Working from home has countless benefits: flexibility, more time with friends and family, no commute, and more. But for all that, it can be hard to stay productive without the built-in structure the office environment provides. With a few small steps, you can boost productivity and happiness to take advantage of the opportunities working from home presents.
Use these 15 tips to help yourself stay sane and productive.
1. Set a daily routine- and stick to it!
Scheduling is one of the most important elements in promoting effective productivity and healthy workflow when working from home. It can be hard to self-regulate when removed from the structure of an office environment, so take steps to implement a scheduled routine yourself. Establish when you’ll start in the morning, when you’ll break for lunch, and when you’re done for the day.
Try breaking your day into blocks, set apart by smaller breaks you can use to have a snack, exercise, chat with your roommates, or run a quick errand.
Sign off at the same time each day: Having a regular, concrete end to the day is crucial in maintaining work/life balance, preventing burnout, and promoting long-term productivity.
2. Figure out when you work best, and structure your day around that.
When developing your work from home schedule, think about when you’re most productive. If you work best in the mornings right after your cup of coffee, save your walk or exercise breaks for the afternoon when you need a boost.
If there are periods of the day where you are least distracted, use that time to work through more difficult or boring tasks, freeing yourself up to focus on the work you enjoy when you need a productivity boost. Or, if you tend to feel sleepy after lunch, use that time to complete communication-based tasks, which will give a social pick-me-up while staying productive.
Changing your environment can also help stay focused and productive: try moving from your desk to your kitchen table for an hour, or put on some music without lyrics to easily shift your mood.
3. Develop (and stick to!) your morning ritual.
It can be tempting, but spending the day in your pajamas or working from bed sends the message that you aren’t fully present in your work. Not only is this sure to be a blow to your productivity levels, but it hinders your ability to separate work from the rest of your life. Stick to the morning ritual you had before you started working from home. Wake up early, at the same time each day. Have your regular cup of coffee or tea, eat breakfast, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed in real clothing. Working from home eliminates the time you used to spend commuting, so spend that time doing something interesting or fun: take an early morning walk, practice yoga, or read the newspaper.
4. Remove distractions.
Working from home, distractions are everywhere! Roommates, family, pets, a kitchen full of snacks... One of the most important steps in promoting workflow and increasing productivity is to control and remove the things that distract you while working from home. Schedule in time to chat with family and friends, and for snacks, exercise, and checking your phone or personal email. Remove distractions from your visual environment: when creating your home office space, do so with an eye towards productivity and distraction-minimizing.
When you are doing work that doesn’t require the internet, turn off the WiFi on your computer: this will help minimize the temptation to open a new tab for an unrelated task or to check social media, and generally keep you in a productive and focused headspace.
5. Put away your phone!
Our phones are ever-tempting sources of distraction and immediate gratification. Getting a text or call (even a robo-call,) scrolling through social media feeds, or responding to a news notification releases a burst of dopamine, making it near impossible to ignore your smartphones constant buzzes and dings. These short-term, dopamine driven feedback loops deplete productivity by disrupting whatever task you are in the middle of, and the urge to continue using or your phone- scrolling through instagram or checking twitter, is difficult to ignore.
To avoid unnecessary distraction and temptation, keep your phone in a different room. If you need your phone on hand for work, turn off all notifications other than the essentials, or better yet, keep it on Do Not Disturb mode and check for messages every half hour.
6. Stay in communication with your team.
Working from home can get lonely, especially if you live on your own. Now that we’ve lost the ability to stop by our coworkers desks for a quick chat or check in, or to catch up over lunch in a common space, it’s more important than ever to practice active communication with your team.
Checking in with your coworkers is important for productivity and cohesion as a team, and also for mental health. If you don’t have coworkers, schedule a call or Zoom with a friend or family member. Studies show that communication with people you love helps relieve and manage stress and promotes psychological well-being: not only is this an enormous boost for your mental health, but it helps stay productive and avoid stress and burnout while working at home.
Use video conferencing tools to stay in touch: meet with your team and make decisions together, give and receive feedback, and communicate and complete assignments. Collaborating promotes a healthy workplace environment and increases productivity for all.
Embrace virtual happy hours or other virtual company functions: these give you a chance to unwind and chat with your coworkers in a non-work context. It’s always helpful to remember that you are still part of a team!
7. Start your day with a “to do” list.
Not only is it helpful to write out and organize tasks you need to work on, but it’s motivating to cross things off and keep track of what you’ve accomplished in a day.
