Source | porch.com | Rocio Espinoza
Whether you’re a freelancer, business owner, or direct employee, working from home is a fantastic way to avoid some common office headaches. You won’t have to sit in traffic every day, and there’s no more water cooler gossip and office drama to contend with. But working from home also presents unique challenges, especially if it’s new to you. Thankfully, with a few simple adjustments, you’ll be able to stay productive and happy while working remotely. So if you’re wondering how to maintain — or improve — your productivity at home, keep reading.
Designate a specific workspace
In order to maintain productivity, you really need to have a dedicated workspace. Whether it’s a spare bedroom, a spot over the garage, or a corner of the kitchen, it’s vital to set up a part of your home that’s solely to work. This will help you separate work from home, and it provides you with a comfortable, quiet place to work. Furnish the space with a comfortable office chair and a durable desk so it’s clear that this area is made just for working. Customize your workspace with art or pictures and all of the supplies and tools you need for a productive workday.
Create a productive atmosphere
In order to stay productive while working from home, you’ll need to create an atmosphere that fosters productivity. If you enjoy classical music to help you focus, bring in a small stereo or wireless speaker. Keep your office supplies and files nearby and handy so you don’t have to keep wandering around the house to find what you need. Ensure that your desk chair is comfortable and supportive for better posture.
Invest in the tools you need for remote work
Whether it’s a new laptop, a better Internet package, a comfortable headset, or a decent filing cabinet, having the right tools will make remote working easier. Look for new technology and creative office products that can help make working from home more pleasant and productive. Ask if your company will reimburse you some or all of your work-from-home tools.
Start early and establish a morning routine
It’s really tempting to hit the snooze button when you work from home, but sleeping in can backfire. Do your best to start your day as early as possible so you can stay on top of your game. If you used to get up at 5:30 a.m. to head to work, keep doing so while you’re working from home. Starting your day early gives you time to wake up, have some coffee, relax a little, and align your mindset with the tasks ahead. Establish a morning routine as soon as possible so that it becomes a natural way to transition from “home” mode to “work” mode.
Pretend you’re going into the office
Even though you don’t need to dress up and make the drive to the office, it’s a good idea to pretend as you do. Even though you’re allowed to work in your pajamas at home, getting dressed can boost productivity and put you in a more professional, productive mindset. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie but slip on some actual pants you’d wear to the grocery store and a shirt that makes you look somewhat presentable on Zoom. This one simple act of changing into “work” clothes will help you remember that it’s during office hours, and you need to work.
Stick to a schedule
Keep your workday at home as close to the same as it would be if you were in the office. By structuring your day, you’ll be more productive and stay on track with projects and deadlines. Make your work-from-home day feel like a work-from-the-office day with a daily set schedule. Start and end your office hours and take your lunch at the same time each day.
Use a calendar program or a dry erase board to keep your schedule handy. Set reminders for breaks and lunch. Sticking to a schedule helps you stay on task and avoid wasting time. Consider a time tracker to help you stay on top of your hours and what you’re accomplishing each day. Establish some techniques to sharpen your time management skills.
Establish daily goals
It’s important to set daily goals for yourself. This is beneficial not just to your boss and your company, but also to you, since writing down your goals helps you meet them and manage your time. Each morning before you start working, write down one goal you’d like to accomplish and the individual tasks necessary to do it. This simple step will help you stay focused on the most important things on your plate each day.
Take movement breaks
Since you’re not in the office, you may tend to sit at your home desk for longer periods at a time than you normally would — and we all know that sitting is the new smoking. Take hourly breaks for your mental and physical well-being. Get up, move your body, stretch your muscles, drink a glass of water. A couple of times a day, if you can, take a brisk walk around the block, or do five or 10 minutes on the treadmill to help clear and energize your body and mind. On top of your movement breaks, schedule in a couple of 10- or 15-minute breaks to toss some clothes in the wash, take a power nap or check your social media. Set an alarm to tell you when break time is over.
