How to be productive when working from home
Back in March, many professionals suddenly found themselves in a semi-permanent ‘Out of Office’ state. As we all know, this wasn’t the result of some kind of nationwide holiday, but rather the quite literal sense of the phrase – we were suddenly thrust out of our workplaces, and into new, makeshift home-working spaces, due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19.
Whilst 42% of our audience had experience working from home before, for many this was a completely novel situation. Now, there are many benefits to working from home – biscuits on tap, you can wear whatever you like, no dealing with grumpy commuters. But there are also manifold distractions – no one watching over you to keep you off your phone, the television is right there, children or housemates in and out of your ‘office’ every other minute. These distractions may have you wondering how to stay productive when working from home.
To answer this question, we have come up with 10 top tips to help you stay productive when working remotely.
Create a specific workspace
First up on our list for increased productivity when working from home, is to create a space specifically designed for the purpose. While it might feel novel and fun to work from your sofa at first, by day 4 you may find yourself with not only a sore back, but fewer tasks checked off on your to-do list. If you’re not lucky enough to have a designated office or study room in your home, the kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom can work just as well. If you can, find a space with as much natural light as possible – this will help you to stay alert and focused during the day, as well as keeping you connected with the outside world whilst you work. If you live with others, ensure they know where your workspace is, and ask them to respect that during your working hours. This doesn’t necessarily mean closing off these areas, but just being conscious that you are there working – perhaps lowering noise made. By sticking to one particular area, your productivity when working from home will be increased as you create something of a work/life balance for yourself, separating your work and relaxation spaces.
This is a biggie. With all of us now separated physically from many of our friends and family, it can be all too easy to pick up your phone to reply to a message or scroll through social media to see how other people are spending their time. A 5-minute phone break can soon turn into a half-hour scroll session, potentially scuppering your day’s productivity. The best way to eliminate this particular distraction when working from home is to put your phone in a separate room, checking it only when certain tasks have been completed, or when you have scheduled breaks. If you rely on your phone for work calls, turn off notifications from the social media sites or games that are likely to distract you. This means that you can have your phone by your side in case of work emergencies, whilst continuing to be productive. If you feel you may pick your phone up or type in a particular website out of habit, there are apps (such as ‘Offtime’, ‘Moment’ and ‘Flipd’) that can block apps/sites for an amount of time designated by you. Failing this, logging out of social media accounts at the start of the day is another way to eliminate the distraction – one more hurdle to jump before you can scroll!
Write a to-do list
Writing a to-do list at the start of each day will help to focus your mind on the tasks at hand and get you in the work headspace with a simple, easy to complete task to kick-start the morning, therefore being productive at home from the offset. This may be as simple as a bullet-point list of your tasks on a piece of paper, or you may wish to schedule your day according to specific timeslots. This is dependent on both the type of work you do, and the way you know yourself to be most productive. If you’re not too sure what would work best for you, try it both ways – have one day with a bullet point list, and another with timeslots scheduled for each task. There are also online resources (such as Trello and Monday.com) if you prefer to stick to the virtual, as opposed to pen and paper. Writing a to-do list at the end of each day for the following day can also be a helpful way to create closure from the current day’s tasks, and ensure maximum productivity the next morning, as you know exactly what you have in store.
Take breaks – go outside
Whilst it may feel like a juxtaposition, absolutely crucial to maximise productivity when working from home is taking a break. There has been much research around this area, but most conclude that the human brain can work at maximum capacity for around 40 minutes before a short break is needed to rest and reset. Note ‘short’ – you don’t want to take yourself too off task! Each person is different, and as we get used to working from home, we will learn about ourselves and the regularity of the breaks we need to stay productive. Try to make sure you get outside and have some fresh air at least once a day to keep your brain alert. You should schedule these breaks in when you are planning your day, and make sure you keep to them.
Keep regular hours
Do you remember how you once set a specific alarm to catch a specific train to be in the office for a specific time, ate your lunch at a specific hour and then left at a (more or less) specific point in the afternoon? Well, keeping those regular hours is an excellent way to increase your productivity whilst working from home. Getting up at a regular time each day ensures routine and will mean your brain is more able to function properly straight away. Finishing at the same time each day will also give you a goal to strive for and complete tasks by, thus increasing your productivity. A huge benefit of working from home is that these hours don’t necessarily have to be the hours you kept when you were in the office. If you know you are a morning person, wake up that bit earlier to capitalise on that, meaning that you can be done earlier in the afternoon when your productivity may wane. Likewise, if you know the later hours of the day is when all your best ideas are produced, schedule your work around that.
Casual Friday every day!
Another benefit of working from home is that we are now freed from the shackles of uncomfortable shirts and suit trousers, tight fitting skirts and itchy jumpers. Whilst it’s great to get out the comfy clothes, this could also be a hinderance when being productive at home. Dressing as if you’re going to the office can put you in the right frame of mind to get on with work and will stop you slouching on the sofa. Of course, there isn’t necessarily a need to go full suit and tie, but perhaps dress as if each day were Casual Friday. If you don’t feel comfortable answering the door in it, it probably isn’t helping your productivity!
Eat well & stay hydrated
Keeping your body and mind fuelled is key when it comes to being productive at home. Keeping a glass or bottle of water on your desk at all times will make sure you’re consuming enough H2O, which, in turn, will stop feelings of lethargy or headaches caused by dehydration, therefore increasing your productive capacity. Eating well can also help with this – increasing your intake of natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables, as opposed to that packet of chocolate digestives you’ve been eyeing up, will help your body to avoid feeling sluggish, which will have a knock on effect on how you feel towards firing through your to-do list – especially when it come to the 3 o’clock slump.
Listen to music
Whilst some people can work in complete silence, many struggle to do so. Listening to music while you work can be a great way to increase your productivity at home. Finding a type of music that allows you to focus in, be that classical music, pop, or punk, will allow your mind to concentrate on the task at hand. You could go a step further and listen through headphones, so that any additional outside (and potentially distracting) noise is eliminated, pushing your productivity to that next level. If you’re missing the hustle and bustle of the office, having the radio playing in the background whilst you work can really help with this, as well as keeping you up to date with the ever-changing news.
Tell someone else what you want to achieve
By telling a housemate, friend or partner what you’re going to be doing each day, and which tasks you will have completed, you’re adding an extra layer of accountability. Weekly catch-ups with managers are all well and good, but could see you completing all your set tasks in just the day preceding this meeting. Having someone ask each day what you’ve achieved takes away this last-minute stress. Additionally, if the person asking is someone close to you, it creates a less pressured environment whilst still ensuring you’re getting things done – you won’t want to disappoint them, but it also won’t be the end of the world if you haven’t quite achieved every last task.
Remember how great it is to be at home
Lastly, try to remember all the benefits of working from home. Not commuting to the office each morning gives you extra time, be that for an extra hour of sleep or to exercise, read a book or catch up on a TV show. Likewise, in the evening you are afforded more time for the things you love. You have time at lunch to cook up a storm, or to pop out for a walk around your area. You can drink tea out of your favourite mug. The benefits to working from home are manifold. When it seems like you just can’t get your head down, these can be easy to forget – but try not to. Keeping a positive mindset is crucial when it comes to productivity.
Hopefully these tips on how to be productive when working from home will help many of the Fish4jobs audience as we head into the next few months of remote working.