How To Increase Work From Home Productivity
Working from home: you love it or you hate it. Regardless of which category you fall into, you’re probably spending a lot more time in your home on the weekdays than you ever have before. The number of remote workers was steadily picking up even before the coronavirus pandemic started a year ago, and it’s only increased since. But working from home during a pandemic can add pressure and strain beyond typical remote work environments.
Set a Schedule
You create a routine with consistent start and end times when you go into an office every day. Sometimes, your days consist of running administrative tasks or answering emails. Those tasks are blurred when you work from home, and no one pays attention to your arrival or departure times. This routine may make it hard to stay on track with things, and it can make it far too easy to look at the clock and realize that you’ve been working for hours without ever standing up.
Add onto that the additional challenge of any new responsibilities the coronavirus pandemic started, like helping teach your kids or grocery shopping for high-risk members of your family. For those who maintain long hours to accommodate heavy workloads, a lack of schedule can make it even more difficult to maintain a work-life balance. Here are some tips you can do before you establish a start time:
- Think about your morning routine. What do you do when you first get up?
- Allow plenty of time to relax and eat breakfast, or maybe meditate on the day ahead. Make sure you take into account all the best things about your morning, as well as the necessary ones, like eating your favorite breakfast, walking the dog, and taking a shower.
- Consider your evening routine as well.
- After creating your proposed schedule, share it with your family and friends, so they know when you’ll be working and when you’re free to hang out.
Even if you won't see anyone besides your beloved pet or the computer screen for the entire day, it's hard to feel productive in your pajamas. Staying in sweats seemed like a perk in the early days of working from home, but it can make you feel sluggish by the end of the workday. Maybe you can accomplish a lot when you're in comfortable clothes, but some people feel like their workday never really started if they don’t dress up like they're going to work.
We suggest putting fresh clothes on to help draw a line in your head for work and the rest of the busy day you will have. You don't have to pull your 9-to-5 business casual work attire to make it feel like you're in the office, but putting on pieces you haven't slept in the night before will make you feel more successful in the day.
Depending on what your workdays look like, you may still be connected only through conference calls and virtual team meetings. It feels like there's no human connection because we are cooped up at our homes.
Have regular, virtual check-ins with your friends and colleagues. Consider starting calls by chatting with them about what's going on in their lives or big projects they're working on to build a strong relationship. You can help make up for some conversations you miss out on when working from home and stay connected to maintain a remote work culture. Make sure to keep in mind that we're experiencing many things during this time due to the pandemic. You can be more flexible with yourself and with colleagues.
Also, you have to acknowledge that meetings may need to be canceled or rescheduled last minute. You can work with your team to keep all lines of communication open and consider taking a look at your virtual persona and see how effective your virtual communications are and work on them. It’s all about connecting with your team, even when you’re not actually together.
One challenge when it comes to working from home is finding ways to limit distractions around you. Many things will likely interrupt work that are usually not part of your routine. It will help if you acknowledge that you're doing your best at your job and that your team members are as well.
Try having a set schedule and put together a workspace where you can create and maintain work boundaries to limit unnecessary distractions. We suggest having your phone on do-not-disturb and have the device somewhere you will not see so that way you don't have to jump up when you get a notification.
You can also set up your phone or tablet on a hanging device like the SkyFloat to facilitate a better workflow, which should help to limit your distractions as well.
Adjust the Sound
It may be too quiet when people work from home, especially if your kids are in school and the pet is napping on the couch. You might miss the buzz of your coworkers in the office. If you want to create some noise, we suggest playing music to help cut through the silence. You can figure out what works best for you, whether it's quiet background noise from a playlist, your favorite musician's music channel, or even the sound of a noise machine or TV in the living room.
You can also experiment with wearing headphones, even if you’re just playing white noise music, to drown out the sounds of anyone else who also might be working or learning from home.
Create House Rules
You may experience a partner, roommate, or child coming home from work and asking why you didn't do the chores since you’ve been home all day. It is true that one of the benefits of working from home is that you can take small breaks to tackle things like washing dishes, laundry, or vacuuming the living room or bedrooms, but this shouldn’t be an expectation. You are at work, after all. Permit yourself to focus primarily on work when you’re working; otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.
Take a Walk
You may be zoning out after spending hours looking at emails, reviewing spreadsheets, doing projects, and other things on the computer screen. This effect can make you feel like you’re losing your mind. We suggest taking a walk.
Taking a walk in your neighborhood can give you a much-needed break to clear your head, get your blood flowing, and look at something other than a screen. You can take a work call while you walk; even a 10-minute break to get some exercise is worth it to build your leadership effectiveness, mental health, and overall productivity. Working from home leaves us feeling isolated, so getting out of the house, even if you’re by yourself, is a chance to breathe. If social distancing leaves this feeling for you, seeing other people from a distance can help you feel less alone.
You can easily feel stressed out or overwhelmed when you’re stuck working from home. As much as possible, we suggest you try to practice patience — with yourself, family, or anyone else with whom you live.
Cultivate and express gratitude so it can help you thrive in the face of change. Even if other aspects of your life are upended or changing dramatically, making time for your wellness is worth the time and effort. Practicing patience will also help you deal with uncertainty and anxiety. People are facing challenges and distractions that you don’t always see on a video or conference call. We suggest trying to be flexible and understanding while working remotely.
The Bottom Line
Working from home may seem to increase productivity because it's easier to focus, right? But people are different, and different work styles are more compatible with certain people than others. If you want to be successful in your remote work, try these tips.