We’ve written about “How Your Kent or London Office Design Can Tackle the Top Killers of Productivity” and in Is Working from Home The Future After Covid-19 we outlined some ways to be productive while working from home. In this article we take a more in depth look at tips for staying productive in your home office.
With the impact of coronavirus affecting everyday life from only travelling to a destination that you must return from within the same day to keeping 2 metres (or 6 feet) between you and others, many people are now working from home (where their job allows) to help slow down the spread of the virus.
This will be the first time many people have worked from home and it can take some getting used to. Although many of us think working from home will be an “ideal” way to work very in practice it is often anything but. Working “remotely” can be difficult and a double edged sword. Yes you get to stay home BUT it can be extremely hard to concentrate when there are many home distractions going on around you e.g. access to your TV might tempt you to watch the latest TV show, if you have young children they may want to see you during the day – after all you’re home so you must be available. Staying focussed and productive can be a challenge. In this article we look at a number of tips to help you maintain your productivity while working from home.
Productivity Tips for Working From Home
Setting the Routine
You should try to stick to your routine as much as possible. That means:
- get up at the same time as you’d get up to go to the office
- get showered and dressed as usual (if you think it will help with your mindset wear your unusual work clothes)
- have breakfast so you’re set for the day
- start your work day.
The Right Location
Where you work from is going to be very important. Clearly if you don’t have a defined workspace which is separate from the rest of the family then you are far more likely to be interrupted throughout the day. Try to find a space where you can setup comfortably to work. Note: this shouldn’t be your bed or the sofa. Instead it should be a place you would associate with work.
You should also try to use a space that has natural light. Natural light plays a very important role in health and wellbeing so it’s important to use natural light wherever you can. If that isn’t possible make sure your workspace is well lit. Having enough light is vital to being able to work comfortably.
If you can setup a dedicated home office where you can close the door and shut out all distractions this is likely to be the most effective space to allow you to work efficiently.
A Structured Daily Schedule
You should try to keep to a structured routine, especially as you will now (for the most part) will be working alone. This enables you to stay on task and you’re less likely to be distracted as you’ll know exactly how much work you need to get done by the end of the day.
Plan out your day, set tasks and some idea of the length of time that should be assigned to each task. You could even use an online calendar such as Google Calendar to help you organise your day and work requirements.
If you plan in advance you’ll waste less time trying to figure out what to do on the day, on the fly. If you have a set schedule you’re also less likely to deviate or be distracted from your plan. Of course if your schedule needs to change, try to be flexible.
Commit More Time Than You Think You’ll Need
We very often underestimate how long a project or task will take. This can leave us feeling that we’ve failed when we don’t complete a task within the timeframe we’ve allocated to it. For that reason it’s a good idea to allocate more time than you think you’ll need. By over estimating there is a better chance you’ll either finish on time or with time to spare which will give you a boost in confidence and enable you to continue to be productive.
When it comes to scheduling don’t forget to factor in some breaks. If you try to do too much and don’t give yourself some downtime away from your computer then you are less likely to be productive. Just like at work, factor in a morning and afternoon break and time to take lunch.
Rather than just watching TV or browsing your mobile use your breaks to get away from your desk/home office. Take some time out with others if they are at home or take a walk to get some fresh air. By doing this you are enabling your brain to relax and refresh allowing you to concentrate fully when you get back to your tasks.
Don’t short change yourself on breaks. Rushing back to work will negate what little break time you’ve allocated yourself. Make sure to take your full break time.
We can get very easily distracted from a variety of different sources. One which we all find hard to fully disconnect from is social media.
Social media, by its very nature, is designed to be easy and quickly accessible. Social media is usually also setup to “ping” or alert us to new messages and stories. If you don’t close down and log out of any social media accounts you have open on your PC, Mac or phone then you’re likely to be continually distracted which will lead to a decrease in your productivity.
Look at what other distractions are in your environment and try to minimise anything that’s likely to cause you to lose concentration. Once you’ve finished work, or at the end of the day, you can always check in and catch up with any messages you’ve missed.
Let Others Know You’re Working
If there are others at home with you make sure to communicate your expectations, otherwise your wife, husband, partner, children etc. any assume that because you’re home you are available to them at any time of day. If you set out your expectations of privacy as soon as you start working from home then you are far less likely to be disturbed by another member of your household.
