As the parade of winter storms continues to march across America, thousands of workers are finding themselves stuck in their driveways instead of at their desk. You might think that productivity would be frozen by the cold weather, especially with so many of us working from home. However, research by a Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino suggests otherwise.
According to Gino’s recent findings, workers are more productive during periods of inclement weather vs. a warm sunny day. So is it the weather that seems to be tugging at your ability to get things done this winter? Or is that you’re trapped in the house and working from home?
You are actually capable of producing a lot of valuable work and meeting deadlines at home, especially with communication tools that shorten the virtual distance between you and colleagues. The trick is identifying the traps that lead to an ineffective day and applying a few easy solutions.
- Start by marking your spot and setting boundaries. Designate space in your home that’s dedicated to work. And schedule your work hours so that your family or roommate knows when not to disturb you. This includes not running errands, doing chores or messing around during work hours. If you can’t do it at your office, don’t do it when at home.
- Set an environment around your work area that encourages work and reduces distractions. This includes the type of music you play or programs on TV, if necessary. Select the programs in a way that influences your mood to work and empowers you to focus. This of course rules out your favorite soap opera.
- When searching for information or an answer to a question, don’t be paralyzed by the inability to pop in a cube and ask a colleague. Set up an online knowledge base or shared online workspace to help you find your answers without bugging your colleagues in real-time. Having the information in a shared central place will help others be more productive as well.
- Be careful not to replace in-person or group discussions with “reply all” emails. These can be extremely annoying and taxing on your time. The same can be said of instant messaging and phone calls. An online knowledge base can also help reduce dependency on emails by allowing you to post a question online for another co-worker to answer. Schedule a time in your day to read and respond to email. If more than one email is needed to answer a question or resolve a problem, schedule a quick phone call or go to your online knowledge base.
- Set your work hours apart from your life hours. Imagine a punch clock by your desk. When it’s time to work, punch in. Punch out when you’re done. This clears the blurred line between working at home and living at home. During work, discipline yourself to take a full hour to focus, followed by a 10-minute break to go outside, shiver in the snow and return to your warm chair.
If you can prove to your manager that you can be productive at home during the latest snowmageddon, then maybe you can negotiate a work-at-home day when the weather isn’t so bad. After all, it’s not the thawing weather that’s needed to up your game. It’s really just you and how you approach the workday.