When talking about the effects working from home has on employees’ productivity, the first bet someone would have is to assume that remote employees are less productive. False.
Remote work is actually increasing people’s productivity at work and performance. On average, remote workers spend 1.4 more days on productive activities than in-office employees.
We all struggle to keep a balance between work and the rest of our lives sometimes. And recently turned remote workers have it harder.
With the unforeseen changes going on in the workspace, few companies got enough time to prepare their resources and strengthen their mentality. As a consequence, most employees are facing the hurdles of remote work alone. From their homes, their basement office, or kitchen table.
To take this responsibility off of you, I’ve put together this brief guide with the only (but oh so essential!) 7 tips on how to be productive working from home.
Create a schedule and stick to it
The number one remote work tip I always recommend first if you want to step up your productivity game is to have a set schedule. Just like you would for an on-site job. This might seem like an easy thing to achieve, but once you’re faced with so much time to manage on your own, things get tricky.
Many fully-distributed companies have a specific schedule similar to your classic 9-to-5. Or, at least a time zone you need to be working on so you’re available for meetings and important updates you have to make. If you’ve got a bit more control over how you spend your workday, though, you need to manage every single second on your own.
Without a fixed timetable to follow in detail, you’ll find yourself postponing work for several days until it’s too late for you to reach a deadline on time. Luckily, you probably already know when your most productive hours of a day are.
You might feel like you’re at your top creativity level in the morning and not able to put in any analytical work after noon. Or you could be a night owl who’d rather do all work in the evening towards midnight.
Every single person is different in this sense. I, for instance, prefer to just take care of all work and finish early. Other people take a break every single hour.
Not sure what works best for you? Test different time-tracking methods for 2-3 weeks. Note down your performance during each day to choose the schedule pattern when you’re the most efficient.
Take breaks – It’s as simple as that!
Whatever your mind’s rhythm dictates, remember to schedule breaks evenly too. One option would be to divide your time into chunks of 2 hours dedicated solely to work, each chunk followed by a 1-hour break. If your company allows it, you can even go all in and take whole days off, working just 4 days/week instead.
You can even take time off when you don’t feel like you need it to unwind and not end up burning out. The end result of your work will also have to suffer. Nobody wants to find themselves having to re-do work indefinitely just because they wanted to finish a task faster.
Without noticing it, breaks clear our mind, keep us focused, and boost our creativity. That’s why some of our best ideas come to us in the morning or after longer periods of chill time or meditation.
The catch here is not to fall behind with work because you’ve decided to spend 3 days watching your favorite TV show. Consistent prolonged periods of inactivity at work will make you subconsciously get used to this way of spending time and think you can get away with not doing much at work. But as always, bad time management = bad results.
Learn to prioritize your time
This is the kind of tip on how to be more productive while working from home that would make some people roll their eyes.
“Of course, I know how to prioritize my tasks.” ?
The truth is that few of us actually know how to get our activities in order and feel like we have enough time to do it all. Reddit is full of threads like:
“I don’t know how to prioritize my time.”
“How do you know what tasks to prioritize?”
“Which of my tasks should I prioritize?”
People are just desperate to get their activities organized. We’ve run over a couple of the best time and task prioritization techniques before like the 80/20 principle or the rule of 3.
If you’re short on time though, here’s the single best thing you can try first:
Start with the tasks you hate.
Leave admin tasks for later in the afternoon when you’re too tired to stay creative and alert. Don’t focus all your attention on meaningless tasks that don’t add up to your main goals. This will leave you with no energy or willingness to focus on the ones that truly matter.
To boost your productivity, just try this once and stick to it for a couple of days. Trust me, I hate this method, it’s hard to keep it up, but it works better than any other and it takes no time to implement.
Stay professional during video calls
You’d be surprised by how many distractions can come up during a single meeting. I can’t tell you enough about how much time is lost in meetings as team members discuss each other’s settings.
Video calling tools like Zoom have understood this problem and now provide an option for you to add in any image you want to the background. Just like a green screen so you won’t have to worry about your dogs playing in the background or a pile of clothes you didn’t get to put away.
The second biggest distraction that can completely ruin a conversation is any background noise. Not understanding or hearing your colleagues properly will only cause frustration, delays, and even canceled meetings.
