The Digital Glue Podcast

EP: 1 - How to Work From Home and Stay Productive …

November 17, 2020 Episode 1
The Digital Glue Podcast
EP: 1 - How to Work From Home and Stay Productive …
Chapters
The Digital Glue Podcast
EP: 1 - How to Work From Home and Stay Productive …
Nov 17, 2020 Episode 1

We think big and dream even bigger. And we never underestimate the power of a good idea. If that sounds like a lofty goal … it is.  

A decade ago, we founded Virtually Untangled with the goal of creating meaningful digital experiences that connect with people. We are now enabling small business owners, just like you, to own your story and share it with the world! 

Every Tuesday morning, we will be dropping a new episode that will help you think big and dream even bigger with your goals.  

Welcome to Episode 1:  How to Work from Home and Stay Productive, where we will be talking about steps you can take to maximize your productivity while working from your home office.

Who couldn’t use a refresher on this?

You may also hear a few things you haven’t heard before or hear a new take on something that makes you think about things in a different way, from a different angle.  We are digging deep into this topic to help you be at the top of your game!  

Here’s what we will be untangling in this episode … 

  • Understanding workplace productivity at home
  • How your workspace area affects your productivity
  • Staying focused on your work
  • Dressing for success
  • Nutrition and productivity
  • Managing work / life balance
  • Feeling isolated
  • Advantages of technology

 
Are you ready?

Let’s dive in!

Show Notes Transcript

We think big and dream even bigger. And we never underestimate the power of a good idea. If that sounds like a lofty goal … it is.  

A decade ago, we founded Virtually Untangled with the goal of creating meaningful digital experiences that connect with people. We are now enabling small business owners, just like you, to own your story and share it with the world! 

Every Tuesday morning, we will be dropping a new episode that will help you think big and dream even bigger with your goals.  

Welcome to Episode 1:  How to Work from Home and Stay Productive, where we will be talking about steps you can take to maximize your productivity while working from your home office.

Who couldn’t use a refresher on this?

You may also hear a few things you haven’t heard before or hear a new take on something that makes you think about things in a different way, from a different angle.  We are digging deep into this topic to help you be at the top of your game!  

Here’s what we will be untangling in this episode … 

  • Understanding workplace productivity at home
  • How your workspace area affects your productivity
  • Staying focused on your work
  • Dressing for success
  • Nutrition and productivity
  • Managing work / life balance
  • Feeling isolated
  • Advantages of technology

 
Are you ready?

Let’s dive in!

Once upon a time, working from home was once considered a luxury and often frowned upon for fear that we, as the employees, would not be productive -- or perform at our peak potential -- if we didn’t have someone supervising us 8 hours a day.

Now, thanks to COVID-19, working from home has become the mainstream way of doing our jobs and for many companies almost replaced going to the office completely. 

Companies and employees alike have scrambled to adjust to working from a home office and while we see a lot of advantages to this change, many professionals have cited that they miss seeing their colleagues and collaborating together face to face, which was their motivator for productivity. 

However, since this is the NEW reality that we face for the foreseeable future, we must adapt and be creative in our approach to be productive while working from home, which can great, but also incredibly distracting.

Here at VU, we pride ourselves in helping other companies tackle opportunities that may seem challenging at first and “untangle” the challenges with unique and creative suggestions. We polled our audience, clients and peers alike asking for a list of what issues are most prevalent now that many of us are not going to the office. 

One of the challenges presented was how to work from home and remain focused and productive. So, we’re here to jump into the conversation and add our two cent’s worth! 

While my team and I have always worked from home we have still had to take steps to self-discipline and come up with new ways to motivate ourselves. 


#1. Understanding The Power of Productivity

I’d like to start out by saying that my basic definition of workplace productivity is 
spending more time on the right work. Based on my experience and some of the research I have done, the “right work” seems to fall into 3 simple categories

  • We have “Core Work”, this to me is completing the mission laid out for you in your job description, whatever your area of specialty may be.
  • We have another category; “Communication”, and this would be things like emails, chats, calls or those never-ending Zoom meetings.
  • Then we have “Everything Else”, and while this category may make you smile, we are talking about things like file management, admin work and all those other little things that don’t really seem to fit anywhere. 

You may find it helpful to take a moment to track the amount of time you’re spending on each of these 3 categories and you may have some surprising results! 

This could show you where there may be laps in your productivity or if you’re spending too much time in a particular area. Don’t be afraid to schedule yourself or create to-do lists as those are definite ways to keeping you on track.


#2. Personalizing Up Your Workspace

If you’re lucky enough to dedicate an entire room in your house to being your office, that is fantastic. However, not everyone has that option, So, I recommend setting up a dedicated space, corner, desk or whatever option is available to you and make it your own personalized workspace. Put up inspirational and colourful pictures and put little treats for yourself in your desk just like you would do at the office. 

Adding a few live plants or succulents is a really nice touch for customizing your space as well. Having some of your favourite things around you or putting up a note of a quote you love can help you to feel inspired throughout your day. You also might want to keep your favorite mug close by to keep yourself hydrated!

