Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are working from home. But how do you stay productive while out of the office? With distractions from kids, pets, and partners it can be quite a challenge. Let’s take a look at some practical strategies for making your workspace and work habits work for you.
First things first, do you have what you need to get the job done? Make sure that your workspace is ready to go with everything you need nearby. This means your computer and equipment, but also any notes or files, as well as items like your water or coffee cup. When you are ready to get down to work, you won't need to keep getting up to retrieve things you left in the other room. Pre-setting your office space will keep you focused on the task at hand.
Beyond your basic setup, spend some time creating a personalized workspace. What kind of environment do you work best in? Are you always chilly in the office? Have a sweater at hand. Run hot? Invest in a desktop fan. Does a clean and modern style space make you feel professional? Be sure to clear the clutter and add desk organizers to keep track of your supplies. Are you inspired to work hard for your family? Add a few framed snapshots to your space. The key here is to know what works best for you. There is no one-size-fits-all.
When establishing your office atmosphere, consider what sounds you will hear when working. Do you have kids playing in the next room? Noisy neighbors? Consider using music, or even white noise like ocean waves, to drown out distractions. According to Business Insider, research shows that listening to music can improve your capacity for creative problem-solving. Whether you work better with a background beat or want something softer, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones will pay dividends when it comes to boosting your productivity.
Working from home might mean that you are responsible for keeping files secure. Many professionals work with personal information from donors, patients, or clients. It's critical to protect the privacy of these people by securing your home office. What’s more, keeping your workspace off-limits to kids and family members will safeguard your sense of professionalism and keep you focused. Keep the workspace only for work, and limit interruptions.
Feeling professional is key to productivity when working from home. It’s tempting to slip into yoga pants when no one will see, but consider wearing more formal attire to remind yourself you are still at work. Take the time to style yourself as if you were going to the office. Even if no one will know, this little trick can give your productivity a much-needed boost.
Time management is something many remote workers struggle with. It’s easy to get sidetracked by social media, turning a “quick break” into a big waste of time. Breaks are important to keeping up a rigorous work pace but try scheduling them ahead of time. Slot out regular 15-minute intervals and use a timer to make sure you get back to business at the right time.
In addition to scheduling breaks, creating a routine for your day will provide the structure you need to get things done. Make sure that when you sit down to work, you know how long you will stay. Set a stopping point in advance and leave your projects in the office. Don’t bring work calls or emails into the rest of your home. This blurs the boundary between professional and personal time, which can hurt productivity later. Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review that shows how overwork actually backfires. If possible, start working at the same time each day, and keep your breaks regular as well. An established routine will allow you to get into a professional mindset quickly, and get more done during your office time.
It might sound strange but leaving your house may help you get more work done in the long run. According to research published in Business Insider, time outdoors can boost your mood, memory, and overall well-being. These days it’s all too easy to hide away at home, but taking breaks outside or adding a walk to your morning routine can give you an edge during work time. Just make sure to take the appropriate social distancing precautions to keep yourself safe!
Whether you get a chance to step outside or not, research indicates that moving your muscles can increase the quality of your work. A Japanese study in 2018 found that reducing sedentary time helped workers feel more engaged and increased productivity. There are so many ways to add movement into your workday, from incorporating stretch breaks to investing in a treadmill desk! What kinds of exercise energizes you? Imagine creative ways to add those activities into your routine.
Before you sign off for the day, take a moment to go over what you accomplished. It’s easy to focus on the work that still needs to be done, but it’s just as important to take stock of what you completed. The simple practice of reflecting on your work has been shown to improve job performance by this Harvard study.
While working from home may seem daunting for some, there are so many small things you can do to take charge of your professional life out of the office. Through these uncertain times, consider remote work an opportunity to learn about yourself and start working smarter. You may be surprised how putting these strategies into practice improves your performance.