Rolling out of bed and into the office sounds like a dream — more sleep, more free time, more family time, working in your pajamas, and no more dealing with thousands of other commuters twice a day.
But working from home comes with unique new challenges, primarily in the area of productivity.
You’ve got distractions abound. Your TV is only inches from your workspace, but even those chores that you dread suddenly sound more appealing than answering another email or struggling to pay attention in a virtual meeting.
In light of all this, there are several things you can do to make yourself a productive employee when your home becomes your new office. Here are five of the best tips.
1. Designate a Home Office Space and Only Work There
When your office is part of your home, it’s easy for work to bleed into your personal life. Staying focused is difficult, and you’ll quickly realize that if you try to work in your living room with your favorite Netflix show on as “background noise”.
Plus, you’ll likely have virtual meetings. Your boss won’t be as charmed by your kids running around and screaming as you are, at least during work hours.
Setting aside a particular space for work only allows you to get into that “work” mindset, as well as helps you to shut out distractions.
2. Build Structure Into Your Work Day
Working from home can cause you to relax your work routine — partly because your office is only a few steps from your bedroom, but also because you’re in a new environment.
But predictability maximizes productivity. You need to keep a structured daily work routine to keep you on track, even if it differs from the one you have at the office.
The two most times during which you need structure are the start and the end of the day. These help you transition into and out of “work mode”.
Consider starting and ending the day by taking care of non-urgent emails, messages, and voicemails you may have missed. That way, you aren’t constantly switching between productive tasks and workplace correspondence — which can slow you down substantially.
3. Declutter Your Workspace
Decluttering your workspace declutters your minds. You’ll be more able to stay on task, as there will be fewer distractions and stress from clutter.
Finding things will be easier, too. You won’t have to spend 10 minutes digging for a pen that hasn’t run dry when you keep your writing utensils in one place.
4. Get the Proper Amount of Background Noise
Maybe you work best when the loudest noise you can hear is the click of your mouse. Or maybe you miss the ambiance of your office, where the whole “workplace” feeling motivated you to knock out your projects.
Monitor your current background noise while working from home and see how productive you are, then adjust accordingly.
If you prefer things to be solitary and silent, make sure your office space is in the most isolated (but still comfortable) part of your house and consider getting earplugs.
But if you need some background noise, throw in your headphones and put on some music or a relaxing podcast. Make sure the music/podcast you’re listening to won’t cause distractions but will keep you focused on work.
5. Take Breaks, but Don’t Use a Clock
Human beings cannot be “on” for eight hours straight. We need breaks throughout the day to keep our minds fresh for optimal work output.
Take a short 5-10 minute break every hour. If you’re working on a tight deadline, you can reduce the number of breaks, but not at the cost of your work quality.
You know how slow time goes when you’re staring at the office clock in the face, though, so don’t use a clock. Instead, schedule intermittent break reminders (as well as an end-of-day reminder if you please) on your phone or desktop.
As for what to do on breaks…
Take this time to walk around to keep the blood flowing. Get some fresh air. Refill your water. Also, stretch areas like the hips, neck, and chest— these areas get tight while working due to the sitting (hips) and leaning forward (neck and chest).
So there you have it: five tips to optimize your home working environment. Follow these and you’ll reap the benefits of working from home without slacking.