Many people associate working from home with staying in pajamas and goofing off online all day. But this study by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom shows that employees randomly assigned to work from home were 13.5% more productive and half as likely to quit. Maybe you are one of the roughly 3.6 million Americans who work from home and have found its benefits. Or maybe you like the idea of working from home but need some practical tips on improving your productivity.
For the past 5 years, I’ve worked out of my home full-time as the owner of a marketing company. For 4 years before that, I worked out of my home part-time. Over these years, I’ve tried out and picked up tips on how to stay productive while working from home.
Here are eight of my tried-and-true productivity tips for working from home:
1. Separate Work and Home
Don’t set up your office in your bedroom. When you sleep, you don’t want to be thinking about work. Have a separate “office” space if you can. Get a screen to partition off a section of your room for your desk if you have to. Keep your work space out of sight on “non-work” days so you can rest properly and truly unwind. Resting well actually helps you be more productive when you get back to working.
2. Set “Office Hours”
Working from home gives you flexibility, which is both great and not-so-great. For me, I set my regular work hours as 9-5 with a 1-hour lunch break. This provides consistency and a regular rhythm. It also takes away the extra decision of when to start work every day. My work start time is not based on how I feel on any given morning.
3. Find a Work/Rest Rhythm that Works Best for You
I found that I became more productive after adopting this rhythm of working 52 minutes followed by resting 17 minutes (from this article).
During the 17 minute break, find something relaxing to do. For me, it could be eating a snack, playing with my kids, or warming up by washing dishes (our home office tends to be cold). When I’m feeling particularly sluggish, I’ll go for a walk to boost circulation and get some fresh air.
4. Find a Work/Meeting Rhythm that Works Best for You
I have a friend who likes to get all her correspondence, meetings, and phone calls done in the morning so she can focus on producing work in the afternoons. I’m the opposite. My best time to concentrate on hard projects is the morning, so I almost always schedule my meetings in the afternoons. Since my work consists of about 50% meetings and 50% desk work and I’m the type of person who cannot sit at a desk and work alone for long amounts of time, I need to schedule in some variety into my weeks. My wife, on the other hand, is happy to spend days and days working at home alone with no need to socialize. My ideal week would look like:
- Monday: Work from home
- Tuesday: Morning – work from home; Afternoon – meetings
- Wednesday: Work from home
- Thursday: Meetings
- Friday: Morning – work from home; Afternoon – meetings
Think about when you’re best suited for which type of work and try to arrange your schedule to maximize on that.
5. Change into Work Clothes
I never work in my pajamas. The clothes I wear reflect on my mental space. Changing into work clothes helps me get into work mode.
6. Invest in a Good Workstation
Get a good, supportive chair. Or, if you’re like my wife who finds it easier on her lower back, get a good exercise ball to sit on. Be mindful of the ergonomics of your workstation. Be kind to your body so that you can work without getting a sore back, neck, or straining your wrists. Energy not spent dealing with pain is energy you can use to be more productive.
7. Keep Your Work Space Organized
Less clutter means you’ll be able to jump right in first thing in the morning. Also, a neat work space makes it more enjoyable to “go to work” every day. Not to mention, you’ll be able to find stuff that you need more quickly, which makes you more productive.
8. Switch It Up
If you find yourself not being able to concentrate or getting distracted, switch it up. Go to a coffee shop or the library. Sometimes changing environments helps, even if it takes a little extra time to get to a new location. For me, if it’s a nice day, I might head outside to my backyard to work. I’ve also been known to work at the beach on occasion.
Extra tip: Always make sure you’re working in a comfortable set up.
If you’re sensitive to noise, find a quiet spot. If you need background hum, find a bustling coffee shop. Make sure you have a supportive chair and bring a laptop stand with you to prevent sore neck, shoulders, and back from “laptop hunch.” For every inch your head leans forward, you add 10-12 lbs of strain on your body. I was privileged to work with my friend in developing the Veego Stand – an ultra-light, thin, easy to setup laptop stand that attaches to your laptop so you’ll never forget to bring it with you. It’s available on Kickstarter now until Nov 30.
Working from home can feel like the best of both worlds. You get the comfort and familiarity of home while skipping the traffic, AND you get to work. Hopefully with these tips, you can be even more productive.