It’s incredible how much our senses can either have a negative or positive influence on the atmosphere around us, and now that you’re at home feel free to make your space exactly the way you always wanted.

I personally like to turn on fun dance music in the background, add my favourite oil to my lava bracelet, and light a fruity scented candle. 

Feel free to block out the neighbour’s barking dog, distracting noise from household members or loud vehicles driving by with noise cancelling headphones or ear buds. Studies show that a delicate blend of music combined with soothing nature sounds activates the calming part of your brain, helps you concentrate and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. I say it’s worth a try! 

Most of us are subscribed to a music streaming service anyway, so this could be something you find that you really come to enjoy and that contributes to your overall productivity.

And let’s not forget about our pets! If you’re an animal lover and have these wonderful furry friends in your life, let them become a part of your daily inspiration as well.  

 

#3. Learning  to Stay Focused

The discipline of learning to be focused on your task and being able to see it through to completion will definitely serve you well. I recently read an article on the art of being focused in Inc.com* and there were a few points that stood out to me.  

The writer pointed out that “There's a difference between creating variety and inviting distraction. Master the balance between freedom and flexibility, discipline and focus, and your odds of success and happiness will rise exponentially.  

Create daily goals, turn off the Internet when you're not working on it, schedule times to check email and close out of it in between times, screen your calls (friends and family will simply have to understand), and fight the urge to do household chores during work hours.” 

 

 #4. Dressing for Success

Many of you may remember the well-known radio personality, Paul Harvey. He was an American broadcaster for ABC News Radio, who hosted hundreds of sessions internationally called “The Rest of the Story.” As we were planning the content for this podcast, a story that he told many years ago came to mind …

Paul made quite a name for himself and built a great career in broadcasting. As he advanced in his professional life, he made no plans to slow down or retire from his career and instead chose to have a studio built into his personal residence so that he could record sessions in the comfort of his own home. He would have been well prepared and adjusted for the time that we are all working to adjust to now! 

It’s a little ironic when you think about it. 

Paul anticipated that he would greatly enjoy working from home but noticed a troubling trend a few weeks into his new venture. He found himself lacking a “spark” if you will, he felt unmotivated and less productive the more time went on. 

Every morning, he would get out of bed, take his cup of coffee, head to the studio in slippers and pajamas and record his sessions all the while struggling to figure out why he was feeling less than his normal, professional self. One day, Paul sat thinking and observing his own behaviour in an attempt to find that “missing link”, and realized that the brain will often work best in situations that it has been trained to perform the best in. Therefore, he decided to simulate the routine that he was used to -- when getting ready to go to the office. 

The next morning, Paul got up, took a shower, combed his hair into place and put on a shirt and tie. He walked into the studio feeling confident with his armour on. Sure enough, it was enough to help him slip back into the groove and he tackled his projects with more enthusiasm and better results. 

This is not to say that everyone should necessarily put on a collared shirt and tie when they go to their home office. The point is your brain is hard wired to be most productive in the space it has been trained to be the most productive in, so perhaps putting on your good jeans and work shoes will help you dress for success so to speak. 


#5. Nutrition and It’s Affects on Your Productivity

EAT and STAY HYDRATED. I cannot stress enough how vital it is to feed your brain and body. Your brain needs food and hydration to function well and if we forget to do that or don’t consciously make time for it in our day we will end up doing a disservice to yourself … and become quite hangry which may come out in our work and communications.

So, if you think you’re gaining time by working through your lunch hour, you’re going to have a much higher chance of feeling chronic fatigue, mental fogginess and more stressed leading to quicker potential burn out. 

In business, many of us are familiar with the term, “burn-rate.” Basically, this term is often used when discussing current corporate funds and how much of those funds are consumed on a monthly basis for operating costs. A percentage based “burn rate” is established and allows for finance experts to project whether or not the company is pulling in sufficient profits to cover and exceed expenses and for how long. 

We as humans also have a burn rate. 

If you transition to working from home with the mentality that you will now get much more work done because you don’t have to spend that dreaded time in rush hour traffic, a word of caution … 

Set working hours and adhere to them. This is especially important if you’re like my team and I, and struggle with workaholic tendencies. 

You need a personal life outside of your work, so do what you need to do in order to establish a “full-stop” time of day. Whether it’s asking a friend to call you each day at 4:00 PM or you set an alarm for yourself, this is a necessary step in order to maintain balance in your life. 


#6. Life Balance to Boost Your Productivity

CTV’s news writer, Meredith Macleod* wrote an article in June of 2020 that spoke to the struggle that some have reported since the beginning of our COVID-19 induced venture of working from home. The notion of feeling that they are always “on.” Meredith interviewed Paula Allen, VP at an HR provider company; Morneau Shepell and Paula had some thoughts on work/life balance …

“A big hurdle in working from home is work-life balance which may seem counterintuitive, but some people find it hard to turn to “off” when there is no leaving the office at the end of the day.” 

