Working from home offers so many benefits, to companies and employees. Companies are seeing the cost savings and now have home working policies that allow their employees to work either full-time, part-time or casually from home.
Employees enjoy the flexibility, the quiet and comfort of your own home office, and the time and financial savings by eliminating a daily commute. These benefits were enough for me to stick with it for more than 12 years now.
I’ve worked from home during my Corporate Human Resources career in a Fortune 200 company, and more recently as a business owner and professional coach. Two very different environments for sure, but I’ve learned more than a few strategies to stay productive while maximizing work time with personal time, to get the best out of my professional life.
Here are 6 ways you can be more productive while working from home:
1. Pretend you’re not at home to minimize distractions. This was easy for me because I had the experience of working in a traditional office setting for years. But even if you’ve always worked from home it’s simple to avoid distractions by acting like you’re not at home.
That means not answering the door when someone is knocking, not putting the TV on (even on your lunch break, binge watching is real folks), and not cleaning the house during business hours. Stay focused on your work tasks. Have a dedicated office area, with a door, especially if you live with others (spouse, kids, or roommates) that will be at home while you’re working. You might miss a few things by pretending you’re not at home, but they’re most likely not important, and you’d miss them if you really were working in a traditional office building.
2. Work during your hours of peak productivity. Everyone has a particular time of day where they are most productive – we aren’t machines made to work 8 or more hours with the same level of productivity.
Pay attention to your energy levels and work output during the day and figure out what time of day it’s the best for you. Then schedule your most important, high priority items for that same time.
For some people, including me, the morning hours are when they can really crank out the deliverables or be most creative if that’s what’s required for their work. And they’ll schedule less demanding items like staff meetings, returning phone calls or working on email for the afternoon. Others tend to do better in the afternoon or evening hours, and if they have the autonomy and flexibility in their work schedules like a business owner, writer, or artist may, will start their work in the late morning or afternoon.
3. Pick a time that is your official end of the workday, just like you would leave the office to go home in a traditional office. When working from home, it’s easy for you to think you have all day to do your tasks, or to carry them over into the evening if you have no other plans that night. This could lead to procrastination and not getting things done in a focused and timely manner. If you don’t have an end to your workday, you’ll find yourself working all the time just because you can.
Separating your work and personal life prevents overworking and the burnout that is so prevalent these days. During my HR career, and even now as a coach, I see how work-related burnout can lead to job dissatisfaction and health issues – very quickly and in many cases without realizing how harmful it is until you’re in the hospital with a serious health condition.
4. Shower and get dressed. During my time working in Corporate, we used to joke about people working from home staying in their pajamas all day or working from their comfortable bed. In fact, I really think some people were doing that, to their own detriment. Having a morning routine that includes showering and getting dressed puts you in the right state of mind for getting work tasks done.
5. Keep friends away during work hours. It sounds like obvious advice, but can easily become a problem if you don’t set boundaries and expectations with friends from the beginning. When I worked from home I had friends that either weren’t working for various reasons, or had different work schedules than me, and inevitably wanted to make plans during a workday to have lunch or visit. They thought I was home and available, not home and busy working.
Again, treat this situation as if you were working from a traditional office. Don’t invite friends over to your home during work hours – would you invite them to your office building while working? Instead, go out to lunch at a restaurant and keep it to an hour or less, knowing you have to be back to work on time.
6. Plan, plan, plan. By planning everything out, things like your lunch breaks, email time, or prep time for a meeting, you don’t overcommit yourself and still have time to get your tasks done throughout the day. Be sure to share your schedule with your coworkers where needed, so they know when you’ll be available and when you’re not going to be reachable.
One summer, in my teens I worked in a medical doctor’s office and quickly learned about planning your schedule, sticking to it, and setting expectations with coworkers and patients. The doctor’s schedule was all planned out, with appointments during specific hours, specific times he would call the pharmacy and the times he would return patient calls. So if a patient needed to speak to him, it was communicated to them when he’d be returning calls so they could make it a priority to be available then.
If you are fortunate enough to work from home be sure to implement one or more of the above strategies to increase your productivity and have a more fulfilling work life.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash