5 Tips to Be Productive While Working from Home

Nabil Bushnaq | April 7, 2020

Nabil Bushnaq
Creative agency employee working from home

With the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, businesses everywhere were faced with the challenge of working from home. Businesses who are fortunate enough to be able to work remotely now must find ways to manage their workforce digitally. Designers, who are typically used to working in a collaborative agency environment, may find themselves struggling with this new working arrangement.

As a digital design agency with several remote workers, we’ve devised a guide to help you remain productive while working from home. Follow these simple tips to help make your home a great working environment.

1. Track your time

Designers often have many client projects on the go and need to prioritize them in order to meet strict deadlines. While working from home, it can be difficult to focus solely on your work. It may be tempting to jump between work tasks and household chores especially if you have young children and pets at home. In these cases, tracking your time is essential.

There are several free time tracking apps available online. Even better, project management software will enable you to manage projects and track your time for each task. Tracking your time will not only help with billing but it will also ensure that you are managing your time in the most efficient way possible.

The top project management software for creative teams include:

  1. Monday allows you to manage all of your projects and tasks in an intuitive format. You can customize your project boards to assign tasks, set deadlines, set priorities and track your time. MORAD uses for managing all of our client projects. With this platform, we can grant access to clients that work with us on a retainer basis so they can post new work and review the progress of their projects.
  2. Wrike: This project management software is great for creative teams to collaborate and keep track of client projects. Wrike has a nice project timeline to help you visualize the workflow and approval processes required for each project. You can use campaign templates to plot out the project tasks and identify any backlogs. The platform also has tons of app integration capabilities.
  3. Zoho Projects: Zoho is a bit of a mix between Monday and Wrike. You can create project boards and flowcharts to visualize your projects. Similar to Wrike, Zoho allows you to create Gant charts to establish timelines for your project tasks. You can also track your time for each task.
  4. Trello: This platform is a little more simplistic than the others. You can easily assign tasks to team members and create visual workflows to track the progress of your projects. Trello uses cards for each task which can be moved to different columns as they are completed. This platform also integrates with popular apps such as Slack and Dropbox.
  5. Workfront: This project management platform has great options for marketing teams and agencies. The platform is great for larger teams because it allows you to easily prioritize projects and collaborate with clients. Managers can submit a request for a new project by inputting the project brief which then gets passed to the project manager to assign tasks and manage priorities amongst team members. However, the platform's interface isn't quite as attractive or intuitive as some of the other options.

2. Take scheduled breaks

While being quarantined at home, hours can start to bleed together and you may begin to lose track of time. Maintaining a routine is crucial to remain productive while working at home. Scheduling your breaks can help maintain that routine and make sure you don’t overwork yourself or take too many breaks.

How often should you take breaks?

Specialists say you should take a break every 50-90 minutes. Your breaks should be 15-20 minutes and longer at lunch. The frequency of your breaks depends largely on what tasks you are doing. Designing may require less frequent but longer breaks because you don’t want to break your flow. More administrative tasks may require more frequent but shorter breaks.

What should you do during breaks?

A good rule of thumb for taking breaks is to actually take a break. Take the time to get away from the task you are working on and change up your environment. If you are designing on a computer screen, use your break to get away from screens. Moving your body is also important to help refresh your mind. Try these simple stretches to help combat musculoskeletal injuries that are common in people who work at a desk.

3. Mute notifications

In this day and age, it’s hard to ignore all of the digital distractions of texting, social media, email, instant messaging and phone calls. Especially when you are confined to your home and can’t get out to socialize. While working from home, it is essential to set specific times to turn off or mute notifications so you can focus purely on your work.

Distancing yourself from distracting devices such as your cell phone can help you with maintaining your concentration. If you are taking the recommended breaks, you can reply to any missed messages or notifications between your work sprints.

4. Set deadlines

Work like graphic design and web design often has stringent deadlines set by the clients. Creative agencies balancing many different projects, need to be able to balance employee’s time with client expectations. While working from home, particularly in uncertain times like the coronavirus outbreak, setting and sticking to deadlines is crucial. Using the project management software mentioned above will help you with visualizing your deadlines in a timeline.

If your role isn’t client-based and you don’t have solid deadlines, create your own. Start by writing out a list of your tasks and then order them by priority. From there, you can assign deadlines to help keep you on track.

5. Listen to music

Certain types of music are proven to improve productivity. The best sounds to listen to at work include classical music, cinematic soundtracks, nature sounds, instrumental songs, or simply white noise. If you’re looking for something a bit different, try the relaxing sounds of ASMR or autonomous sensory meridian response.

Check out our top 10 recommended playlists for productivity:

  1. 4 Hours Classical Music for Studying, Relaxation & Concentration
  2. Relaxing Meadow and Mountain with Ambient Nature Sounds for Calming and Focus
  3. Instrumental Music for Studying, Concentration and Focus Memory
  4. Chillstep Mix 2020
  5. 2 Hours Epic Music Mix | Most Beautiful and Emotional Music
  6. Relaxing Jazz for Work and Study
  7. Don Draper's Playlist | Best of Mad Men
  8. Deep Focus - Music for Studying Concentration and Work
  9. Music for Deep Focus and Concentration with Binaural Beats
  10. ASMR 15+ TASCAM Triggers for Sleep, Tingles & Study

The Gist

Maintaining a high level of productivity while working from home doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. By using a combination of effective time management and relaxation techniques, and using technology to your advantage, you can turn your home into a productive work environment.

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