For these people, working from home has been exhausting. Paula says some employers with staff working at home have shifted from worrying about employee productivity to worrying about burnout. 

“Lots of people are working longer hours. They take an extra meeting, or they just want to finish up one more thing before racing for the ride home.” “It really takes discipline to turn off … It’s so easy to just keep working, especially when you’re at home, but burnout comes from that.”

As it is, we generally struggle to walk the fine line of a work/life balance. Learn it, stick to it, and don’t work on the weekends if you already worked your committed number of hours during the week. 


#7. Dealing with Isolation 

I touched on a point earlier that I’d like to expand on a little bit … and that is the reality that some of us may be feeling more isolated working from a home office which is hampering our efforts to be productive.

A good dose of story-sharing and laughter is good for you.  

A few years back, the Bank of America did a study that showed the most productive 
workers belonged to close-knit teams and spoke frequently with colleagues. So, go ahead, take a few minutes to PM your friends, connect in social media, or call your bestie. Better yet, schedule a luncheon if you can or meet your team or friends for virtual coffee at least once a week.

In addition to plain ‘ol loneliness, there’s a professional aspect to consider here … Working from home can increase your productivity, but you may find that your professional advancement has slowed down anyway.

Unfortunately, some business owners fall victim to an “out of sight, out of mind” way of thinking about their remote team. If you’re not physically present at the office, it’s harder to grab new opportunities, and networking becomes more complicated too. 

The good news is that all of this can be avoided, as long as you are committed to combating isolation in every part of your personal and professional life.

Working too much can leave us too tired to form or maintain close relationships. If we never make time for the people we care about, they will eventually stop having time for us. When this happens, we may try to take on even more work to fill up the void of loneliness.

This vicious cycle is difficult to leave. It’s difficult to admit that our dedication to work could be a coping strategy and it is easier to just see ourselves as dedicated and work driven.

Anyone can become isolated in this way, but the danger is heightened for those doing remote work. It can start as a need to prove yourself, to show everyone that you’re just as dedicated to the job as any on-site employee. It can even grow out of a selfless need to take on a bigger share of the work now that you’re not wasting time on commuting.

If you’ve fallen down one of these rabbit holes, the first step is to think carefully about your daily routine. 

How often do you meet people and interact with them in a meaningful way? 

How often do you call your loved ones? 

Question whether your workday is spent productively and look into how much time you spend on procrastination.

There is a great quote by Anne Lamott on this topic that says …

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you!” 

 


#8. Living in a Land of Technology

Outside of work, technology can be a double-edged sword. Psychologists warn that social media may actually make us more isolated — it all depends on the way we use it.

The main danger comes from feeling left out when we scroll past photos of people having fun without us.

But if you use social in the right way, they can help you find like-minded people. 

Writer Jonny Sun gave an inspiring talk on this topic and in his student days, Sun started using the Internet as an outlet for his creativity. His confessional comics resonated with many people -- and gave him a sense of belonging and micro-community that helped him grow as a person. 

It’s important to mind your online interactions with intent and mindfulness.

Another interesting part of Sun’s talk is that his comics spoke openly about his feelings of isolation, and the feedback he got made him feel less alone.

It can be hard to admit we are isolated. And quite frankly, most of us are feeling tired of it … but being honest about it lets us reach out to our loved ones, or even to total strangers in a similar situation. 

Shining a bright light on loneliness brings it out of the shadows and becomes a thing we no longer need to be afraid of. Feeling isolated doesn’t have to be a part of our daily lives. 

As a worker in the virtual world, you have more power than most people to determine your own schedule and priorities. As you give that some thought, you may come to realize that you already possess the tools to build a more community minded space for yourself.

Data shows us that people who work from home are more productive and less likely to spend all day on email and chat. But that’s only the case if they have the tools and systems, they need to be efficient with their time. 

I would encourage you not to be hesitant in speaking up if you feel you do not have the tools you need in order to work productively from home. And it may be helpful for you to have a solid understanding of what it is that you do need so that when you’re talking with your team -- or a virtual team you’re on -- that you are prepared to offer possible solutions. 

Talk through your expectations, stick to your schedule, and go easy on each other. 

It can take time to feel comfortable working from home. But the data doesn’t lie … it shows that once you do, you’ll be more in control of your time MORE than ever. 

I recently read an amazing article on Forbes.com* on the topic of working from home and a great point was raised that I think we can all work a bit more on … 

“Keep your attitude in check. Above all, be creative and don't let your confined circumstances dwarf your tranquility, happiness or productivity. Your greatest power is your perspective. It can victimize you or empower you. When you look for the upside in a downside situation and figure out what you can control and what you can't, it’s easier to accept whatever is beyond your control. Your best ally is to find the opportunity in the difficulty during an uncontrollable situation instead of the difficulty in the opportunity.”

So, take advantage of this restrictive time to clear the clutter and get caught up on those fun hobbies you've neglecting.