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How to avoid cognitive pitfalls while working from home

Once considered a luxury, working from home is the new normal today with all of us being locked up in our homes. With the global scenario, a lot of us have tasted what it means to create a home office. But is it conducive for a productive day? Or is the office office more like it when it comes to getting stuff done?

Exciting as it sounds, a home office is all fun and games until your neighbour gets a hold of their toolbox and all you can do is hope they’re building a rocket to take them to Mars, never to return. Even though office cubicles are cordoned off, we are usually distracted with watercooler banter, coffee breaks and more.

Apart from the noisy neighbour, even we can become our own enemies while working from home. First off, no one’s watching so procrastination can take over. No obligation to adhere to peer pressure to finish that task at a certain time, also no need to wear any pants either!

So how do we ensure no cognitive pitfalls like getting distracted, falling prey to self created delays or a complete black out?

Don’t dedicate a space

Unpopular belief, you don’t need to dedicate a particular corner as your workstation to up your productivity. Modern workspaces of today go lengths to achieve a flexible atmosphere, giving professionals the freedom to choose where they’d like to work. Chaining ourselves to a dedicated corner is not going to bring in productivity, it is the state of mind. Choose to work by the window while ideating by yourself or use your kitchen counter as your standing desk when on a conference call. The key is to keep it fresh and avoid stagnation.

Conscious prioritizing

Many among those who are not new to working from home suggest starting the day early. Much earlier than the usual office hours. This gives them the silence before the team catch ups. Understanding your own work style is of utmost importance. Whether you’re better off at creative tasks early in the morning or are you an owl? Once you’ve understood your cognitive strengths based on the clock, you can schedule your day easily. Plotting the most mundane tasks during the peak of your focus mode is going to be a fail, so conscious prioritizing is key.

Schedule creative tasks to the times when you’re most innovative and routine work to the times that you’re not.

Darren Menabney, Lead – Global Employee Engagement at Ricoh Co. Ltd., Partner Faculty and Professor at GLOBIS School of Management

Focus improvement

Social isolation can be stressful and may result in lost focus even with the perfect work setting at home. Afterall we are social animals. Small steps can improve focus and can get you to accomplish all of the tasks for the day. If you’re among those who are forced into remote working because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem difficult to set the work mindset. Some recommend to dress up in formal clothes to trick the mind into believing it is time to get shit done. If you’re work involves Zoom or Skype calls, this trick would come handy anyway.

According to Fast Company, logging out of every social media account will make it harder for you to give into a quick sneak. Not scrolling through social media will make sure that your chain of thought is not broken. Log back in and enjoy once your work hours are over or when you’re on a break.

Unplug

Apart from scheduling time for focussed work, it is also imperative to remember to unplug. It is very normal to feel guilty for taking breaks while working from home. However, as puerile as it sounds, a five to fifteen minutes of doing nothing goes a long way. If you’re among the gazillion who are glued to the laptop screens most of their waking hours, this practice of unplugging will be beneficial for your eyes too. A high screen time is responsible for mood swings, insomnia, neck and back strain. Try palming your eyes while on the unplug mode or place cool slices of cucumber and relax for a few minutes before getting back.

Move

Never underestimate the power of moving that ass. The lockdown because of the Coronavirus outbreak has pushed us against the wall when it comes to having the freedom to hit the gym or run in the park. But, that’s no excuse to stay put and not workout. You could choose to stretch, practice yoga and walk around in the house. Try to get some fresh air if you have access to a terrace or balcony. It is invaluable to let those creative juices flowing.

One of the most underrated trick to uplift your spirits is to keep the communication going. Not being able to meet your colleagues, friends and family can be very bogging down. While video calls and messages cannot beat the in-person meetings, but staying connected is imperative to maintaining relationships.

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