‘Presenteeism’ isn’t just killing us – it’s killing our productivity.
With summer here, working from home is getting harder and harder. My thoughts keep on drifting off to the beach and to all the Christmas shopping that I haven’t finished yet. But there’s still a bit of time until the holiday and work needs to get done. If you’re like me and struggling to get motivated, here are some tips to help you stay productive.
1. Get enough sleep
It’s very tempting to use the late hours of the night for work and do something more fun during the day, but by sacrificing your sleep you’re killing your productivity. Want proof? Just time how long a task takes when you’re at your best and when you’re sleep deprived. I’ve experimented with my own productivity and I’ve found that the most mundane tasks can take me up to two times longer when I’m overtired.
2. Schedule time for your work
Flexibility was probably one of the reasons why you started working from home in the first place, but have too much flexibility and it’s very easy to find yourself working in the small hours of the morning to complete a project before a deadline. It’s a much more sustainable approach to schedule time for your work and stick to it.
3. Organise your work space
Have everything you need at hand and nothing else that could distract you. Don’t keep a bunch of unrelated books, papers and your kids’ toys around you, you’ll be taking precious time to find things when you need them. A TV playing in the background doesn’t help either.
4. Focus on one task at a time
It might be counter-intuitive, but multi-tasking won’t help you get your work done faster. Turn off your email notifications, stay off social media and don’t open too many screens on your computer. Instead, schedule a little bit a play time during your day to allow yourself to get distracted and catch up on social updates.
5. Take breaks
This is another temptation to avoid – to do everything as fast as you can and without breaks, so that you can have more time for other things later. Not only as you get tired, you’ll be slower at what you’re doing, you’ll also finish your working day exhausted and you won’t enjoy you after-work time nearly as much as you were hoping to.
Bonus tip: There’s no one way of doing anything. Learn from others and try out different things, then figure out what works for you.
Image by TheAngryTeddy via pixabay.com
A funny thing often happens once you exit the corporate world to have kids – it’s like your currency, as a once-prized female worker, suddenly goes into rapid decline. Of course, well before that, you often become an awful inconvenience to your employer once you – gasp – have the selfishness and audacity to even fall pregnant to begin with. Sacre bleu!
For your extreme tiredness, morning sickness, aches and pains and sheer strain of growing a small human may prevent you from being the once unflappable and productive worker you once were, now no longer more an happy to stay back and work long hours of overtime for free.
And, once you then take time off for family obligations, including maternity leave, this often has long-term negative effects on a woman’s career – like lower pay or being passed over for promotions in the future.
However, employers should think long and hard about their often covert (and highly illegal) discrimination towards working mums, for a new study shows women with children are actually more productive than their childless peers.
A recent US study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis discovered that over the course of a 30-year career, mothers outperformed childless women at almost every stage of their careers. In fact, mothers with at least two kids were the most productive of all.
This news will come as no surprise to working women who often have to juggle demanding kids and a needy husband, work commitments, exercise, housework and friends and family’s needs and expectations – all at once.
It’s a tightrope – a constant juggling act – and, as any working mum brave and honest enough will tell you – it’s often impossibly hard and occasionally, at least one area of your life will be suffering.
The researchers (all men) behind this particular study strived to understand the impact of having children on highly skilled women. Key findings include: within the first five or so years of their career, women who never have children substantially underperform those who do and women with at least two children performed the best.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses: wrangling small people can inevitably adversely affect your productivity.
Christian Zimmerman, one of the study’s authors said: “While you have small children, it has an impact on you. But after that, it seems that the impact is the other way.”
Working women must – as a matter of sheer survival – become super-organised, tenacious and tough. And while I abhor the supermum myth, I do think multiple kids makes you more competent at work.
Got a deadline, but need to be home and/or done in time for your toddler’s birthday party? Just watch that working mum go at it – faster than the speed of light.
What do you think? Are working mothers more productive?
‘It’s great that you can work from home, because then you can do some housework, too.’ I’ve heard this only too often. It reflects a common perception people have that when you work from home you can also do chores, look after kids, exercise and get some rest all at the same time. Maybe, you’ve even tried to live up to these expectations just to find yourself overwhelmed, burned out and wondering what you’re doing wrong.
I’ve done it myself. For years I had a contract job that required a minimum of 10 hours a week. I also had two young kids, one of which was with me full time, so I spent my days worrying where I was going to find the time to complete my work. My kids weren’t getting my full attention and my work was taking a lot longer than it was necessary because I was exhausted.
It all changed when I took some time off work to be with my kids during school holidays. Even though my days were still full, I felt relaxed and I had the best time I’d had in a while. I realised the importance of focusing on one thing at a time and I implemented some changes which made working from home less stressful and more enjoyable.
Have scheduled work time
This is time dedicated to work only, with minimum interruptions and when someone else is looking after the kids. When you know your work time is scheduled, you don’t need to worry where those hours are going to come from and if the baby will wake up just as you’re getting fully immersed in your work project. It may not sound like a big deal, but it makes an enormous difference to your energy levels. Now all that energy spent worrying can go towards enjoying your life and getting your creative juices flowing.
Look after yourself
If you’re happy and well-rested, you’ll be more productive and you’ll get things done faster. It seems obvious, but it’s one of those things that’s very easy to overlook under the pressure of deadlines and parenting responsibilities. In addition to scheduled work time, schedule time just for you. It doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time (it would be nice, but not realistic for many of us), but you do need something, even if it’s just a walk, a yoga class or an early night in bed.
You’ll need support on a practical level, to make your schedule happen, especially if you have kids and you need to arrange care for them. You’ll also need emotional support. Working from home can be a lonely business. You don’t get the social interactions that come with going to work, so it’s up to you to include them in your life. Take some time to build and maintain your friendships. Join a network of people who do something similar to what you do, so that you can talk about work, share your experiences and exchange knowledge.
If you’ve gotten the impression that working from home is too hard and not worth the effort, I’d like to set that straight. As well as its challenges, working from home has its rewards. I love that I don’t have to get dressed up and travel in peak hour to the office. I love that I get to honour my introverted nature, focus on my work and avoid office politics. Most of all, I love the sense of freedom that comes with working from home.
Image by PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova