E-mails, meetings and washing clothes. How do I manage?

Discipline, creating schedules and having a specific area for your home office are some of the essential tips for ensuring working from home is really productive

Working from home can be a highly efficient solution, with clear benefits for both companies and their employees. However, both parties need to comply with certain rules for this business relationship to work. While the organisation is required to provide all the necessary tools for the job to be performed at home - computer equipment, communication networks, computer security, etc, - the employee is required to create the ideal conditions to ensure his work is equally or even more productive than it would be at the office. “The employee´s experience and maturity, as well as the length of time he´s been with the company, influence his approach to the current circumstances”, believes Pedro Pessoa, Lead HR Development Specialist at Kelly Services. And he exemplifies: “A recently-hired employee with no in-depth knowledge of the organisation and its expectations is likely to become anxious and frustrated."

Prior to this time of confinement, many companies had already embraced this way of distance working, particularly in the areas of technology, consulting and retail. However, the pandemic that is ravaging the world has accelerated the need to work from home, but without the necessary preparation and organisation, forcing employers and employees to adapt ‘at all costs'. This rapid change in relation to work has caused certain disruptions, particularly for people who have been caught off guard. “It is essential to guarantee the well-being of all employees, above all at a time when we are not only working from home, but also living in the same space 24/7”, warns Jil Ribeiro, a senior consultant from the specialised recruitment and screening department at Multipessoal, a human resources company.


There are, however, a number of essential rules that help ensure productivity and motivation. “We need to be well-disciplined and to establish a work schedule (and stick to it), avoiding to the extent possible the minor distractions that may arise from being at home”, points out Maria da Glória Ribeiro, a managing partner at Amrop, a multinational company dedicated to the field of headhunting. An opinion which is shared by António Costa, an associate manager at Michael Page Engineering & Property, a consultancy firm specialising in recruitment and employment.

“The best way of ensuring productivity in distance working is to reproduce the office environment as far as possible, maintaining one´s usual routines”, he adds. Having an appropriate and adequate area for eight hours of work, with plenty of natural light and ergonomic and comfortable furniture, is also essential, as Jil Ribeiro recommends. "You should also avoid turning on the television or having meals in the same place”, she stresses.

Once the most important rule has been implemented, more productive working days will follow. Nevertheless, Maria da Glória Ribeiro draws attention to another issue she regards as imperative. “Being contactable and available, in an 'online open area' with access to a telephone and e-mail, ensuring you´re capable of providing a timely and adequate response whenever necessary.”

Getting dressed for work, recommends António Costa, is of paramount importance. If the aim is to be productive, wearing pyjamas or a track suit does not contribute to motivation and a willingness to work. The Michael Page manager also warns of the need for the strict planning of tasks. “A 'to do list' is essential for the execution of the activities to be addressed over the course of the day.” Moreover, it is also crucial to keep in touch with colleagues and take breaks in the same way you would at the office. "Maintaining virtual cooperative proximity is vital." The specialist recommends holding regular virtual meetings, essential to understanding what is being done, in addition to the difficulties other colleagues may be experiencing.

There are other potential 'tricks' to ensure that productivity is really on the rise. António Costa recommends monitoring the activity. “Although you may need to adapt key performance indicators (KPIs) to activities conducted using technology, this is a good way of checking that you are working at the ideal pace”, he concludes.