Being Productive While Working From Home During COVID-19

Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to get a good workout in at home than at the gym?

No matter how dedicated you are or how great the routine is, it’s just not as satisfying. You don’t have all the normal equipment, the floor shakes when you jump, you don’t want to accidentally get sweat on the couch, and your roommate is watching a really good episode of Love is Blind (haters gonna hate, the show is amazing) on TV. Convenience aside, the environment is just not conducive to getting your workout in…you miss the gym.

For a lot of us, working from home is no different, especially in times like these when our routines are already out of whack. Trying to be productive and get our work done from the safe space of our homes is excruciatingly difficult, often for the same reasons that it can be hard to get a good lift in.

Yet somehow, according to Business News Daily, remote workers are actually more productive, working an average of 1.4 more days per month than the typical on-site worker. That means over three extra weeks of production over the course of a year!

If you are anything like me, you’ll find those numbers to be absolutely shocking. Fortunately, we have done the research (and asked our overachieving friends) to compile a list of helpful tips on how to make working from home…actually work.

1) Designate a space for work, and a space for everything else

Are you reading this from bed? Be honest…

Lounging around all-day sounds great in theory, but it saps your physical energy quickly. The brain is no exception. In order to remain productive, you’ll need a space that puts you in a frame of mind that is separate from the one you’re in when you wake up and scroll through Tik Tok.

Try out some spaces in your house or apartment that are separate from your relaxation space. You can try different areas like the kitchen table, a specific seat on the couch, a personal desk in your own little corner, or whatever works for you. Just make sure you have a spot that is specifically for WORKING. This space should be free of distractions like TV or pets.

This next idea is going to be tough, but if you’re truly dedicated to the work-from-home grind, you could even…turn off notifications on your cell phone. I know, sounds crazy.

You can do it. I believe in you.

2. Put on some real pants

It pains me to say this because I too once dreamed of a day when I could live my life entirely in sweatpants. Am I giving up on that dream? No. But I do think I’m going to have to wait until retirement because I’ve learned something about pants over the last few weeks; Pants dictate attitude.

Think about it- would you trust a cowboy if they roamed their ranch in a velour sweatsuit? No. Would you take an athlete in pregame warmups seriously if they came out rocking jeans? No. Would you make a sweet deal with the multi-million dollar tech start-up CEO if she came to sign the paperwork in pajamas?!?

I mean, maybe. But you’d definitely hesitate.

The point is, dressing the way you normally dress for class or for work will help you to adopt the attitude required to take care of business. You know what they say, “dress for the job you want”. Except, in this case, it’s “dress for the stuff that you were already doing successfully before when you weren’t wearing the same pair of sweatpants every day.” So if you already were wearing sweatpants every day, then at least put on a different pair tomorrow.

3. Schedule breaks in your day

Unless you are Eliud Kipchoge, the world record holder for the marathon who held an insane 4:38 mile pace for over 26 miles, you know that pacing your effort can be a key to success in competition. Similarly, your brain cannot function at its maximum capacity for a very long time without some rest. If we can trust anyone to help us figure out how long that maximum functioning time might be, it would be the appropriately named Time Magazine.

Time suggests that the most productive workers engage in job-related tasks for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break, which unlocks productivity’s “golden hour”: a break long enough for your brain to disengage and refresh without completely derailing momentum.

If you think that seems weirdly specific, you’ll be glad to know that other studies suggest different formats like 25 minutes of work before a five-minute break or 70 minutes of work before a 20-minute break. The main point is that you cannot marathon through tasks all day and expect to compete to the best of your ability. Break down tasks into short sprints, and then take a break. Go for a walk, play with the dog, eat a snack, whatever you like. Just make sure you get back to work when you’re done.

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your breaks, try to keep technology out of the picture. Remote learning and remote work essentially require us to use technology all day, so scrolling through Instagram or squeezing in a game of Fortnite might not be the type of rest that your brain really needs right now.

4. Exercise consistently

Sure, this one might seem obvious to you, but many people who are used to structured workouts, the best facilities and equipment, and detailed instruction are starting to realize how tough it is to stay in shape on their own.

In the same way that it’s hard to get work done when you’re not at the office or classroom, it’s hard to get motivated for a lift or run. But you still gotta do it!

Luckily, the internet is currently saturated with at-home workout tutorials and challenges you can lean on for help in addition to any materials you are getting from your coaches. In these times of uncertainty while competition has stopped, it matters less what you are doing to train and more that you are doing SOMETHING rather than nothing.

If you aren’t getting written workouts from your team, try writing out your daily workouts before you do them. I bought a little whiteboard for $5 from Target, and just seeing the workout helps remind me to do it and keeps me on task once I start. Writing it down also makes it easier to share with friends and teammates who might join you.

Exercise is a proven productivity enhancer, as this article from Livestrong points out, so the hard work you do in the home gym will improve your performance in the virtual classroom as well.

5. Find an accountability buddy

According to the 2019 State of Remote Work, 19% of remote workers say loneliness is their biggest problem, and they hadn’t even heard of social distancing yet, so let’s assume that number is higher now. It’s really easy to feel lonely and isolated in times like these, and that is NOT good for productivity (or just general happiness).

Fun solution- get yourself a friend who will hold you to your work! We’re all in this together, and pumping each other up is crucial, now more than ever. Fortunately, we have the technology to make it easier than ever! Schedule a phone call, chat session, or video conference (Zoom rocks) with your network to keep informed and updated on everyone’s progress while staying more than six feet away in the process.

Connect with a friend, relative, or even the fine people at NextPlay. We want to hear how things are going!

Keep grinding, fam. We will come out of this stronger on the other side.