Keep Calm and Work From Home

11 Tips to Stay Sane and Productive

BotFactory Inc., Kelly Son

As you roll out of bed each morning and get ready for work, you might be wondering “What day is it?” With working from home and adjusting to a new monotonous routine, each day starts blurring into one another.

Quickly going from drowning out the sounds of your daily commute and the good mornings at the office to the silence of your empty streets, the balance of your home and work life also blurs together. 

The impetus to be productive requires more than just handling things on your end—it’s a team process.

BotFactory is a company where our products and projects are handcrafted and tested; it requires most of us to be present and working physically in our office. So, it’s likely that we’re running into the same stress inducing problems as you!

So how exactly do you stay sane and productive in this new day-to-day life?

Ergonomics & Self Care

Staying productive can be easily disrupted by other people or pets, new schedules, and other distractions. Children and animals may cause dangerous situations too and usually require a lot of attention.

1. Get ready as if you’re actually going to work. 

Your eyelids part as you sleepily check the time. It reads, “10:21AM.” Over an hour late to your daily 9AM meeting. Immediately stumbling out of bed, you grab your laptop and tear open the curtains. You struggle to type your password through the vertigo, only to glance upon the word “SATURDAY” on the bottom of the screen.

Sticking to your usual schedule will help you get into a work mode mindset. The time taken away from your daily commute can be used to prep things for later in the day—or maybe even to get a little more rest after a long night

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2. Create a space designated only for work. 

With heavy eyelids and anxiety instilled in your heart. You cannot properly rest as it consumes you. “Try to imagine better thoughts,” you think to yourself. But what good will it do when all you want is silence and rest?

Working from somewhere like your bed is likely to make you associate your bed with your work and cause difficulties sleeping. Even a makeshift desk out of your cabinet and cardboard boxes is quite helpful! Make sure your keyboard and mouse are at an appropriate level for relaxed wrists when standing or sitting.

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3. Replicate your workspace.

Besides a desk clean from distractions, replicating your regular office desk can help promote productivity. You may have an external monitor, a mousepad with a wrist rest, or even your favorite loud mechanical keyboard that you can finally use now that you’re alone. Others may be able to set up their own HomeLab as well.

If you’re used to getting a lot of movement in the office, whether it was grabbing parts you needed or a walk to the conference room or cafeteria, it is important to put in effort to take breaks and move around as well.

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4. Keep your phone on silent! 

Amidst your meeting, there are sudden and distant screams steadily coming closer. There is a pitter pattering of tiny footsteps as your daughter comes running in. Your wife, following closely behind shouting “Zoe, get back here!” hurriedly scoops her out of the room.

It’s become part of the new normal that someone may accidentally walk in during your meeting, but it can still be distracting. Music and good headphones help prevent distractions.

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5. Take small breaks. 

Standing or sitting in front of a screen for hours is exhausting. Set a reasonable time target or a reward goal for accomplishing a task. Make sure to stretch or even lay on the floor. You can follow either the Pomodoro Technique or the “20-20-20” Rule. The “20-20-20” Rule suggests taking a 20 second break, every 20 minutes, to look at something 20 feet away. This helps prevent eye strain and makes you more productive, overall.

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Communication & Over Communication

Communication is incredibly important to maintain and a lack of it can cause confusion and further delays to your schedule

1. Communicate verbally! 

You hear the echo of George repeating his question at the three of you after he received nothing but nods for confirmation. Perhaps you’ve already gotten used to becoming more verbal with your responses and questions. Nonetheless, a gentle reminder goes a long way, especially since nods can’t be heard on the phone.

It is much faster and more reliable to speak to someone verbally to assess a situation or task and makes it easier to verify what needs to be done. There is less miscommunication from misreading something and clearing up problems is quicker.

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2. Set up meetings—virtual ones of course. 

As excited as you may have been to find that secret tarantula island to sell to a special visitor last night, maybe don’t start with “I caught a bunch of tarantulas last night.” Not everyone plays the same game.

While our marketing team meetings are weekly, our production team meetings are daily. These are done not just to be sure of what we’ve done and what we’ll be doing, but also to check in on everyone and make sure things are well! A quick greeting from their pets also helps brighten the day.

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3. Over communicate! 

Get across what you need. Make sure you know what you’re doing and that others know too. It’s better to over communicate and ask questions than have things missed.

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Cost & Resources

Some positions require an employee to work with specific tools, parts, or machines; having to work from home without what is necessary will ensure idleness. Luckily, through BotFactory's HomeLab, we were able to set up an electronics lab in some of our engineers' homes.

1. Help your team transition. 

From engineering printers to engineering blog articles.

At BotFactory, many of us have temporarily shifted into new positions to assist the marketing and sales teams. Although there is an adjustment period to situate ourselves into these new roles, we have promptly adapted to and progressed in our responsibilities. With the help of one another, through coaching, frequent follow ups, and reviews we're able to assess what and how things need to be done within given time frames.

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Time & Broken Supply Chains

When suddenly being thrown into a new situation you must adjust to, deadlines still don’t stop.  Outside dependencies force engineers to lose productivity. Or sometimes you just happen to work in a building managed by another organization, and you get locked out of your office… 

1. Break down tasks into smaller subtasks. 

A task that seems daunting can be broken down into more manageable steps. Time management also benefits from this technique when estimating the time required for each step to be completed. While this sort of method does take time to learn, it helps keep a task from being prolonged.

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2. You can’t proceed, if you don’t have what you need. 

Due to the current global situation, shipments and suppliers are delayed or even become lost during the panic of trying to contact suppliers, customers, or couriers. Upon waiting for the arrival of certain parts, engineers are forced to alternate between tasks-- however, the time taken to wait and receive parts is time lost and will require them to refresh themselves on that task. 

Increasing responsibility for several tasks at once is less productive and causes stress to meet deadlines. This alternation between tasks is better done by cycling about three tasks under the same time intervals. You can also set a focus for the day by scheduling similar events on the same day.

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Working from home—as exciting and enjoyable as it may sound, is still working and may be more difficult as a new and long-term situation. These changes aren’t caused by an industry or competitor, but uncontrollable outside forces. It requires us to make quick assessments and actions to stay competitive. In the echoing days to come, I hope these tips may help resonate them more peacefully.