5 Ways to be Productive when Working From Home
June 11, 2017
In this age of technology and mobility, working from anywhere is becoming commonplace. Employers must face the fact that for some jobs, employees can just about work from anywhere if they have a mobile phone and an internet connection.
I am fortunate that my job falls into that category. As the Digital Marketing manager at Coca-Cola’s West Africa operations, I manage digital marketing for over 10 markets spread across the African continent, from Senegal at one end to Mauritius on the opposite end. While I have a desk in our lovely Nairobi office, I often work from just about anywhere – agency offices, airports, home, studios, hotel rooms or in traffic!
Over the last 5 years of mobility working, I would like to share some practical tips and advice on being an effective worker, so that your boss remains happy and you deliver on time and with quality output.
- Schedule time to work like you would in the office: While I typically do not do a 9-5 schedule, it is still important to schedule the time when you will be ploughing in front of your computer and getting work done. When developing my work from home schedule, I take into account two main things, the time-zones of the countries I support, and the urgency and importance of projects in my task list. Often my schedule can is broken into segments of the day between personal time and official work time enabling me to be very flexible. Below is a typical schedule I can follow:
5:30-6:30AM: Wake Up, Get the kids ready for school, Workout, Breakfast
6:30-7:30AM: Review schedule/task list for the day; Read emails from the night before
7:30-9:00AM: Conference calls/Meetings Working Sessions with countries ahead of my time zone.
9:00-9:30AM: Take a break; Attend to personal errands like online banking, check personal emails, etc
9:30-12:30PM: Work on a project that requires thinking, research or creativity, write a blog post.
12:30-2:30PM: Lunch break, Attend to personal errands
2:30-6:00PM: Conference calls/Meetings/Working Sessions with countries behind my timezone.
6:00-8:00PM: Take a break; Check the kid’s homework, Dinner time, Bedtime for the kids.
8:00-10:00PM: Conference calls/Meetings/Working Sessions with markets like Atlanta who are 7+ hours behind of me. Plan for the following day. Respond to final batch of emails for the day.
From the example above, it is notable that I often work more than the required 8 hours a day but it may not be a continuous 8 hours as I break my day to be able to integrate my personal needs into my work day. This is what I refer to as work life integration.
- A key factor in getting work done from home is discipline: It’s easy to get distracted when working from home as you are in your personal environment. This is not the time to organize your wardrobe or finish the series that you began watching the night before. Do not entertain visitors during your work from home day and don’t make it the day you schedule the plumber to come through to fix the clogged up shower in your room, and you need to supervise him. Discipline is key to ensure you stick to the schedule and deliver the output required. Ensure your family are aware of your work from home schedule so that they respect your time.
When my kids are home on school holiday, I tend to limit the time I would from home, just because they can be a distraction.
- Incorporate professionalism into your work space. Just because you are not going into the office doesn’t mean you should stay in your pajamas all day. This is not Google! My husband always gets amused when I wake up and dress in my work clothes, only for him to find me sitting in my home office. Yes, I dress up like I am going to work, make my hair but probably don’t put on make-up or jewelry but I look decent and presentable. There are occasions when I need to make video conference meetings and I sure do not want to show up looking like I just got out of bed!
A key thing to ensure is that your work space is comfortable and quiet. I have converted a spare a bedroom in our house to be my home office and furnished it with a desk and comfortable chair and a router to get online, a printer and office supplies. This room is out of bounds to my kids and house-help when I am working. Since I spend a lot of time on conference calls, I ensure that I have a quiet environment- no dogs barking or cocks crowing in the background! The neighborhood kids know not to play and make noise near our house, or the Digital Diva will not be amused!
- Make sure you have a contingency plan! If you decide to work from home, make sure you have a backup plan in case of things like, no electricity power, unstable or lost internet connections, unnecessary noise (construction near the house, or political rally nearby!).
Here are some things I always ensure as part of my contingency plan:
- All my devices are fully charged the night before
- I can access my work from multiple devices e.g. laptop, tablet, mobile phone
- I have 2 mobile phones on different networks
- Incase my home environment is not suitable to work from, I have 1-2 other locations near home that I can get to quickly to work from. This is usually a quiet hotel lobby or restaurant and I have a friendly relationship with the staff such that they will let me use their power or sit in an excluded area to work (as long as I also purchase something from the menu!)
- Finally, ensure your time at home delivers output required by your job. There is no sense in working away from the office if you will not deliver on your tasks and projects. Ensure you work on work that matters but clarifying with your manager on what the expectations are. If your employer allows you to work from home once a month so that you can complete a certain project, then by all means, deliver this at the end of the day!
In conclusion, whilst following the advice above is key to ensuring you have a productive work away from home day, sometimes it doesn’t always go as planned!
Here is a real example of when my work environment caused some embarrassment on my part:
My BBC moment! My husband had travelled out of town for a few days and when he came back home, he headed straight for my home office to greet me in excitement! At that exact time I was on a video conference call and I was addressing the meeting so all eyes were on my video image. At the point my husband opened the home office door and immediately planted a kiss on my lips. Yes, you can imagine my reaction and that of the meeting participants! Needless to say it ended in a lot of laughter and I was the butt of jokes for a while with my colleagues.
Have you had an interesting or unusual moment when working away from the office? Share it in the comments section!