few a day, without an agenda, and just explore what you or they feel like discussing.
- Try a standing desk. There is some research that working from a standing desk is healthier than sitting all day, though the benefits are arguable, but even health aside it makes you more effective. I have found a standing desk helps keep me more focused and engaged during video calls while limiting distractions during other work.
- Schedule meals, including snacks. Just as you need to focus more on exercise when you are working from home, you also have to manage proactively your diet. Food is likely to be more accessible than at the office. Additionally, you will find that without your commute and with probably less time in meetings, you end up with more unscheduled time. The combination of easily accessible food and nothing to do can easily lead to more snacking and putting on extra weight. As with other parts of your day, scheduling meals and even snacks allows you to proactively choose your path.
- Negotiate with family to manage bandwidth. With more people working from home, Internet bandwidth is becoming a problem. I have recently experienced degradation on video calls, particularly at peak hours. To offset this issue, first determine if family members using the Internet concurrently are causing the bandwidth issue. If that is the case, work out a plan to manage this load, from having children stream when you do not have calls, download content off-peak rather than stream or watch video at lower quality (do you really need to see Friends in HD?). If both you and a roommate or partner works, compare schedules and try to schedule meetings at different times.
- Proactively manage Internet connectivity. With so many people working from home (and having video calls) as well as more people at home overall, some are experiencing other issues with the Internet. I have found you can largely predict when there will be bandwidth issues and have started to schedule calls and meetings at off-peak times. If you still find you are having issues, you can often alleviate them by turning off video (going voice only).
While working from home is unavoidable for some now it can also be a great opportunity. The key is to approach it proactively and optimize for a new environment, rather than simply trying to replicate your office life.