Due to COVID-19 pandemic, literally half of the planet is now secluded. Commute is now a strange word, wild animals roaming the streets, and a strange silence is now in place where it used to be laughs, music, joy or just construction noise.

I’m one of the lucky few who can still work from home, and, I’ve been doing so for a while, even though I set my own limit of one week maximum, then I used to go to the office to talk with my fellow colleagues, socialize, it’s amazing how much you can find out in the cafeteria sharing a coffee with someone you’ve never talked before.

So, having experience working from home, let me share a few tips so you can stay somewhat productive.

1. Get up and dress up

Yes, you’re at home, but you have to work (All-day pajamas, is a no-no), so set your alarm (maybe 30-minutes later than usual and depending on your kids situation) and get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair. Dress up, maybe not a suit, but a nice shirt or a presentable t-shirt is fine.

Controlling your appearance will help you to feel good about yourself and you’ll be ready for the camera… wait what camera?

2. Turn on your camera

If you’re on meetings all day (like me) turn on your camera, it will encourage others to turn their cameras as well, and from this exercise you’ll get valuable information: non-verbal communication also known as body language.

With a camera you’ll get: crossed arms, eye-rolling, lip expressions and other “tells” that will help you identify if someone is receptive or defensive, open or close, happy or frustrated, all part of the human behaviour along with communication channels

3. No check-in/check-out time

There is no more 9-to-5, there might be calls, or work to be performed outside your regular work-hours.

4. Your schedule will change

When I used to go to the office, I used my commute to read (I used to take public transportation), so, I had solid 90 minutes per day for reading. I don’t have those anymore, I have a hard time finding a time-block to do so, and if I find it, there’s a yell across the house “Daaaaaad I need help, where are youuuu” I guarantee you that.

Nonetheless, I manage to get 30-minutes of reading in the afternoon and now everyone at home respects that.

5. Control your food ingestion

The fridge is a few steps from you, stocked with your favorite treats, some fruit, and sugar coated delis wherever we look. Control that, again setup a schedule for your food preparation and ingestion, it will pay in the long run. Have you read about intermittent fasting? works for me.

6. Coffee is still your best friend

Well, for me is one of my best friends, I tried to switch to tea but it didn’t work (sorry tea, it’s not me, it’s you). There’s no need to explain you all the benefits of caffeine early in the morning, it just works. Have you nice cup of coffee (or tea) when starting your day, and, by the way I strongly recommend a cup warmer, a real one, not USB-powered, even a cheap one will do.

7. Setup one-on-one calls

There is no more hallway conversation, no more cafeteria, donuts at 4PM, or Montreal bagels on Monday morning (gosh I miss those), you’re missing the vibe of the office, the vibe of the people around you, so, be the vibe.

Setup one-on-one (1:1) calls with your peers, informal calls, share a coffee, or a stronger drink as you prefer and keep your company culture alive, even remote culture is better than no culture.

8. Control your environment

It’s no secret that your environment plays a substantial role in your productivity, and for now, your environment is your home office and as such should have a minimum set of

  • Light, you need light, lots of it (unless a dark theme is your thing), it will keep your internal clock aligned, even better if you can see cars or people walking.
  • Music, ambient soft music will help you to focus, my choice: Bossa Nova.
  • A nice corner or desk to focus, clean, uncluttered with a warmer and a cup of coffee on top.
  • A good headset, wired, good brand: Jabra, Plantronics or similar. No Bluetooth or wireless in my case, not fan of having radio waves broadcasting directly on my skull for 8h a day.
  • Big monitor, but not too big, will help you to organize your windows and visualize your content the best way possible.
  • A comfortable chair, you can thank me later.

9. Time to improve your skills

Optional work from home is a bliss, mandatory work from home it is not. if you’re a parent, and with schools closed, new skills such as home schooling are now taking more time than expected. if you don’t have kids at home, well you might have some time left after all, time to improve your skills: Coursera, Udemy or Udacity provide good courses on diverse topics, at occasions, for the price of that morning coffee that you drink no more.

10. Control the media

You can think that this one is not related to your productivity, it is. Turn off the news, mute social media, stop tracking the count, at least for the 8 hours that you dedicate to work, get yourself in a work-focused-positive-visionary bubble, show-off your leadership skills, you’d need to be mentally strong, there might be people on the other side of the call that need your strength, become that leader.

Conclusion

This post is a living document, I will update it frequently as I discover more tips to keep me – and you since you’re reading this – productive.

Nonetheless, what’s important now is to stay safe and look after our families.

Stay safe, indoors and optimistic.

I’ll keep writing.

Christian