I have spent most of my adult life working in busy office environments. Then, a few years ago, I was given the opportunity to work at home one day a week. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands as it meant I didn’t have to travel 2 hours a day and I could be surrounded by my home comforts. At first this was a struggle and I found that I wasn’t as productive on these days as I should have been. I wish, at that stage, I was given some working from home tips like the ones I am going to share with you today. After a few tough weeks, I eventually got myself into a routine by making my home working day more similar to an office day.
Like many of us, I am now required to work at home full time and I am thankful that I had previous home working experience. If you are finding it hard to adjust to this new way of working then I am happy to share with you the changes I have made to make me more productive at home.
1. Set a routine
Try and settle on a routine similar to the one you had when you worked in an office. This starts with going to bed at your usual time and setting your alarm as normal. For your working day, set yourself a starting time, break times and a finishing time. If you don’t do this, you might find yourself in a slump pretty quickly. Starting at 9am might soon turn into 10am and before you know it you are staying in bed until lunch time!
Working at home might give you the chance to be more flexible with your hours and that is fine as long as you still work the same amount of hours as normal and stick to your routine.
After working from home for a while, you will soon be able identify periods of the day where you are more productive. Now that you may not be tied down to a 9-5 working day, you have an opportunity to get the most out of your day by changing your working hours. For me, getting up early and powering through until lunch-time works best. Because I don’t have to travel, I can start much earlier than normal. After lunch I feel my productivity levels fall. This has probably always been the case even when I worked in an office, but because I was working at office hours in a busy environment I just didn’t notice. Find out what works best for you and set yourself a routine accordingly.
2. Create a workspace
Sitting on your sofa with your laptop in your living room might not be the best environment for putting your work hat on. The TV remote is close by and slouching on your sofa might feel a bit like down time. It’s better to set up somewhere separate in the house that feels more like a workspace. A table and chair in your kitchen might be suitable. If you have a spare room you can use, even better.
An extra step, to make it feel more like a working environment, is to get dressed for work. That doesn’t mean you have to look out your best business suit, but getting out of your pyjamas is a must. Building a routine as close as possible to your normal office working day will keep you more focussed on your job.
3. Take a break
Having a different working routine may mean that you forget to take regular breaks throughout your day. Breaks, when home working, are just as important as office breaks. It’s essential to take your eyes off your computer screen as often as 5 to 10 minutes every hour. I step away from my computer at least twice before lunch and twice after. It’s often just to make a cup of tea and read the news. Or sometimes I do light exercise. You might also want to use this time to have a quick chat with your work colleagues or friends.
When working in an office, I would get up to stretch my legs several times a day. At home, this is equally as important. Every lunch-time, I go for a 20 to 30 minute walk outside. I hope to build this up to a jog or bike ride someday soon.
Additionally, I stop a few times a day to do light exercise in the house. This is sometimes just gentle stretching but often I will do some push ups or sit ups. Exercise is not just good for your physical health but also your mental well being. Creating healthy habits working from home will have a positive impact on your productivity.
5. Communicate with others
If you are used to working in a busy office, one thing you will probably miss at home is talking to your teammates. Bouncing ideas off other team members is an essential part of any job. Another important factor for keeping team spirit high is just having a chat with colleagues about non work related subjects. Your teammates might not be sitting next to you, but they can easily be contacted by phone or through one of your online team communication channels.
6. Set boundaries
Many of us are now in a situation where our entire family is working from home. This includes children who need help with school work or younger children who need even more attention. On top of that, you might have pets that need looked after. Everyone needs to be clear that you are working at home and it’s important that you have space to get on with your tasks. Of course you will have to set time aside for all of these other very important things but you need to set boundaries during the hours you are working.
The workspace you have created should be just for you during your working hours. You don’t want your children or pets coming in during your important Teams meeting with your boss! Remember your routine we discussed in point 1. Fit your other non working tasks around your routine.
7. Avoid distractions
If I am writing a long article for this blog, or doing anything that requires a lot of focus, I don’t want other things attracting my attention. Being surrounded by all of your home comforts means that there are plenty of distractions close by. Try and make a workspace with no television or video console. Turn off social media notifications or even leave your mobile phone in a separate room if possible. You can always check it out on your breaks.
8. Listen to music
Putting on your headphones and listening to music is, first and foremost, a great way to block out distractions. Many people working in busy offices do this anyway to help them focus when surrounded by noise. Working at home has its own possible distractions of course such as family members in the house, pets or the neighbours dog barking (this one I can vouch for).
A great way to help you focus on the task at hand is to listen to something that helps you concentrate or motivates you. For me, that is ambient or atmospheric pop. For others it might be heavy metal. I used to work with a guy who would just listen to white noise! If it works, it works!
9. Use helpful tools
There are a ton of amazing free online tools that will keep you organised and focussed when working from home. Probably the most important tool is one you can use for communicating with your team. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are two popular options for this and they both allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time. Teams also allows you to access your calendar, have separate Teams groups, instant messaging, file storage and sharing options.
For organising your workload you can use Todoist or Trello. Both allow you to set a schedule and it can send notifications to your mobile. Google Drive is an excellent free tool that allows you to store and share files. You may of course be restricted to applications used by your organisation. But these tools can still help compliment anything you already have in place.
10. Eat healthy snacks
This one isn’t necessarily exclusive to working at home. You should try and eat healthy snacks to get you through the working day no matter where you are. But you are probably more likely to grab something unhealthy from the cupboard or fridge if you are at home with nobody watching you.
I know from my experience that I would always take fruit with me to the office, but at home I am more likely to go for the biscuit tin. Healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and eggs can boost your productivity. Processed, sugary or heavy carb foods can have an adverse effect. Remember that you are much less active at home than you would be in the office. So, along with having exercise breaks, try and have a diet that will keep you on top of your game.
Adjusting to working from home can be difficult at first. You can fall into bad habits pretty quickly if you are not careful. Hopefully my working from home tips will help you be as productive as possible at home. These steps have certainly worked for me, but it’s important that you take this advice and shape it into your own routine that works for you.