Work When You’re Productive
It’s best to work when you’re at your most productive. Although this seems to go against what we’ve written regarding scheduling your daily workload we are all more productive at different times of the day and throughout the day. This is even more so when you are working from home so it’s even more important to identify when you’re more likely to be productive and when you’re not and schedule your work around these times.
Look at scheduling harder tasks or tasks that require more attention to those times when you are able to concentrate fully on the task. On the flip side use other points during the day when you are least productive to tackle less difficult tasks. You can also use the easier tasks to build towards the harder tasks.
When you’re working remotely it’s important to be positive. Keep a positive mental attitude and don’t be hard on yourself if you fail to achieve every single one of the tasks you’ve set for yourself that day. Celebrate (quietly) when you complete a task before moving onto the next one, acknowledge when you’ve done something well. That way you will feel good about what you’ve achieved and less likely to be negative about those things you’ve yet to finish.
Making a Start
Finishing some parts of your work can give you a boost and build confidence in dealing with the more rigorous tasks that you need to complete. It’s also a fact that when you feel productive you are more likely to succeed in finishing any work that you start and it’s often easier to start tasks when you feel confident. According to Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer “We now know what the top motivator of performance is – on days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. On days when they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest.”
If you are having a hard time making yourself get down to work, very often making a start can be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Once you start it usually gets easier and we often look back on a task which we’ve put off and wonder why we thought it would be difficult.
Make the Best use of Technology To Stay Connected
Working from home can have its advantages and disadvantages e.g. you don’t have to travel and you can set your own schedule but in the long term you can begin to feel cut off from others.
Very often we don’t realise how much we depend on social interaction within the workplace, the ability to discuss ideas, to brainstorm with a group or to chat during a break until we are isolated. That’s where technology can come to the rescue. There are many free videoconferencing and instant messaging tools which allow us to video call/connect with others.
Of course with so many IT options to enable us to connect it can be a little overwhelming knowing which software to use unless your business already has some options in place. It’s worth checking what software your company wants you to use and make sure you have access to it. You’ll also have to consider things like the General Protection Data Regulation (GDPR) and whether any information you share will be secure. You should check this with your company to ensure you’re compliant.
When To Call
When you’re scheduling work consider the best time to call other colleagues or clients. Not everyone is a morning person and they may also not start as early as you do. By scheduling calls later in the day you give yourself a chance to “get going” and be more prepared for telephone conversations.
Background / Other Noise
The brain processes different background noise differently and depending on the task at hand it can be distracting or help you to concentrate.
Having a TV on in the background can be distracting for some people but for others it can provide a background noise which mimics the noise you may find within the office environment. This will be a matter of preference and may work for some while others would find it disruptive and distracting.
It’s also worth looking into using music as a way to improve productivity. Rather than just any music check out Brain.fm which uses a science-first approach which creates ‘functional music’ that they describe as “music that sounds different–and affects your brain differently–than any other music” and which “makes [Brain.fm] music unique, purpose-built to steer you into a desired mental state. In other words, we’ve found new ways to create music that helps you do what you need to do.”
In the end, the ideal noise and level of noise will depend on the person and the situation. While too much noise is always going to overload your system, just the right amount and the right kind of noise may benefit your productivity.
End Your Work Day When Working From Home
Working from home can sometimes cause your work life balance to be more skewed towards work than if you were working in your office. This may sound strange but when you’re at your workplace you would normally have a set stop time and you’d clock off then to go home. When you’re working from home you can become so caught up in what you’re doing you can completely lose track of time you end up working more hours than you would normally do.
This also applies to weekends. If you don’t normally work at weekends or if you do reduced weekend hours stick to those same hours otherwise there is a temptation to turn on your computer to do “just a little bit more work” or to catch up on some work that you didn’t manage to do during the week.
Set an alarm to tell you when it’s time to stop working and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to do just a few minutes more as a few minutes may turn into an hour or two.
Try to find the right work life balance when working from home to help you be as productive at home as you would be at the office.
JBH Refurbishments Office Interior Design and Space Planning Contractor
JBH Refurbishments are professional office interior designers and fit out contractors and understand how to get the best out of any office space through design including how to help to improve productivity. You can contact us via our contact form or calling us on 0333 207 0339.