8 Simple Strategies to Increase Productivity as You Work from Home
Updated: May 7, 2020
So many employees work environment have seen a dramatic alteration with the changes our world is facing due to our current national health crisis. I have worked remotely from my home office for some time and before that, in an office with all or most of my team members in a different location from me. I decided it would be a good time to share how I've overcome some of the difficulties I'm seeing my colleagues struggling with and some that I'm learning to adapt as my spouse has joined me in working from home.
Working from home creates not only physical challenges, but also emotional ones. And it is important to give yourself a bit of grace as you adapt.
First, physical challenges. Working from your dining table, or in a spare room is simply not the same as a dedicated office environment. Unless you are entirely alone in your home (no pets, no people), you will experience noise distractions. Dogs barking, cats meowing, birds squawking, children squabbling, outside noises, and other adults talking create a cacophony of unfamiliar workplace noise.
Understand that almost every person you're working with has the same battle of interference going on in their workspace.
Next, emotional challenges. If you are accustomed to working in an office, there is an emotional switch that takes place when you leave that environment and turn into your driveway. Home (hopefully) hasn't been a place where you continue to give full attention to your professional workplace responsibilities. As a result, it can be a bit of a challenge to ignore the dishes in the sink, the laundry waiting to be folded and the backyard swing calling your name. Again, almost everyone is experiencing these same focus trials.
One of the greatest tests of working from home is to separate "work" mode from "home mode". The following are some tips to help you close the door, so to speak, to your home, and open the door to your office.
Make your calendar or project-tracker your best friend. This is the time to get all of your work tasks visible so they don't fall in the cracks. My article on project management has some great tools to help keep you on task.
Indicate the hard due date for every project and then create time blocks to complete each aspect of the project. Use to-do lists as milestones to keep you on track.
Give an On-Air Warning
Do you have a conference call or video meeting on the schedule? Let everyone in the house know you are about to 'go live'. If possible, put a "do not disturb" sign on your door and close the door. Let them know that as soon as the call is over, you'll open the door.
If you have children at home, put on their favorite program or movie and offer them a time reward when you've completed the call. That is, you'll spend 10, 15, 30 minutes doing fun activities with them as soon as you've finished the conference.
A SPECIAL NOTE: You are more worried about your kids, spouse, or dog interrupting the meeting than we are!
Establish dedicated office hours and let everyone in the house know what those are. But here's the thing...close the door to your office both physically and mentally when office hours are over. If you are at the dining room table, pick up your papers and laptop and put them away at the end of the night. You, and the people you live with, need to know that family time is family time and work time is work time. Of course, there are days when get a late start or work until late (I know I'm guilty of this) but make those the exception to the rule rather than the norm.
Not only do you need dedicated work hours, but you also need a dedicated workspace. I understand not everyone has the luxury of a separate room, but even if your office is a he dining room table, know it will help you get into work mode when you step into that place. Make sure the people in your home know where your "office" is located. This will create a mental "stop" to establish a boundary for work-related vs. family-related activities.
Think about what your audience will see when you are on a video call. Turn the camera on in advance and observe what is in your background. Additionally, observe how much light is on your face. Is it too much? Too little? You don't want to look like a spotlight is over your head, and you also don't want to look like you're in the dark. Don't be concerned about looking like you're in a professional studio, but take a few minutes to clean up and brighten up your camera appearance. Here's a link to a quick video to help you maximize your appearance.
This might seem like a small thing, but it is critically important. You will have greater energy and creativity if you take a quick break every 30 to 45 minutes. Get up from your desk, walk outside, get a drink of water. A quick 5 to 10-minute break will make all the difference in your productivity. Additionally, your body needs to move to stay healthy. These breaks are important for your mental health and your physical health.
For me, my breaks are typically centered around my dog, Chloe. She likes to play throughout the day. Instead of getting frustrated with the interruption, when she walks up with her favorite blue ball I take it as a hint that I need a quick break!
Stressed out? A simple tip a health expert gave me was to have dedicated photo albums on my phone that bring me joy and encouragement. I have an album dedicated to Chloe, trips my husband and I have taken, loved ones, and encouraging quotes. You might set a timer or keep an eye on the clock otherwise your 5 to 10-minute break might turn into an hour.
Schedule Personal Stuff
Finally, though you may feel like your personal life is overtaking your professional life or vice versa, it can be easy to ignore your personal needs and requirements. This can happen because you feel some guilt around working from home - even when you don't have a choice.
Make sure to create time in your schedule for all of those normal, everyday tasks and events. Give attention to the things that make your life worth living. Take advantage of a more flexible schedule and sit with the people you care about a little longer.
Do you have any tips that help you be more productive while working from home? I'd love to hear them.