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7 Tips to Stay Productive While Working from Home

7 Tips to Stay Productive While Working from Home

In this year like no other year, many people have been forced to work from home. If you are used to, and happy with, an office environment, this change can be rather unsettling. There are a whole host of potential distractions (the refrigerator!) at home that can take your focus away from the task at hand. The key is to limit the distractions and do the best you can to replicate your office work day at home, to create an environment that allows you to focus on the tasks at hand. Here are some tips for creating a functional and productive work regimen at home:
  1. Get ready for the day
    Get up, get dressed, have breakfast. If you would normally exercise before going to work, keep doing so. Even though you could stay in your pyjamas all day, don’t. You don’t need to put on formal work clothes but being suitably dressed for a day at the home office helps put you in a work frame of mind. Put together your daily work to-do list to give your day some direction. 
  2. Designate a specific workspace
    And keep it consistent every day. Having a designated spot in your home where you “go to work” can result in less distraction and deeper focus. And don’t make it your bedroom! Because your body and mind associate that room with sleep, trying to work there rarely works out. If you have office space in your home, that would be ideal. If you don’t, kitchen counters and dining room tables can work alright. Make sure you have lots of elbow room. You don’t want to feel cramped. Remember at the end of the day to convert your space back to its original purpose, i.e. the dining room table goes back to being the dining room table. You, and your family, don’t want your work to take over your life – or house.
  3. Stay close to regular working hours
    While working at home does offer some flexibility in scheduling, you don’t want to stray too far from what were your regular working hours. Since your schedule at the office is largely dictated by the people you are working with, it takes a bit of discipline to stick to a regular schedule at home by yourself, so it helps to have a plan. However, you are likely still working with the team you worked with at the office so regular team meetings and updates need to be adhered to.
  1. Take breaks. Get outside
    Taking breaks every few hours can help increase productivity. If you have a dog, go for a walk. If you don’t have a dog, go for a walk. It’s always good to get some fresh air and exercise. Regular exercise, even something as simple as walking, can have great positive effects on your overall health. If going outside isn’t an option, make sure you still find some time to just step away from your work area – have a cup of tea, read a book for 15 minutes, daydream.
  2. Customize your environment
    While I did say to try and replicate your office environment, working from home does give you the chance to have some fun with your workspace. Add a scented candle, a plant or maybe a particular picture to your kitchen table desk. Anything that might help keep you focused and motivated throughout the day. And you could add music, something that likely wasn’t allowed at your office without wearing earbuds. These kinds of things — particularly scents and plants — can have very positive effects on your emotional well-being.
  3. Stay social
    Socializing is just as important when working from home as it is in the traditional workplace — even more so. Isolation and disconnection are never good for your mental health. So stay connected to co-workers, family and friends with Skype or Zoom or whatever platform works for you. Have a regular “check-in”. A quick but genuinely inquired “how are you?” can go a long way – for both sides.
  4. Know when to call it a day
    Sometimes you get on roll and just want to keep working. And it’s easy to lose track of time when there is no commute home to worry about. But try to keep to your regular knock off time. Your family will thank you and you will be glad you did. Besides, you’ve got to vacate the dining room table before dinner is ready!

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Taking Care of Your Employees’ Mental Health

11 Ways to Improve Mental Health at Your Small Business

(Pandemic or No Pandemic)

Mental health issues in the workplace have certainly been exacerbated by the global pandemic, but they most certainly existed before the pandemic hit. In fact, pre-COVID statistics show that mental illness was already a leading cause of disability in Canada. Every week at least 500,000 Canadians miss work due to mental illness and the resulting personal, workplace and economic impacts can be devastating. Mental illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy approximately $51 billion each year, a number estimated to hit $2.5 trillion by 2041. So it is important, pandemic or no pandemic, to do what you can to help take care of your employees’ mental health. And there are many ways you can do so. Try starting with these 11:
  1. First, you need to start the conversation
    Mental health has become far less stigmatized in recent years, but the stigma has not disappeared. It can still be an uncomfortable topic for many people to discuss. So normalize it. Whether it’s an article you read or a personal experience you had, talking about it openly and without shame will help others realize they aren’t alone. Then you need to keep the conversation going. You can’t just mention it once and hope it becomes acceptable. You need to find ways to incorporate the subject into your employees’ days so it stays top of mind.

  2. Model healthy behaviours
    Leaders should share what they’re doing with their teams. Let them know you take a mid-afternoon walk to shake off the cobwebs, or that you have a counsellors appointment to help you cope, or that you’re using some of your time off to take a staycation. When they see you doing it, it becomes more acceptable for them to do it.

  3. Keep your employees informed about changes
    When people are informed of what changes are coming and how things are being addressed, they are better able to cope with the change.

  4. Build a culture of connection through check-ins
    Intentionally checking in with each of your direct reports on a regular basis is more critical than ever. With so many people working from home, it can be very difficult to notice the signs that someone is struggling. Go beyond “how are you?” and ask specific questions about what supports would be helpful. Then really listen to the answer.

  5. Encourage the use of mental health days off
    It might be time to end the doctor’s note to justify a day off policy and trust your staff to know when they need some time to decompress and come back better able to do their job.
  1. Let them know about the resources available to them
    If feasible, make an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) part of their health benefits and let them know how to access it – stressing the confidentiality of the program. Otherwise let them know about other government or community programs they can access.

  2. Communicate more than you think you need to
    The more information your team has, the less stressed thy will be. Keep them informed about any organizational changes or updates. Set clear policies about modified work hours, but be flexible and recognize each staffer’s specific needs. Set expectations about workloads, prioritizing what must get done, and acknowledging what can slide if necessary. Make sure the communication is two-way by providing an easy way to get in touch with you if you’re all working from different locations.

  3. Acknowledge the emotions that your employees will be experiencing
    This is not a normal time, and it is very normal for people to be experiencing anxiety and many different emotions at this time. It is important to acknowledge that and to let your employees know they are not alone.

  4. Make sure they have the tools to do their jobs
    With so many employees working from home, it’s important that you ensure they have all the tools they need to keep doing their job. Do they have the computer/laptop they need? Proper internet access, cyber security measures in place, etc. Asking them what their specific needs are and getting them to help set things up gives them a modicum of control over the situation.

  5. Create opportunities for employees to build connections with each other
    Try social events, affinity groups, or, more practical during the pandemic, electronic message boards. Studies show that employees are more vulnerable to the negative impact of stress inside and outside of the workplace if they have not built strong positive relationships at work. The idea is to make work interesting, social and fun so nobody is working in isolation.
  6. And one that is completely pandemic related:

  7. Stress that we are all in this together
    Let your employees know that there is a purpose to why we are all making the changes and sacrifices that we are making right now. That meaning and purpose is to keep each other safe.
Mental health needs to be a priority everywhere in life, including the workplace. The cost of mental illness is too great to be ignored. To the economy but, more importantly, to the individual. As a business leader, you have the ability – and responsibility – to make it a priority at your company. It will benefit your business and everyone involved in it if you do.