Working from home has its benefits: no commuting, a better work-life balance, money savings, the list goes on! But, it can also lead to lower productivity levels.
If you find that your output suffers when working from home, that you struggle to concentrate or that you are easily distracted, this article is for you.
To help you figure out how to work from home successfully, we’ve rounded up some of the top productivity tips for working from home, including some solid advice from leading productivity and time management experts.
Creating a dedicated workspace or home office will massively improve your productivity levels when working from home. When you have a set environment to work in with limited distractions, it makes concentrating much easier.
Unlike in a regular office, you can optimise your space so it works for you, including any furniture or accessories that make it more comfortable. For example, if sitting down for prolonged periods causes back pain, a standing desk could work better for you.
While it’s easy to roll out of bed five minutes before you’re due to start work and stay in your PJs all day, it doesn’t bode well for productivity. Try to start your day right by getting up, getting dressed and eating breakfast before you start work. This way, you’ll begin your workday in the right frame of mind and ready to tackle the day ahead.
When working from home, we lack the structure that comes with working in an office. Having a set schedule can help break up the day and keep you at your most productive. Decide what tasks you’re going to work on at the start of the day – or, even better, the day/night before – and make sure to factor in breaks.
Long to-do lists can be extremely overwhelming. You may even find that worrying about the amount of work you have to complete means you end up getting nothing done at all.
According to an Airtasker survey, 54% of remote workers admit to getting overly stressed during the workday, and 45% had experienced high levels of anxiety during the workday. Taking steps to prioritise and manage your workload can help minimise this.
Try creating a to-do list in order of importance – include the highest priority tasks at the top and make a note of when each task is due. This will help your workload seem less overwhelming and enable you to work through your to-do list more easily.
A ‘focus window’ is a block of time that you reserve for focused work: it's just you and your laptop, canvas, desk (whatever it is that you're working on) and neither involves nor depends on other humans. This type of work demands the most energy and creativity from you, so schedule those windows at a time of day that you're the most awake and determined. For most people, that's usually mornings.
From investing in a fast running laptop to implementing digital productivity and time management applications, there are plenty of tools to help increase your work output. You just need to find the right tools for you.
Temirlan Nugmanov explains the importance of leveraging technology and lists some of his favourite digital productivity tools to use during ‘focus windows’.
There’s a lot of ways to ensure that you have a good ‘focus window’, but my favourites are:
Working from home lacks face-to-face meetings and discussions, meaning most communication is carried out digitally. This can lead to objectives getting lost in translation or misunderstood.
To ensure communications with your colleagues run smoothly, make sure to use the most efficient method. For example, if you prefer face-to-face meetings, video calls might suit you best, and if you prefer not to have lots of meetings, an instant messaging tool like Slack may be a good option.
On the flip side, too many meetings can also cause work output to reduce. Be aware of this and ensure each meeting is as productive as possible by setting clear goals and having a list of questions you’d like answered.
Working from home comes with many distractions – especially if you’re not the only one at home. Whether you’re juggling working from home whilst looking after your children or working in the same room as your partner, it can be hard to stay focused.
As mentioned earlier in the article, try to set ‘focus windows’ where you work in allotted time blocks. During this time, let those around you know that you need to stay focused, listen to music or white noise to block out background noise, or invest in some noise-cancelling headphones.
While multitasking may seem like an efficient way of working, splitting your attention across multiple tasks usually means you won't complete them to a high standard. Yes, you might think you’ve ticked lots of jobs off your to-do list while multitasking, but in reality, you’ll probably end up having to re-do them because they didn’t have your full attention – not great for productivity!
The nature of working from home means you end up socialising less during the day. While this may seem like a positive (no more time wasted listening to office gossip), missing out on social interaction is not good for your mental health. Try to make an effort to socialise with colleagues during the day – this could be digitally, or if you live close, you could meet up for a lunchtime walk.
Keeping the social aspect of working is important for productivity, otherwise, you could end up feeling like you’re always working. You may also find your colleagues really appreciate you checking in – especially if they’ve been struggling with lack of social interaction.
One of the things we stop doing when we work from home is moving. The distance between the kitchen and where we do our work is not far enough to compensate for the lack of movement working from home has caused.
When we commute, go out for our lunch and walk between offices for meetings, we are adding up all those steps. When we work from home, it can be so easy to stay sat down for hours without realising it, and that lack of movement can cause all sorts of health issues, from bad backs and necks to unintended weight gain (as well as eating a lot of convenience foods from the refrigerator).
Keeping a work-life balance is vital when working from home. Results from an Airtasker survey revealed that 29% of remote employees said they struggle to maintain a work-life balance, compared to 23% of office employees, which highlights the importance of shutting down at the end of a workday.
Carl Pullein advises “The problem most people have with working from home is that they don’t have a fixed time for finishing. When we work in an office, our colleagues start to leave, and we need to leave at a certain time to be home for dinner. Working from home removes those and leaves us telling ourselves, ‘I’ll just do another 30 minutes.’”
Ultimately, maintaining a good level of productivity while working from home comes down to planning, self-discipline and regular breaks. While it’s important to remember that you’re only human and can’t do it all, your productivity doesn’t need to suffer when working from home. In fact, it could even increase!