Advertising
Advertising

Published on March 18, 2020

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

7 Ground Rules of Setting Goals (And Reaching Them) How To Focus on the Positive To Achieve Your Goal In Life How To Log Your Daily Activities And Manage Your Time Better 9 Simple Ways to Delegate Tasks and Get More Done 10 Ways to Find Your Focus When You’re Stressed Out

Trending in Smartcut

1 50 LinkedIn Influencers To Follow, No Matter Your Industry 2 22 Best Habit Tracking Apps You Need in 2020 3 How to Break Bad Habits (The Only Effective Way) 4 15 Daily Rituals of Highly Successful People 5 10 Best Mechanical Keyboards to Type Faster

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

Advertising

Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

Advertising

It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

Advertising

Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

    Advertising

    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

    More Productivity Tips

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next