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How to Be Productive When You Work from Home

How to Be Productive When You Work from Home

If your job doesn’t allow you to work remotely, it may soon. With that privilege comes a responsibility: you have to be productive when you work from home.

Remote work is coming to companies across the country. A study by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics[1] showed a sharp upward trend in the number of Americans working from home. Between 2005 and 2017, remote work grew by 159%.

The comfortable, quiet environment of your home can make remote work challenging. Staying productive while you’re working from home is a matter of spotting and stopping distractions before they hurt your output.

Productivity Barriers at Home

Even if you have a home office, all sorts of distractions can make it hard to stay productive when you work from home. Common ones include:

Digital Devices

Your phone buzzes: surely, you think, you only need a minute to check out that Facebook notification. Without even realizing it, you get sucked into social media for the next half an hour.

When you work from home, it’s all too easy to fall down a digital rabbit hole. Your computer can access any gaming, social media, or entertainment site you so choose. On your television are daytime shows you can’t typically watch while you’re at work. These can all be tantalizing distractions when you’re working from home.

Children and Pets

Do you have pets? Does your husband or wife work different hours than you do? Are your kids still too young for school, or are they on break?

Unless you live by yourself, you have to learn how to be productive while working when others are at home. Even if you ask them to avoid bothering you, they’re still going to move about the house in ways that may distract you.

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Lack of Accountability

When you’re working remotely, there’s nobody looking over your shoulder to make sure that you get your work done. Staying productive while working from home is a matter of sticking to the task at hand.

One way or another, you have to hold yourself accountable. Different productivity hacks[2] work for different people. Some people dress for work even when they’re working from home. Others use the Pomodoro technique, and still others drown everything else out with music.

Household Chores

If you’re a “Type A” person, you know how distracting a sink full of dishes can be. Even a dirty carpet can be difficult to walk across without hauling out the vacuum cleaner.

If you struggle to be productive when working from a dirty home, set aside time before or after your working hours for chores. Getting a few chores done before the workday begins can make the mess feel less overwhelming. Doing them immediately after you shut your computer for the day can be a great chance to de-stress.

Whatever the Work, Productivity Is Key

When you have a boss to report to, staying productive at home is tough enough. But how are you supposed to be productive when you work at home in other ways? What if you’re a homemaker, or simply someone with an at-home hobby?

Even if you don’t work a traditional job, you have to learn how to be productive when you work from home.

Stay-at-home parents, for example, have more on their plate than you might think. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey [3] shows that the average stay-at-home mother spends 30 hours per week on housework and another 18 on childcare.

Staying productive when doing any sort of work from home lets you take more time for yourself with leisure time or simply educating yourself.

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How to Create a Focus-Friendly Home Workspace

Creating a home workspace where you can focus isn’t hard, but it does take some amount of self-control.

1. Leave Non-Necessary Tech at the Door

If you work from home, you likely do so from your computer. Aside from the tools you need to do your job, it’s important to minimize the amount of tech in your workspace.

Don’t just put your phone on silent or turn it off; put it out of the room altogether. Do the same with your television. And don’t even think of leaving a gaming console in your workspace.

2. Get Comfortable — But Not Too Comfortable

Your work environment has a lot to do with how productive you are when you work from home. Create a space for yourself where you feel relaxed but energized. Whether you have a dedicated home office or not, try to do the following things.

Use Bright But Not Harsh Lighting

Shutting yourself in a cave won’t help you be productive when you work from home. A dim workspace can cause sluggishness and eye strain, especially if you need to read physical documents.

To maximize your productivity, make sure your environment is bright. Choose a space with lots of natural light. Augment it with warm light from an overhead light or desk lamp.

Beware, though, that too much light can also cause eye strain. If you start to experience headaches, blurry vision, eye irritation, or pain in your neck, try drawing the blinds or moving your lamp a little further away.

Choose Firm and Supportive Furniture

Yes, it feels good to sprawl out on the couch or lay in bed, but if your goal is to be productive when you work from home, it’s important to sit at a desk or table.

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The furniture in your home workspace should be firm and supportive. Your chair should encourage you to sit up straight. Your desk should have plenty of space for your computer and other necessary tools. Keep only one chair in the room to discourage visitors.

Close the Door

A closed door signals that the person in the room does not want to be disturbed. It also dampens noise and prevents you from seeing distractions, such as the television or dirty dishes in the sink.

Creating a bubble for yourself is key. If your office doesn’t have a door you can shut, can you don noise-cancelling headphones and hang a curtain? As best you can, keep visual and auditory distractions out.

Maximize Connectivity

Assuming you work from home via your computer, you need access to two things: electricity and internet.

Place your desk near a power outlet. If you need access to more plugs than are available, get a power strip.

Think, too, about the strength of your Wi-Fi connection: even if you pay for high-speed internet, you won’t get those speeds if the wireless connection is weak. Either move your router closer, or move your desk closer to your router.

Keep It Clean

A messy workspace can feel chaotic. Minimizing messes boosts productivity when working from home, not just because it means less time spent picking up, but because it promotes focus.

Take a moment before you begin work to pick up your office. Once a week, do a deep clean: dust, wipe down your workspace, sweep the floor, and take out the trash.

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Think About Air Quality

When you work from the same space all day, you’ll start to notice that the air quality affects your productivity. Dry, dusty air can irritate your respiratory tract. Overly humid air can promote mold and bacterial growth.

If the weather allows, open a window. If not, get an air purifier. Be sure to change the filters regularly. Depending on the climate where you live, you might find you need a dehumidifier in the summer and a humidifier in the winter.

3. Set Expectations for Others at Home

Many people who aren’t used to working from home don’t understand just how much of an issue everyday interruptions can be.

Explain to your children and spouse that you need to be just as productive when you work from home as you do at the office. Tell them where you’ll be working and what your core, no-distractions-allowed hours are.

If you have young kids, either get a babysitter or keep them occupied with things like coloring books. If pets won’t stop bothering you, put them in a room with their food, water, and litter. Consider hanging a “do not disturb” sign on your door if others at home repeatedly drop in.

4. Keep a Stress Relief Source Nearby

One advantage of working from home is that you have access to all the stress-relief tools you would after a long day at the office. Take advantage of them.

A cup of chamomile tea can do wonders if you’re feeling restless. Easing anxiety is one of the key benefits of CBD oil.[4] Placing an exercise mat by your desk can encourage you to fight stress with a set of pushups.

One stress reliever to avoid? Alcohol. Although it’s true that a beer can help you relax momentarily, alcohol can actually induce anxiety [5] due to rebound effects.

Final Thoughts

Staying productive while you work from home is hard. As with anything else, practice makes perfect: remind your boss of that, and he or she might let you do it more often.

More Tips on Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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