March 16, 2020 | Blog

7 Tips To Keep You (And Your Agency) Productive While Working From Home

It takes more than a good home office setup to make “working from home” work well for your team.

Woman working on laptop at home

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 contagion is driving more and more businesses (and their employees) to move quickly toward remote operations. But while there’s plenty of technology to help keep your team members on track when they’re working from home, building good work from home habits can still be a tough challenge to overcome.

Luckily, this isn’t our first rodeo with remote work here at Altos, and we all know how tough it can be to adjust. Our team has built up some solid experience to help keep everyone on track and productive even when we’re all miles apart, and the good habits we’ve picked up can do a lot to help your team stay on track too.

After talking with our team, I’ve put together these tips for keeping productive while working from home—take a look, then get your team prepped for success (rather than scrambling to play catch up).

Good Habits Can Take You Far (Even When You’re Staying Home)

For most people in the workforce today, physically working from home is no sweat… but the mental adjustment needed can take a little getting used to.

Back in the day (at my first job out of college), I worked at an agency that had a really spread out group of people, so we worked remotely 4 days a week and had Mondays in the office 

(I actually also went in on Fridays as well because I played hockey with my boss in the mornings about a mile from the office. Mid-week, though, I was all remote with the rest of my team.) 

Over that time I learned a few tips and tricks for staying focused and productive while working from home— tips that have carried over pretty seamlessly here at Altos. Although we’re normally in the office every day of the week, we’re also located in New Hampshire—meaning we’re no stranger to snow days.

In any case, here are a few of my tricks to staying productive:

Keep YOUR routine 

Having a routine in general is the most important thing during work from home situations, but to the greatest extent possible, try to keep the same routine you would have on any normal working day. Wake up at the same time, eat breakfast at the same time. Once you have a routine, stick to it. Never 'borrow' time by saying I'll start a little later today and just work later tomorrow. That's just testing your discipline even more, and a slippery slope into bad habits.

Prepare for the workday 

Get up. Shower. Do your hair (if that's a thing.) Dress as if you're going into the office (you should never be scrambling to get dressed ahead of a video call.) You want to create the mindset that you're going to work, not that you're spending a day at home. I've eased my standards a little to include flannel, but I still put on a collared shirt every morning, jeans, etc.

Here's the weirdest but biggest thing for me - put on shoes. If I'm at home and my shoes are off, I'm relaxing. If I have shoes on, I'm doing something that day. There are small mental tricks like this to get you into the mindset of working.

Get outside

It's easy to fall into never getting outdoors when everything you need is in the house. For the sake of your sanity, step outside every now and again. Take short breaks to just step out the front door. Take a short walk during lunch. Do some yard work once the workday is over. Going back to my point above, I'll sometimes even take a short walk in the morning or even jump in the car and drive around the block. For me it creates a sense of 'leaving' the house and 'arriving' at work. Once you come back in, head straight for the computer and settle in.

Separate space

Everyone writing a work-from-home guide recommends this, but it isn't always possible for everyone. To the best extent possible, keep a separate space for working. I'm fortunate enough to have an office with a nice desk to come to, and a door to shut out the rest of the house. That's probably the best-case scenario. Less ideal but still viable if in a pinch is the dining room table. Never the living room/coffee table/couch. 

Remember you are at work, not at home

The laundry can wait till after 5 when you are "home." Wash the dishes you create that day, but don't sink an hour into cleaning the kitchen. From 9 to 5, you are at work, not at home (even if you are at home.) And to make that possible...

Set and manage expectations

Not everyone is able to work-from-home at their jobs, and many people don't understand what it's like working from home. Set the expectation with your housemates that during work hours - you're working. Not sitting at home looking for chores to do. You'll have plenty of quarantine time at night, before work, and during the weekend to clean the house. During business hours, you're not at home, you're at work.

Limit social media time 

Applicable anytime, but particularly in today's COVID-19 days.

It will be a total time suck, but more than anything right now, it's scary and depressing. Protect your mental well-being by avoiding falling into the pit of panic and opinion.

BONUS: The Joys (And Challenges) of Parenthood When Working From Home

If you have young children at home with you during this time... a lot of what I just wrote probably will be near impossible to apply.

At Altos, we do everything we can to stay flexible and responsive for our team members with kids and other familial responsibilities, the fact is that these additional responsibilities can add another challenging factor in the equation.

While there’s really no single best solution for how to handle the childcare challenge while working from home, the best thing you can do is to set good habits early and to communicate frequently with your team as much as possible. That way, you (likely) won’t have to overcome bad habits later.

It’s A Tough Time, But We Can Get Through It Together

Regardless of how prepared you might be, getting through a challenge like the one we’re facing now isn’t going to be easy. Fortunately, we’re all pretty much in this thing together… and team collaboration might be the best thing to get us through to the other side.

Things are going to be tough for everyone, our clients included. We hear you, and we’re here to support you. If you need someone to talk to about your messaging, your strategy, or your positioning during this challenging time, our team is here to help make sure you can meet the needs of your customers. Go ahead and get in touch—even when we’re working from home, we’re still more than ready to step in and lend a hand.

Hope this helps. Stay positive, and remember to see the sun every now and again.

Joseph Stucker

Let's Put Our Minds Together.

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