A noise-canceling app like Krisp removes all background sounds and even allows you to mute the background noise for other call participants. So you don’t have to ask someone to repeat the same question twice or explain something again. ? This is also a good option for teachers, podcasters, or online instructors like me who are looking to deliver high-quality audio to listeners.
Keep an organized workspace
For some people, a cluttered desk just makes them grumpy.
Certain people prefer a minimalist workspace with a laptop and a mouse, others want a bunch of notes, candles, and photos of their loved ones. In both cases, though, it’s not exactly the clutter that stresses us out. It’s the feeling of not having everything in the right place.
You can find order in your chaos. So clutter is really what you define it. Here are a couple of general hands-on tips to keep your physical AND digital workspace clean:
- Don’t move your documents from one file to another once you’ve put everything in a clearly defined order
- Refrain from buying small knick-knacks you won’t be using like figurines, fake flowers, or other sparkly deco
- For all of you desktop users [guilty too ?️], divide your screen into 2-3 sections according to their purpose so you’ll know where to look for that important folder
- Go through your docs and images regularly and delete or archive the ones you won’t be using in the next month [or year if you’re daring]
- Remove distractions: even your phone ?
- All in all, keep your desk as empty as possible so it will also be easy for you to clean up without moving pounds of folders
Create strong boundaries between your work and personal life
This is currently the top issue people who work from home have and, frankly, there will always be times when you’ll have to maintain this balance. If you’ve been working from home for as little as 2 weeks you might have already noticed 2 key problems that bug all of us:
- Your family thinks you’re always available to go shopping or have a 2-hour chat
- You find yourself working overtime without realizing it
For the first point, the solution is fairly easy:
Get yourself a dedicated workspace in the house
People have gone as far as to use their basement but, hey, whatever works for you. ? Add a note to your “office”’s door to let your kids know when you’re in meetings and when they can reach out to you.
If you regularly work more than you would at the office, well, that’s normal and the solutions are definite but temporary. One of the reasons remote employees are more productive is because they don’t have the distractions of an office where a meeting can be called every hour or someone stops you for a chit-chat. At home, you’re alone with the laptop. Provided you get rid of potential time wasters, you’ll find yourself getting caught up with work and losing track of time occasionally.
Beyond this, the mere fact that you’re working from the same place you spend the rest of the day confuses your mind. This ultimately makes you think it’s ok to check another email or write some more code. Even call up a one-on-one meeting 3 hours after work is officially done.
Free up space in your mind too
Getting rid of your work-related worries and ideas when you’re just cooking dinner or talking to your family is never going to happen.
The human mind is a very free space. So it’s difficult to control it.
Instead, for remote work productivity, you need to eliminate physical work cues that will entice you to do 2 more hours of desk work:
- Put your laptop away
- Close your work-related tabs [I do this and it does wonders to my sanity]
- Turn off email notifications after 5pm
- Or just lock up all work in the office
Become a master digital app user
Some days you just won’t feel like putting in any work or you might notice you’re slower than usual. No worries, though. All of us feel this way at some point.
The solution to staying productive while working from home?
Turn to digital tools to do part of your work. They are literally the robots of the present who will save you hours of work. ? Every single day.
I, for example, use speech to text apps to dictate my articles whenever I feel distracted by other issues. This helps me finish my work in half the usual time because I don’t spend time editing every single sentence as I write it and lose my ideas along the way.
The biggest advantage to using digital solutions as your little helpers for how to be productive while working from home? They remove the stress of administrative work so you can focus your full attention on the tasks that require your creativity and skills.
People who are just starting to work from home are also noticing the power of video chat software. They’re testing multiple ones to see the fastest options where they won’t have any interruptions. Or they just go for a collaboration or project management app with a video calling feature. Slack has this video option too btw.
Check out our complete list of tools that can help you become more productive while working from home.
Key Takeaways On How To Be More Productive While Working From Home
Stop worrying about how you’re not at your top work productivity levels. It’s ok to take breaks as long as you stick to your plans and avoid postponing them.
Here’s a checklist with all things you need to plan in order to be more productive while working from your own home:
- Maintain a schedule and follow it rigorously
- Incorporate regular breaks into your schedule
- Prioritize your tasks and implicitly, your time
- Stay professional during calls
- Re-organize your desk
- Set boundaries between work and the rest of your day
- Turn to digital tools when a task becomes a burden
Got more work from home tips to share with fellow remote workers? Let us know on Twitter!