No office? No problem. These five tips will help keep your productivity sky-high while working from home.
1. Never work in your pajamas.
Pajamas might seem like the ultimate comfortable work attire, but lounging around in your bedclothes is a very bad idea. Getting ready as you usually would for a day at the office is essential to set yourself up for productivity. Science-backed studies have shown that putting on a smart shirt or blouse really does put your mind into work mode. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science asked one group of participants to dress in formal business clothes, while a second group wore casual clothing. The group wearing business attire showed better cognitive processing abilities than those dressed casually.
2. Take breaks.
It can be more difficult to stay focused while working from home, so many people fall into the trap of letting their office hours stretch on for longer than usual in order to meet deadlines. Taking breaks is essential to maintaining focus and productivity. A 2011 study by the University of Illinois showed that taking breaks from a task improves our ability to focus for a longer period of time. Instead of going outside in gloves and a mask, try opening a window or stepping out onto the patio or terrace to get a breath of fresh air. This is a great way to reset the brain and return to your desk ready to get on with the next task.
3. Make your workspace sacred.
Ideally, working from home would entail a fully equipped home office, but not all home-based workers have that luxury. Setting up a dedicated space at home for work, whether it’s an entire office or simply a desk in the living room, is key to creating a productive work environment. The home workspace needs to be free from distractions: no TV playing in the background, no mess cluttering up the desk and minimal noise from outside sources. Let the rest of your household – including children – know your office hours and make it clear that you do not want to be disturbed while working.
4. Stay connected with colleagues.
Just because your colleagues aren’t sitting on neighbouring desks doesn’t mean you can’t lean on them for support, advice and feedback. Technology provides plenty of ways to connect with colleagues, like WhatsApp, Slack, Zoom and Skype. Making sure your colleagues know how and when they can reach you is paramount to productivity, especially for more senior staff who need to sign off on final projects. Maintaining work friendships is equally important.
Not all communication has to be work-related or in person: making time for coffee, lunch or even a virtual happy hour with colleagues helps strengthen and maintain friendships between colleagues and boosts morale.
5. Have a strict ‘home time’.
It is easy to lose track of time while working from home. One minute it’s 9 AM, the next thing you know the sun is setting and you are still glued to the desk. Scheduling a hard out means you will manage your time better and are likely to check more off of your to-do list. Even if there are still tasks left on your to-do list at the end of the day, tomorrow is another day and your laptop will still be there in the morning. The beauty of working from home is that these arrangements usually allow for a little more flexibility in working hours than a standard nine-to-five office job. Early risers can enjoy getting the day started on their own schedule, while dedicated gym members are welcome to squeeze in a morning workout before the daily grind begins. Whatever your preferred schedule is, stick to it and step away from the desk at the same time every day.
Remember working from home is very different from being in an office. Just like with any other change in work life, there are bound to be a few growing pains to deal with as you adapt to working at home. With an increasing amount of the population working from home now, numerous friends, colleagues and family members are in the same predicament. If you are really in an unproductive slump, remember the sympathetic ear of your favorite colleague is only a phone call away.