Working from home is the new reality for many workers. In fact, remote work had already increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017. The pandemic has increased these numbers substantially, and this growth is unlikely to retract once the pandemic is over.
While maintaining productivity was a considerable concern for many managers in the move to remote work, it turns out those fears were mostly unfounded. A Stanford study recently found that productivity increased by as much as 13% when employees were allowed to work from home. The increase was attributed to a quieter space in which people could make more calls and perform work tasks without distractions from colleagues, among other factors.
However, this increase in productivity hasn’t been enjoyed by all workers. If you’re working from home and still struggling to stay on top of things, there are ways you can boost your productivity — here’s how.
Distractions abound in your home, whether it is a partner who has a quick question, the dog who needs to go outside or children wanting your attention. Well-meaning friends may feel they can pop over for a coffee and chat at any time. Resist. Set your boundaries early and insist everyone respects them. Tell friends you’re unavailable until after work and discuss distraction issues with your partner. Even the youngest children can understand a red paper on the door means mom or dad can’t be disturbed while a green one (or an open door) implies you’re available.
Dress Well and Eat Well
Start your work with dressing the part. You don’t have to be uncomfortable, but definitely reconsider wearing your pyjamas and leaving your hair unbrushed. In fact, research has drawn a definitive link between clothing, brain activity and performance and has found that dressing well can improve productivity. Researchers believe the phenomena is related to the signals that clothing sends to the brain and its relationship to self-esteem and confidence.
For remote workers, it is often either a matter of no food at all or all food, all the time. This can wreak havoc on both your well-being and your productivity. A few tips on finding balance:
- Schedule meal and snack times. Allow yourself the time to both make and eat healthy choices
- Avoid eating at your desk
- Locate your office away from the kitchen if possible
- Avoid grazing. Grazing requires a non-stop approach to eating that will both take you away from your work, interrupt your focus and have you reaching for quick options like crackers and chips
Take a Break (or Two)
It may seem counterintuitive but working non-stop actually makes you less productive. Not breaking properly throughout the day tends to lead to things like decision fatigue and ill-informed choices. We need downtime to reenergize and refocus. Rest breaks make us less moody and more alert and restore our clarity of vision. They’ll also help ensure less repetitive strain on your joints while they improve our muscle coordination and attention span.
The best breaks are ones that focus your body or mind on things completely unrelated to work. That could be an hour at the gym or a half-hour yoga break. It could also be a few minutes reading a novel or the news. However, remember that not all breaks are created equal. Research suggests that drinking coffee, online shopping or complaining to your coworkers won’t help. Social media will also not provide you with the rejuvenation benefits you need from your breaks.
Schedule downtime within your day and walk away from the office if you can. You’ll be more focused or more motivated when you return to work.
Eschew Personal Tasks While on the Job
You couldn’t mow your lawn when you were working from an office. You shouldn’t be considering it when you’re working from a home office. For many workers, the downside of working from home is that it is really tough to mentally separate from the never-ending list of jobs you haven’t been able to finish at home. Force yourself to make the distinction. Be at work when you’re at work.
Conversely, ensure you permit yourself to shut work down completely when you’re done for the day. Sometimes time-sensitive projects can have you working longer hours but remember to step away. This provides you with the recharging time you need to maintain your productivity over the longer term.
Feeling lonely can have a profoundly negative effect on your productivity. It can make you feel depressed, reduce your motivation and leave you feeling less confident and less alert. Here are a few things you can try to alleviate loneliness while working from home:
- Find your own water cooler. Message your friends or coworkers through a platform like Slack. The most productive teams are always the most connected.
- Call a friend
- Get a dog. Animals in the office can stave off loneliness and boost productivity. They will reduce stress.
- Leave the house. Work from your local coffee shop or in your backyard. Take a walk or meet friends for lunch. Take time for yourself.
To-do lists are highly underrated. Create a revolving priority list and don’t forget to cross out or check off the work you finish. It will help you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Create and Stick to a Schedule
Schedules are a necessity for remote workers. While your time may seem more flexible and it often is, without a plan, you may find yourself at the end of the week with little or nothing accomplished. Schedule in everything: breaks, calls, meetings and your to-do list.
Select the Proper Tools
If your budget allows, spend the money to purchase both software and hardware that will make your work easier, more efficient or more comfortable. This could include anything from an ergonomic chair to a second screen to the latest version of a critical app. Take advantage of any company-provided funding for setting up your home office.
Find what works best for you
Working from home has tremendous benefits. If your productivity levels have you longing for the office, take the time to assess your situation. Figure out what is dragging your productivity down and address it.