Save calls for the afternoon
If you talk to clients, coworkers, or customers on the phone, try to save these calls for the afternoon. This frees up your morning to focus on other tasks uninterrupted, which is essential for staying on track. If your company shares calendars, mark your mornings off on yours so that other people don’t book morning meetings with you. If you focus better in the afternoons and prefer making your calls in the morning, that works, too! Don’t forget to keep track of your email response time to boost your productivity.
Listen to music
Not everyone can work and listen to music at the same time. However, if you find that music helps you stay focused, feel free to put on some tunes. You can use a pair of high-quality headphones to help you immerse yourself in the music and the job at hand, or play music from your wireless speaker or smart speaker. If your usual favorite music is too distracting, put on some classical or New Age music, which is more atmospheric background noise. Many people find that music reduces stress and helps with focus, so it’s worth giving it a try.
Limit distractions: Block social media during work hours
The Internet is a very distracting place and can lead to a major drop in productivity. If you have a home phone, turn the ringer off during the day, and turn off notifications on your mobile device. Use a browser plug-in or mobile app to block social media, news channels, and other distracting sites during work hours. Avoid turning on the TV or chatting with friends until your workday is completely over. These simple things will help create the right atmosphere and avoid distractions for staying on task.
Set boundaries with your family
If you have projects or important tasks that require your complete attention, the last thing you need is to be constantly interrupted by family members who are also at home. Set clear boundaries and expectations with them, such as when your office door is closed, you’re unavailable, or you can’t be disturbed between one and four in the afternoon. Have snacks handy that the kids can get on their own, and before you shut your door to hunker down, ask everyone if they need anything before you go away.
Keep in touch with your colleagues
When you work from home, it’s easy to feel isolated and even a little bit lonely at times. Make sure to keep in touch with your colleagues each day to maintain a sense of workplace culture, teamwork, and friendship. Use a group chat program to stay connected. Check-in periodically for water-cooler conversations, funny memes, or other short bursts of human interaction so you don’t feel isolated.
When it’s time to stop working, stop
It’s easy to work well beyond your usual hours when you’re working from home, but it’s important to call it a day for several reasons. Working late while at home can make you feel like you never get a break, and your family may feel like you’re always working. It also means that, unless you’re on salary, you’re working those extra minutes and hours for free, and that can lead to feelings of resentment later on.
Each day, work the number of hours you get paid for. If you’re not on salary and expected to be available after hours, let your boss and co-workers know that after, say, five o’clock, you’re out of the office until morning. Then, close your computer, turn off notifications, and change into your relaxing clothes to signal that it’s time to shut off your work brain. Spend a half-hour after work practicing some self-care, like taking a nice hot bubble bath, a short nap, or simply vegging in front of the TV.
Keep healthy habits
While the right mindset is important for productivity while working from home, so is maintaining your physical health. Start every day with a healthy breakfast to fuel your mind and body in the hours ahead. Each weekend, plan your snacks and lunches for the week ahead and have everything on hand and ready to go so you don’t end up eating unhealthy food just to put something in your stomach. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and try to limit your coffee to a couple of cups — a bottomless pot may give you jitters and make it hard to sleep. Take all of your movement breaks each day, and when you feel stressed, take a few minutes for some deep breathing or meditation.
Declutter and stay organized throughout the day
A cluttered office can really throw you off-focused. It can also make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make sure your home office is nicely organized, and try to keep it that way throughout the day. The more organized your environment is, the easier it will be to get things done quickly. A neat, tidy office can also lower your stress levels, too. Each morning, get organized with the files and tools you need for the day. Put away anything left out from the day before that you don’t need. At the end of the day, put your pens away, discard trash, take your dishes to the kitchen, and tidy up your workspace.
For many, working from home is a dream come true, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t manage your time properly or you get off task easily. The more effort you put into creating a productive space, cultivating the right mindset, compiling the tools you need, and staying on schedule, the more enjoyable and fulfilling your work-at-home experience will be. Whether you’re working remotely temporarily or for the foreseeable future, you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of having a job, but not having to leave your house to do it. Check out his survey with 10+ thoughts on working from home vs. work from the office.