It can also be helpful to evaluate your list at the end of the day to see what you’ve been able to work on, and to create a productivity plan for the next day while still in the workplace mindset. Reminding yourself what you were working on at the end of the day and what still needs to be done has an added bonus of improving workflow. This also adds to the daily routine and helps to organize your work and promote productivity.
8. Take structured breaks.
Some people swear by the Pomodoro Technique, others prefer block scheduling. You’ll have to find a work schedule that works for you. It’s important to schedule in time for yourself: time to exercise, time for a snack, time to check in with your roommates or family, and most importantly, your lunch break. In addition to being fun and enjoyable, each of these activities promotes psychological and physical health, and will help you stay productive and return to your work refreshed and ready to focus.
Bathroom breaks and refilling your water are small bonuses that can offer a brief mental reset or break while you stay focused on the task at hand.
9. Invest in your virtual office environment.
Finding the right tech is crucial for work from home productivity. There are endless time, team, and project management software options that can help you manage your online life. Use ZoomHalo to improve your quality of life on conference calls: looking your best has never been easier with the simple ring light technology, and the flattering video of yourself will make you more confident and productive whether you are Zooming with coworkers, your boss, your family, or friends. Your new work from home life is here to stay: it’s worth putting in the time and energy on things that will make you happier, more comfortable, and productive while using Zoom and other video technology.
10. Create an office.
It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of having a professional environment in which to work from home. Find a space with natural light and low noise to set up your desk, and make sure to keep your environment clean, decluttered, and appealing. Just like in your out of home office, you want your home workspace to be a place you want to be. Clean, bright, and comfortable environments promote efficiency and productivity, and will help you stay focused and in a workplace mindset.
11. Have a healthy work/life divide.
Ideally, your work from home space should not be an area that you use for sleeping, eating, family, or leisure time. Physical divides in the work environment make it easier to get into and remain in a productive workplace mindset, and also make it easier to turn off your work brain at the end of the day. It’s easier to keep work out of your home life when you maintain a physical divide. Boundaries through scheduling and physical environment are the most important in promoting productivity when you are at work, and maintaining a healthy non-work life, leaving behind workplace stress and helping you avoid burnout.
12. Eat healthy.
Working at home means endless temptation from a kitchen full of snacks. Plan your meals and snacks just like you would if you were working in an office.
Working from home allows you to have more control over what you eat: use this opportunity to make your diet healthier. Limit the amount of junk food you keep in the house. Drink water instead of soda or juice, and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. A nutritious diet is key to cognitive functioning and psychological and physical wellbeing, all of which are key in promoting productivity and happiness while working from home.
13. Exercise in different ways.
Unfortunately, it’s easy when working from home to sit all day- to go from your bed, to your desk, to your sofa, and back to your bed. Working from home offers an amazing opportunity to exercise however and whenever you’d like, and the internet offers a proliferation of ways to do so. If you feel drained at work, do a quick HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) video and return to your desk with new energy. Do full body yoga to unwind at the end of the day, or a video of stretches for the head and neck when you feel sore from spending too long at your computer.
Go for a walk in the morning, after lunch, or at the end of the day, as a way to increase blood flow and breathe some fresh air. Getting outside is a great break for your mind and eyes as well as a rejuvenating opportunity for your body. Regular stretching can work wonders for your neck and back when they are sore or stiff from sitting over a computer all day. For your eyes, try adopting the 20-20-20 rule: every twenty minutes of looking at your computer, spend 20 seconds looking at something twenty feet away.
Maintaining a regular schedule of exercise has been shown to be important for your mental and physical health, and improves general wellness and productivity. It has never been easier to work exercise into your schedule, so get moving- even if it’s just a few squats in between meetings while working from home.
14. Make a plan with your roommates
If you live with other people who are working from home, get to know each others’ schedules. Eat lunch together like you would in an office, and don’t hesitate to tell a roommate who stop by to chat that you need to stay focused.
15. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Getting used to working from home will take some time, and hammering out an environment and routine that works for you is a process of trial and error. Be forgiving with yourself when you have an unproductive day, but make note of what may have happened to make you fall off the horse.
Keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and adjust accordingly. Communicate with your friends, family, and coworkers when you’re having problems, and find out what works for them. People are at their most productive when we don’t feel stressed or unhappy, so develop a self-care routine that works for you, whether that means walking in the sun, spending time with your loved ones (even virtually!), or reading your favorite book. By starting with these steps, you can make your work from home life happier and more productive.