The way we work and our everyday routines are anything but usual at the moment. It’s not just the logistical practicalities of the office set up (shout out to anyone using an ironing board as a standing desk) there are also emotional hurdles, none of which add up to a peak of productivity. What can you do to make the situation better?

Firstly, let’s cut ourselves a small break here. It’s not just a proper home office that will solve the challenges of working through the Covid-19 situation. These are extreme circumstances. But we do have choices.

There are two ways you can approach staying productive. If you are a regular home worker and have this sussed, it could just be to be more positive. Even small changes to positivity could make a big difference to your overall well being and affect your productivity.

The other is to take very practical steps to make home working as painless as possible. Here are some tips that have worked for us. We hope they help you too.

7 ways to increase your home-working productivity

  • Stay safe, stay connected
    Whether you have a team stand-up every morning as part of your BAU or a quick virtual daily chat with a colleague, maintaining contact will help you feel less isolated. It might be an operationally-focused meeting or a ‘virtual cafe’ session enabling more informal, social conversation (something we’re a fan of at Iress.) Either way, it’s important to stay in touch with others around you.

    Virtual catch-ups help meet the basic human need for social interaction. They’re also great for quickly checking in on priorities throughout the day and understanding where you or others might need support from your leader or teammates.
  • Be realistic and reassess your projects
    The start of the year was not that long ago, a time when we knew what we were working to deliver in 2020. That clear cut plan is out of the window. Hopefully by now, you are in a place of acceptance that almost everything needs reassessing.

    Certain things must be delivered no matter what, like your regulatory obligations, but there will also be initiatives that need a reality check. Ask what’s important and what will make a difference now. Above all, remain adaptable and creative in how you problem solve. We liked this piece in Forbes about adapting under chaos which offers a structure for working through solutions in a practical way. If you feel in control and focussed on the key deliverables, you will feel more productive and better about how your day is going.
  • Set work / life boundaries
    It can be hard when working virtually over an extended period of time not to blur the line between work and home. It’s important to get up and ready as you normally would for a day of work. Set time for breaks to switch off throughout the day. This includes making time to go for a walk or work out if you can, eat lunch and finish the day before mentally transitioning back to ‘home’ mode.

    Ideally, set up a designated work area which is separated from your living area. Not everyone has the luxury of space, so if you are working from your kitchen table, tidy away as best you can to clear your mind and return to normality when your working day is over. Having this structure will help your productivity when you are working.

Hopefully by now, you are in a place of acceptance that almost everything needs reassessing.

  • Set up a support network
    There are a wealth of online resources that are emerging to help businesses and individuals manage through this crisis - such as our coronavirus hub - which provides technology related content to help you be effective.

    And seek out communities to ask questions and problem solve, as well as find additional training resources to brush up what are now essential skills in a working from home environment.
  • Don't slouch
    Now is the time to really take notice of your health and wellbeing while at home. Working on your sofa is the worst thing you can do as it will encourage you to slump over a laptop.

    Think about how your emergency workspace has been set up. There are some pointers here on things you can do to make sure you are not causing unnecessary strain to your neck or back. If you are comfortable and set up well to work, you will be more productive. Don't forget to take screen breaks and move every half an hour or so.
  • Manage distractions, or lack of them
    Those with partners also working from home, as well as quarantined children, are probably craving peace and quiet to boost their productivity. Or you could be one of those that misses the background noise of the office. Well, there's an app for that.

    To fill the noise void, or distract you from it, there are a range of tools to help boost your concentration levels. Noizio - an app that will drown out the noise of the street and allow you to concentrate on the work at hand, increasing your productivity and Coffitivity recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.
  • Stay positive
    In The happy secret to better work, psychologist Shawn Achor refers to a brain ‘at positive’ as a happiness advantage. According to Achor, increasing positivity in your present day, enables your brain to significantly perform better resulting in increased intelligence, creativity, energy and productivity with a direct impact on business outcomes.

    If this seems like something of a tall order in these challenging circumstances, we’re here for you. Check out our other blog on how to manage and improve your mental health in our coronavirus hub or drop us a line for anything we can do to help you manage your time and productivity while we all get through this.