Working from home can feel like a glorious gift from the universe, meant to give you back time and let you put more into your family and hobbies outside of work. Or, it can feel like a diabolical plot to suck away your motivation, tricking you into trading productivity for one more hour of Netflix. We’ve all been there, don’t worry! So we’ve put together some tried and true ways to help you boost your productivity while you’re working from home.
Working from home can present some challenges because, well, it’s your home. If you’ve never worked from home until now, your brain has always associated work with work and home with family, fun, relaxing, etc. This can be a hard shift to make, teaching your brain that sometimes now home means work, too.
Make sure there is a dedicated workspace within your home. This isn’t to say you have to move to have a whole extra room for an office, don’t worry! Smaller spaces are just as good for transforming into an at-home workspace. This idea is to help your brain make that same connection between going from home to the office and knowing that the office means work time.
Ensure your desk is just for work. No home bills, paperwork, etc., should be visible in your workspace. It is easy to become distracted when non-work items are in your periphery. Strive to make your desk look like it would at an office and keep it professional.
If you have an entire room to dedicate to a home office, perfect. If not, there’s a lot you can do to create separation within other rooms to give you some sectioned-off office space. Room dividers are great for this and can be very inexpensive. This is also a great option if you move frequently because they are modular and very portable, so you’ll likely be able to work it into your next space easily.
Your daily routine can have a massive impact on your productivity levels when you’re working from home. It’s all about finding what works best for you. You’ve heard the advice that you should make your work-from-home routine as close to your office routine as possible, including how you dress, time spent getting ready in the morning, and clothing choices. While there are definitely some benefits to this style, it can feel a bit out of step with a more casual environment when you work from home. This isn’t to say that you should show up to video calls in your PJ’s, but rather that if you would normally wear a tie and jacket, a polo shirt is fine for days you work from home.
Your morning routine should be just that — routine. Despite being in your home, you should try your best to stick to a schedule. Start and end your workdays at the same time each day, and be sure to take breaks. The classic work from home catch 22 is that you’re either procrastinating work entirely, or you’re working so intently that you forget to take breaks. Working from home gives us back our commute time, but remember that doesn’t mean that time just goes back to your job — that’s your time! You can try using a time blocking app to help you set specific time slots for work and for your personal life. By doing so, you’ll improve your productivity without overworking yourself.
Another vital element to creating a productive work-from-home experience is making sure the other people in your house know what you need to succeed.
It can be a tough adjustment if you have a significant other and/or kids in your home that aren’t used to you being home during the day. They’re probably excited you’re there and might want to talk to you a distracting amount. It’s not just them, either — we bet you’ll stray into their path during your workday to see what life looks like when you’re normally at the office.
The most important part of your communication strategy for working from home is to discuss workday boundaries before it becomes an issue. You don’t want to have annoyance, frustration, or resentment build up and then have to talk about it when you can have these conversations upfront. Let your significant other know that work hours mean your focus is on work, 100%. A good measure of how much you can engage with them through the day is no more than you would if you were at the office and they called or texted. Any more frequent than that, and it’s likely straying into an amount that will cause a decline in your productivity.
Another good reminder is that when you leave your workspace to get a coffee or take a bio break, it doesn’t mean that you’re open for conversation. Your head is in work mode and needs to stay that way, so comments about non-work things will have to wait until after work. All of these things, of course, should be said with love and understanding, with the primary goal being to create a work-from-home routine that’s successful for everyone.
Don’t forget to keep track of what’s happening with your coworkers and office community. Working from home is great, but you also lose some of the social aspects of going into the office each day. Even if you’re not close friends with your coworkers, going into the office helps you keep a finger on the pulse of office politics, opportunities for advancement, etc. Don’t get upset, introverts! This isn’t to say you have to show up to every office happy hour wearing a party hat and leading the karaoke charge. But do make an effort to participate and keep your face on the radar!
Remember that we’re all different, and maybe some of the suggestions above don’t work for you, your lifestyle, or your schedule — that’s okay! Trial and error are how we all work out new routines, so try new things and give them a chance. If they don’t work for you, edit them and try again. It’s all about improving your life, not creating more stress, so don’t hold on too hard to a particular suggestion. Feel free to create your own productivity routine with a combination of habits that work for you and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle!