How to work productively at home
The increase in hybrid working means many more people are now working from home for at least part of the week.
Working from home offers many advantages, but for those new to working from home there are potentially as many disadvantages. Whilst recent surveys have reported increased productivity from those working from home, they have also reported on those that struggle to remain productive.
This is also combined with the novelty of working from home starting to wear off for many, resulting in less than productive working days.
With that in mind, here are our tips to remain productive working from home throughout the day.
Working from home productivity advice
Have a routine – It sounds obvious but try and keep to morning habits like you would if you were going into the office. Set your alarm, wash, breakfast as normal, getting ready for the day can help transition your home environment into your workspace.
Start the day with a plan – Use your calendar to divide your time for the day to keep you on track with your working hours and tasks. Even if you are working flexibly, a schedule or plan means the lines between work and personal time don’t get blurred and result in avoidable stress.
Importantly, when your workday stops, stop. Shutdown your computer, stop checking emails and focus on your home life.
Make a dedicated workspace – Ideally make sure you have a quiet space away from people and distractions.
Ensure you have everything you need in one place and shut the door if you can. If you don’t have room you can use for yourself, try to designate an area of it for your working space.
Get comfortable, but not too comfortable -It might be tempting to sit on the sofa or even in bed but it is much better to sit at a desk or table with an adjustable chair both mentally and physically.
If you don’t have an adjustable chair try using cushions to support you better, or a box as a footrest but consider investing in or asking your employer to, if your working from home is to be a permanent fixture.
Finish the day with a ‘commute’ – One of the benefits of a commute to work is having the journey home to wind down, adding a separation from the working day.
That’s not always possible when you work from home and it’s very easy for the working day to merge into the evening adding to stress levels. This can be magnified if you have children, you may well find yourself finishing work and within seconds entering the mayhem of teatime / bedtime.
Going for a short walk once you finish work, before getting involved in dinner, can help define your working day.
Set some boundaries -Working from home brings the wonderfully positive ability for work to be more flexible and improve your work life balance. It can also be difficult to separate yourself from the other distractions like household chores.
One way to balance the benefits vs distractions is to allow yourself to be interrupted and catch up with the kids when they return from school. Another might be a break to hang out the washing in the morning.
Whatever you decide, discuss them with your household and explain the boundaries you would like and share your schedule with them so they know, for example if you have important meetings.
General productivity tips
Keep a to-do list, but don’t use it – Our brains start to get overwhelmed as soon as we have more than a few things to choose from, try the “do one thing” method. The concept is pretty simple, keep a to-do list, but use it only as a reference and not something to work off. Each day and every time you want to tackle a new task, write it down somewhere you can see it like a post-it, hide your full list and focus. Once you finish your chosen task, cross it off your list, and start again.
The theory here is that by selecting one task at a time, you’re more likely to remain focused and complete, as opposed to hopping half-heartedly from task to task.
Check email only twice per day – Not for everyone, but this might be worth a try. Checking email only twice a day leaves the rest of the day for more productive pieces of work. Turn the notifications from incoming emails off to avoid distractions. Manage and respond to your emails once in the morning before you get stuck in to work and then once again in the afternoon when you need a break from the other tasks.
Use a chat platform to reduce internal emails – it’s easy for your inbox to get disorganised and information lost when email threads get too long, it can annoy everyone involved. A simple way to fix this is to use a real-time chat platform like Slack
You can use dedicated channels, smaller team groups or you can direct-message team members, allowing you to ask questions without having to email and disturb everyone in the team. You can also use Slack to voice and video call.
Respond Immediately / If the task takes less than 5 minutes, just do it – A lot of people will look at an email or message and then leave it “for later”. The problem is that it is easy for tasks, especially small ones, to get buried this way. That’s why it’s always a good idea to deal with emails as soon as you receive them.
If you can’t respond to an email right away, it’s always a good idea to make sure you flag it or set a reminder to yourself to do it later.
Taking breaks – Take regular breaks and make sure they are effective. The well known Pomodoro Technique advises working for 25 minutes followed by a 3 to 5-minute break, and then a 15 to 30-minute break every 90 minutes or so. WHen you have a break make sure it is effective, step away from your desk, stretch, walk, make a drink, go outside, regular time in green space is great for your mental health.