6 tips for staying productive at home from the CEO of a remote company

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Fishbowl, a community platform that connects professionals through conversations to drive positive change within the workplace, conducted a survey about remote work during Coronavirus from March 11 to 12.

According to the survey, 52.21% of respondents reported that their workplace has restricted travel or encouraged them to work remotely.

Another company, VitalSmarts, asked questions about whether or not the company is ready for remote work. According to the study of 1,097 adults, 33% of respondents report having more online meetings and 17% have a new plan for video-based meetings and sales calls.

What’s disheartening is that 21.19% of employees reported that they don’t feel their team members have good enough collaboration habits to work effectively from home. Additionally, employees reported that 1 in 5 leaders are either very unprepared or unprepared to manage remote teams.

Dan Khasis, the Founder, and CEO of Route4Me, admits there are both perks and challenges to being 100% remote, as his company has been since its launch in 2008.

Ladders spoke with Khasis to find out the biggest productivity killers and how to make the most of working from home during this time.

Tip #1: Don’t screw up your sleep schedule just because you’re at home

According to Khasis, it’s important that from the start you focus on sticking to your normal sleep schedule.

“Screwing up your sleep schedule is bad,” Khasis said. “You wake up late because you don’t have to drive and you end up going to bed later and later and you wake up all messed up.”

Khasis advises going to bed and waking up at the same or similar time and adds that taking a 30-minute nap might help with your productivity, instead of overloading on coffee or other energy drinks, but you shouldn’t go any longer than that during the day.

Just because you don’t have to wake up at your normal time to get ready and commute, doesn’t mean it’s healthy to stay up late and drink wine while binge-watching your latest television addiction.

Tip #2: Make it clear to those at home that you are still on the clock

According to Khasis, the main distraction that he sees when setting up a new employee to work remotely is that the people they live with don’t understand they have to be focused for a fixed amount of hours per day. Many times Khasis’ employees will rent out desk space in a separate location, but that solution does not work during a time of social distancing.

Whether you live with your friends, spouse, children, etc., these people may have a difficult time understanding that just because you are home, doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. It’s important to explain this to your cohabitants and set clear guidelines from the start.

Explain to your children that you are there if they need something, but they should not disrupt you with every small issue. Additionally, when you are entering a conference or video call, you should warn the others in your house so that they know to keep the noise and distractions to a minimum.

Tip #3: Dedicate a space in your home for work

Khasis recommends creating a mental isolation zone, whether that means playing loud music or wearing headphones to block out other sounds, or dedicating an entirely separate room solely for work.

Having a location just for work will help your brain know that its time to focus when you’re in that spot. While it’s not a bad idea to take a mental break to grab a healthy snack, you should eat your meals in a separate location than where you do work.

Khasis recommends dedicating a space to work that is away from other people, your bed, and the kitchen, if possible. All three of these things bring distractions, and whether they are welcome or unwelcome, they will break your focus from your work.

The issue comes when you only have one location to do work, but multiple people in your home who are working remotely. It’s important that you speak with those you live with to figure out a schedule, a plan for who sits where, and time when you are free to speak with one another.

Tip #4: Actively work on increasing “focus chemicals” in the brain

Tip #4 comes from Peter Shankman, the author of Faster Than Normal, who says that one factor of being unproductive at home is a lack of “focus chemicals” in the brain, specifically dopamine. 

Here’s how he suggests tacking that lack of focus chemicals:

  • Exercise every morning. Exercise gives us dopamine. Dopamine is the “focus” chemical the brain makes. When we’re in a new environment, working on something for the first time, etc, our brain is constantly looking around for input and stimuli. So working out gives us more dopamine, and lets us stay focused longer.
  • Set up a part of your home and designate it as your office, NOT your home. Don’t keep anything there that you wouldn’t have in your office. Remove everything you’re not using and put it into a box, and put that box into another room. If you haven’t needed anything in that box in six months, dump it.

Tip #5: Make the most of your breaks

The majority of us get breaks while we are in the office, but most you can usually do with them is run out for lunch or coffee. At home, you have more freedom to use your breaks how you please. But there’s definitely a major difference between a productive and an unproductive break, according to Khasis.

Shankman recommends doing 50 minutes of work and ten minutes of break each hour.

These are productive breaks

  • Taking a power nap (30 minutes is the sweet spot)
  • Going for a 30-minute run
  • Taking your dog out for a walk
  • Doing an online at-home workout class
  • Doing different exercises at home like jump roping, jumping jacks, squats, etc.
  • Preparing dinner for later
  • Taking a refreshing shower or bath
  • Walk to the kitchen and grab some water

These are unproductive breaks

  • Watching Netflix on the couch
  • Raiding the refrigerator or snack pantry
  • Laying on the couch and checking email –that’s work, not a break!

Tip #6: Give your self a dedicated amount of time to consume news

During a time when the whole world is focused on one topic, it would be easy to sit at home and read about what’s happening in the world for an entire day straight. But overloading on the news, in conjunction with social distancing, can lead to worsened anxiety and depression symptoms.

If that’s not bad enough, paying too much attention to the news can also detract from the time spent doing productive work. You should set aside a fixed amount of time for consuming news, possibly giving yourself 10 to 20 minutes in the morning, a 5-minute break during lunch, and a half-hour after you are finished with your work.