For many people, the idea of working from home sounds great. There’s no morning commute, your coffee maker is always available, and you can even work in your pajamas from the comfort of your couch! Unfortunately, in practice, working from home isn’t quite as easy as it seems. Children and pets provide a constant distraction, there are tons of household chores waiting to be done and working from your bed or cushy couch makes you ready for a nap—not ready to be productive! Suddenly, it’s 5 p.m., and you’ve accomplished next to nothing!
Whether you’re transitioning to a full-time work-from-home position or have to work from home temporarily, you’ll need to figure out a routine and productivity tips that work for you so you can actually get your to-do list done. Here are some initial things that can help you focus for a more productive day.
- Create a designated workspace: One mistake a lot of people make when they’re just starting to work from home is setting up shop on their couch, in their bed or in another comfortable spot that’s normally reserved for resting. This tends to fail for a few reasons. First, it might make you too comfortable, leading to a nap instead of work. Second, it blurs the lines between work and home life and can make it more difficult for you to stay productive and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Instead, try to create a designated workspace in your home, whether that’s a desk in the guest room or a corner of the kitchen table. Make it comfortable and decorate it with both functional and fun items so it’s a place you want to be in. Only work in this space, then avoid frequenting it when you’re done working for the day.
- Implement a routine: Another mistake people tend to make when working from home is waking up and diving straight into work—sometimes without even changing clothes! This can be disorienting, minimizing any time you have for yourself and making it harder to distinguish one day from another. Take time in the morning to wake up your mind and go through your normal routine as if you’re going to leave the house. Take a shower, wash your face, put on a fresh pair of clothes and enjoy your coffee. Then, plan to begin and end work at a certain time—and follow through.
- Minimize distractions: At home, there might be even more distractions than there are at work! Children and pets might need tending to, your laundry might need to be done, your phone keeps buzzing with notifications and many more things are vying for your attention. Since you’re home, it can’t hurt to spend a little time taking care of chores, right? Unfortunately, giving in to these distractions can zap your productivity. Instead, set a timer or use an app that locks down your phone for a certain amount of time and get to work. If your kids or spouse are at home, set boundaries and create a system to let them know when you’re working and cannot be interrupted. Use a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block out household noise. After an hour, take a short break—but don’t do chores! After work, stop checking your email and focus on things you want or need to do at home that aren’t work-related, just like you usually would.
- Reach out to coworkers: Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t still socialize! Call, instant message or email coworkers and your boss regularly to check in, discuss work duties and get some human-to-human interaction. Working from home can often feel isolating, but setting up a weekly check-in call or video conference with your team can give you the social interaction you might be missing.
- Remember to eat normal meals: Another challenge many newly remote employees say they face is forgetting to eat throughout the day. Without conversations about lunch plans or the hustle of coworkers heading to the break room, you might get lost in your work, only to discover you still haven’t eaten lunch by 4 p.m.! Eating regularly is important for both your health and your brain power, so set an alarm for lunch and get reminded that it’s time for a break. On a similar note, put together some healthy, pre-portioned snacks to eat throughout the day so you aren’t tempted to raid your fridge due to boredom or stress snacking!
- Take a walk: Without a morning commute to the office, you might begin to realize how much you valued a change in scenery every day. When you work from home, you might feel stuck staring at the same four walls day in and day out. Break out of this habit by heading outside. Take a short walk around the block first thing in the morning or after lunch to get out of the house and give your mind a rest.
Working from home can be extremely challenging, and everyone will have their own unique way of dealing with it. Try to establish your own routine and find things that help you focus—such as working at a time you’re most productive or taking a break in the middle of the day to work out.
In time, you’ll find your own personal recipe for productivity and make working from home work for you!