Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, many engineering companies across the United States and beyond are implementing travel restrictions and work from home directives.
I have had the opportunity to work from home, on and off, over the last ten years, and as nice as it sounds, one of the biggest challenges with doing it effectively is staying focused and productive. I’ve accumulated some of my own work from home productivity tips over the years and thought this would be a good time to share them.
Please leave comments or questions below and I will respond to them.
#1 – Maintain Your Morning Routine
The worst thing you can do is start to sleep late just because you are working from home. This may cause you to get lazy and lose a lot of working time. Now, if you had a 30 to 45-minute commute previously, and you want to sleep an extra 30 to 45 minutes, that’s fine, but if you usually wake at 7 am and decide to start waking at 9:30 am, your productivity may be compromised and bad habits will formulate.
#2 – Get Dressed for Work
Another challenge, I see with work from home professionals is that they think they can wear their pajamas all day. The reality of it is that they can, however, there is huge psychological benefit to getting up each morning and getting dressed for work. Again, you might dress more casually than you would have if you were going to the office, however, you are still maintaining the routine of getting dressed to partake in work activities. Of course, if you plan to be on video calls, dress accordingly.
#3 – Designate One Area as Your Work Space
Can you see the pattern here? To work from home productively, you need to maintain habits, and another one is working in the same spot in your home religiously. When you jump around from an office, to your bedroom, to the kitchen table, your focus will diminish and you productivity will decrease. Designating one place and leaving your laptop or PC there will also ensure that work doesn’t follow you outside of working hours, which is also important.
#4 – Take Scheduled Breaks
This is one that can destroy focus if not followed. I learned this the hard way. My home office was close to the kitchen, so at times (many times), I found myself strolling into the kitchen and snacking, usually on unhealthy items. Now, I follow the Pomodoro Technique, and work in focused spurts of 25-minutes with five-minute breaks. This is a game changer. For some reason, that countdown timer, keeps you focused. Here is the one I use.
#5 – Always Follow the Pareto Principle (Aka the 80/20 Rule)
There is a chance over the coming months that your work from home routine may cause you to work less hours. In that case, apply the Pareto Principle to everything you do. The principle says that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts. Plan your days focusing your time on those 20% tasks that drive 80% of your success. Here’s a video of how I utilize this rule in setting up my weeks.
Working from home is something that many professionals dream of doing, but never get the chance. Well, that’s about to change. However, I warn you that to maintain productivity at home, you must be vigilant in your daily routine and I hope that the productivity tips that I’ve shared above will help you do just that.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about work from home strategies you follow to increase productivity.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success