The digital transformation makes it easy for us to move our workplace to wherever it makes sense in a given moment. This can be a project place of work, such as one of his construction sites for the construction manager, a hotel room for the sales representative in the field, a clinic for the doctor or the patient in convalescence, a co-working space for digital nomads, or your own apartment, not just in times of pandemic lockdowns.
That sounds great and comfortable, and there is no doubt that you can do without commuting to work or lunch in the canteen. On top, you get a little more self-determination about your time, and you can be closer to your family, especially with children. But if you work from home, you also face a few challenges:
- There are no clear structures in terms of working hours and tasks.
- The digital / mobile equipment is not as professional as in the company.
- The distractions are more diverse and come mainly from the private sphere.
In the home office, our ability to concentrate is more important than in the company office; self-management and motivation are also required. The discipline is put to the test, as is our ability to set the right priorities. All of this is largely relieved of us by the fixed structure of everyday office life and the spatial distance from our private environment when we go to our workplace every day at the agreed time.
However, it is not that difficult to reproduce these framework conditions with simple means and few adaptations in the office at home. Here are six proven tips that will surely improve output at home, the quality of work and the quality of life in the home office for everyone involved.
#1 GET UP, FRESHEN UP AND GET DRESSED LIKE ALWAYS.
Admittedly, that sounds trivial. Still, more people than you think would be tempted to boot up your laptop five minutes before the first web meeting in their pyjama pants. Why would you worry what to wear, especially when a pandemic curfew is in place? Never underestimate the power of habit and body memory – you won’t really wake up in your pyjamas.
There is nothing to be said against using the time saved due to the lack of travel to work for a little more sleep. Nevertheless, set the alarm clock to at least half an hour before starting your office day. Under no circumstances may the morning bath routine fail. Freshen up and get dressed as if you were going to the office – you will feel completely different in a moment.
Do you think that’s an exaggeration? Well, it can also be jeans and a comfortable sweater instead of the ironed shirt. But make sure that you are dressed well enough to leave your home and meet other people. Your self-awareness and motivation are closely related, and you will work more actively and be more confident in web meetings.
#2 OVERCOME CAMERA SHYNESS.
Maybe not always, but more and more often you should turn on the camera in web meetings. You kill two birds with one stone.
On the one hand, an upcoming web meeting with a camera forces you to ensure a presentable appearance as described in #1, and with this little bit of discipline you do a lot for your self-confidence. Clothes make the man, or woman, as an old saying goes. Our clothing is more than a substitute for missing fur, it affects how we feel and how we act. It doesn’t matter how expensive or fashionable we dress. The clothes have to be neat and we have to feel comfortable in them – but not for sleeping, rather for working.
On the other hand, contacts are better maintained when the participants can see each other. Facial expressions and gestures contain messages that are lacking in acoustic or written communication. They create greater closeness and demonstrably improve collaboration in remote teams.
Camera shy? Practice a little. Most cam chats show on a monitoring screen how others see you. A short chat with friends, a test session with the office colleagues will reveal that no one comes across in a chat like a Hollywood star, and actually that is not necessary. Online meetings are on the road to success all over the world, those who refuse are getting worse and worse cards. In the interest of your own professional career: Ease yourself with it.
#3 SETUP WORKSPACE.
If you are lucky enough to have a professionally equipped office at home, feel free to skip this point – and maybe the next one too. For most of us, however, the room, if there is one, has to perform an additional function, such as a guest or ironing room, storage room or similar purposes.
However, it is very important to have a workplace where your work equipment, from the laptop to the ballpoint pen, from the documents (which are hopefully stored in an order folder) to the notepad and charging cable, can be stored or left to rest until the next day.
Therefore, tidy up, set up a corner that is not too small. A side table can serve the purpose as well as the folding table from the balcony. In a single studio or in a family apartment that is just getting too small, the only possible place is the kitchen table. In this case, a large tray or an order box helps to keep the materials together, to set them up during working hours and to take them down during meal times.
#4 OPTIMIZE YOUR WORKPLACE.
The professional office chair from the office is probably not a designer object that you would like to have in your apartment, but after a while on the dining room chair you might miss it? Now a little creativity is needed.
Change the seating often. Take the stool without a backrest for a while, this helps to keep your back straight. Is there still the old sitting ball from pregnancy gymnastics somewhere? Great, get it out and use it in between. Do you have a high table in the office? Try the ironing board or a dresser.
Creativity is also required if we do not have some devices available … No scanner? There are cell phone apps for it, or may it be a photo instead? No shredder? Tearing it up to smaller pieces is enough in times like these. Many of these cases can be solved by yourself, with others you will have to contact the management – things like company calls from private telephones – they must be documented and submitted for reimbursement.
#5 STRUCTURE YOUR WORKING DAY.
The working day schedule should be clearly formulated. Ideally, your employer has already done this, but with flextime or all-in contracts, you would do well to prescribe and adhere to a clear schedule for yourself (see also #1).
Clear structures help keeping distractions at a tolerable level. With small children in the family, this is difficult enough anyway, but clarity is also required if there are only adults in the household. When everyone knows that your working hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is an hour break at 1 p.m., a lot has been done.
What you still need is a clear signal when you must not be disturbed. A closed door, for example, would be such a signal. If you don’t have your own space, this can also be putting on the headset. Whatever it is, the basis is a clear agreement with the roommates. It won’t always work for children, but it helps, try it!
#6 SET GOOD PRIORITIES.
One of the simplest and most proven priority-setting tools that many successful people trust in is the Eisenhower Matrix. It consists of the simple coordinate system +/- IMPORTANT and +/- URGENT. It is quick and efficient if you initially do without gradual distinctions. You simply decide whether something is important or not, and whether there is an urgency at the given time – a time component such as a deadline, an expiry date or the like.
This results in four quadrants, which are designated either with letters (A – D) or with numbers (1 – 4). Each of the quadrants requires different behaviours. All things that are important AND urgent and therefore have the highest priority are placed in quadrant #1. If it overflows, it is often due to a neglected quadrant #2 – because important things that are not (yet) urgent are backlogged way to easily.