Over this strange period we're currently going through, many people have been thrown into working from home. It’s understandable that there will be lots of questions – home working is so different from office working, so how on earth do you stay productive?
Although I have a base for my main job, we have flexibility which means I work from home one or two days a week. I also freelance from home on the side. Interestingly my most productive working days are always those spent at home, as I’ve spent a good few years optimising my work from home strategy to get the most out of it. Homeworking doesn’t suit everyone, but here are seven suggestions to help make it easier and improve your efficiency.
Get ready as you would for the office
When you go out to work in an office or other building you most likely make yourself presentable. Getting dressed, sorting out your hair, putting on your make-up, and so on. When working from home it’s easy to avoid this as you can simply roll out of bed and get started.
Whilst I’ll admit that I do sometimes work from home in my pyjamas, it’s taken me a while to be able to do so and not become completely lazy. I always recommend beginners get dressed and ready as usual – not to look nice, but for your mentality. If you’re dressed for work then you’ll be ready for work, whereas lounging around in your onesie will most likely achieve the opposite.
Set up your own home working space…
Recently I’ve really invested in the concept of having a home working space and it’s doing wonders for my productivity. I use it for both day job and freelancing and I’ve noticed that I get so much more done.
My space is set up for efficiency – it’s away from distraction, with a positive setting and happy decor. It features framed motivational quotes, an adequate desk space, and lots of organisation. When I’m there I feel professional and ready, and it’s so easy to get started. If you can design a space that makes you feel this way then you’ll naturally become more productive. Plants and nice colours are also good suggestions, as is making sure the space has everything you need to hand.
…But if you need to move around then do!
This point isn’t to contradict my previous paragraph, but rather to help those who are perhaps more active in their day job. I work remotely so I completely sympathise with anyone in this category. I just can’t sit in the same space all day! Breaks help, but because I’m usually based at several different locations across the day I find it stagnant and suppressing to never move.
Because of this I allow myself periods of time where I can sit in other locations in the house. This could be on the living room sofa, on the dining room sofa, at the dining table, or outside (if it’s warm enough). Having that flexibility helps to keep me alert and stops my brain from getting bored and shutting down. If you feel trapped then have a change of scenery!
Identify your distractions and remove them
I actually now find the office more distracting, but when I first started home working I struggled to keep focused. With the PS4 and social media so easily accessible, it felt like it was a recipe for disaster. Not to mention the books, the art supplies, the unused ingredients in the kitchen cupboard… Anything to avoid working!
My advice? Work out what those distractions are and then do what you can to remove them. You might find it super easy to sit next to the TV whilst working but be itching to get on your PC, so if that’s the case you know that the living area is fine but your PC space isn’t. If you’re tempted to check your phone because you’re not being watched then put it in another room. This one requires a lot of discipline, but with practice it becomes easier.
Keep in contact with your colleagues
If you’re used to being surrounded by co-workers then working from home can feel incredibly isolating. Nothing is louder than unwanted silence! For this reason I make sure to chat with my colleagues regularly.
Most companies offer ways of keeping in contact with each other, whether that be through something like Skype, Microsoft Teams, or even just your organisation’s email software. If all else fails, pick up the phone and check in with them every so often. If you’re a manager then make sure to call your employees regularly – they’ll most likely welcome it and it’s a great way to make sure they’re all doing okay.
Use your breaks to benefit you
One thing I love about working from home is that you can do so much more with your breaks. However, it’s very easy to end up doing things that don’t give you a break – cleaning the house, for example. Although it’s a different activity it won’t give you a chance to unwind and instead lead to more stress. Unless you’re Mrs. Hinch, of course, but most of us aren’t.
Now you’ve got the chance, use your break for something exciting, fun, or really relaxing – two of my favourite things to do are go for a walk along the beach or fit in a quick yoga practice (much easier to do at home than the office!). I’ll make exciting food plans for lunch as cooking helps me unwind, and eat something a bit different. Or I’ll just sit and read a book for half an hour. Do whatever it is you want to do (and should do) when you’re in the office, but feel like you can’t because you’re in the presence of other employees.
Switch off out of hours
One big drawback to home working is that it’s much harder to fully “leave the office”. With your work laptop in your house you’ll probably find yourself tempted to check your emails after dinner, and before you know it you’re sending reports and spreadsheets to your colleagues just before midnight.
This isn’t healthy and is definitely something I’ve struggled with before. Boundaries are important so set them and stick to them – make a schedule for the day if you have to. I use Google Calendar to schedule my work and it makes such a difference, otherwise I’d be constantly sneaking a look at my emails well after I should have switched off. Make sure your colleagues do the same – it’s one of the hardest things to do when you first start working from home but it’s vital to retain a healthy work life balance.
Do you work from home already or is this completely new for you? Share your experiences in the comments!