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7 Daily Habits To Be More Productive Working At Home

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7 Daily Habits To Be More Productive Working At Home

It’s the dream, right? Waking up whenever you want, not having to get dressed and squeeze yourself onto mass transit or sit in traffic for several hours just to sit in a cubicle for another 8 hours or so.

Working at home is the ultimate lifestyle — until you actually do it.

More than 23% of Americans report working from home at least some of the time according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number has increased by nearly 25% since 2005 and continues to grow as the “workplace” takes on a more ambiguous meaning.

But it’s not all late starts and TV in PJs while checking email. Working from home, while an important perk in a culture with increasingly blurred lines on the work-life spectrum, can be a stressful experience if you’re not accustomed to self-motivating and driving productivity in a new setting.

Home is where you rest. It’s where you relax. It’s where you spend time with family. Your mind and body are trained to act a certain way when at home. Throw work into the mix and no matter how productive you are in the office, you can find yourself suddenly unable to focus nearly as well, overcome with distractions you didn’t even realize were there.

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It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By installing new habits specific to how and where you work while home, you can be as productive as you would be in the office — if not more so.

Set A Clearly Defined Start Time On Your Calendar

How long does it take when you get to the office to start working? What does that transition look like? Most of us have trained ourselves to almost instantly shift into work mode when we walk in the door. There is a very stark transition from home to commute to the office and those lines make it easy to shift gears.

It’s a lot harder to shift like this when you never actually leave the house. So, this transition needs to be simulated. To do so, use a calendar. Set a clear start time and know that when that time arrives, you are “at work.”

If this remains difficult, go for a walk or visit a coffee shop just before work starts to simulate that gear change and prepare your mind for the work day.

Build An Office Space That Is Unique Within Your Home

Dedicated space is a must. Whether you work at home once a week or are a freelance consultant home every day except for meetings, you need a space that’s only for work.

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This does two things. Not only does it provide a private space where you can be productive with minimal distractions; it also physically separates you from the space in your home in which you relax. While you may technically only need a warm seat and a laptop to get things done, it’s much harder to be productive when sitting on the couch where you typically unwind at the end of the day.

Maintain A Lunch And Break Schedule

Much like a start time, your body is trained to follow a certain rhythm each day. Work for several hours, go for lunch, work for a couple more hours, take a break.

Maintain this schedule as much as you can. Sure there will be days on which deadlines overlap or calls push back a normal lunch time, and it can feel weird to take a “break” and walk 10 feet to your kitchen, but the familiarity of it will help you stay in that work mindset.

Build In Emergency Breaks To Avoid Distractions

Home is full of distractions: family, pets, TV, books, video games. You name it and there’s something on a shelf across the room from you begging to steal your attention.

Create a system in which you have a response when this happens. A Pomodoro timer is highly recommended as it will force you to stay focused for 25 minutes at a time in short bursts of productivity. Sure, you can get to that next Game of Thrones chapter, but only after you’ve completed one more short work session.

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By creating a habit of focus and measured breaks, you can avoid falling down the rabbit hole of distractions that your own possessions can create.

Use Dark Periods To Stay Focused

One of the great benefits of working from home is that it’s much easier to go dark. In the office, you can turn off your WiFi, but if your boss really needs your attention, they can just walk over and tap on your desk.

At home, unplugging really means privacy, and that privacy can lead to your most productive hours of the week. If you work for yourself, this is even more important. It allows you to focus on large tasks in spurts of 1-2 hours during which nothing can distract you.

Set A Clear Stop Time

We’ve talked about start times and we’ve talked about break times, so of course we need to touch on when to stop.

When I started working from home less than a year after graduating from college, I worked for upwards of 12 hours of day. To be more accurate, I sat in front of a computer for more than 12 hours a day. A large chunk of that time was spent surfing eBay, watching music videos, and playing video games. I was a procrastinator, because I knew I could be.

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Parkinson’s Law says that when given a set period of time to complete a task, we will fill that time. Imagine what happens when the time given is infinite? You never quite finish.

So create deadlines for yourself. It might be different every day, but set a clear cutoff time in your schedule when you plan to be done for the day. Whether this is 5 pm or you opt to take advantage of your newfound productivity and clock out an hour early, mark it on your calendar and build your daily to-do list around it.

Identify Work Triggers And Surround Yourself With Them

Work isn’t something we “just do.” It’s a state of mind we must create and maintain to remain productive. It’s not like you’re a paragon of productivity in the office either. Facebook is just as distracting. Friends are just as likely to drag you out for coffee.

The difference is that there is a certain social pressure to be productive. Everyone can see you, your deadlines are more visible, and an inefficient day means a long night.

The goal of working at home is to be less stressed, not more, but consider bringing home a handful of triggers that will help to put you into work mode and keep you there.

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Notebooks from the office, a coffee mug from the company, even a toy with the company’s logo on it — these will all remind you what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It seems small, but with the right nudge, you can more effectively stay in work mode even when the entire world seems to conspire against you.

Featured photo credit: picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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