Doing work from home is a great way to avoid commute and distractions at the office place. Yet, many people still find that they cannot be productive at home. Working from home is different than working in the office.
Many productivity hacks you use in your office still do apply at home, but there are a few more that you need to apply at home.
The focus of this post is on specific productivity hacks you can use for working from home. I will not cover all generic productivity techniques in this post.
I have been working from home frequently over the past 5 years and have learned what works and what doesn’t work.
At the time of writing this post, we are amid the Covid-19 Virus pandemic. The majority of countries around the world are on lockdown.
As office buildings are closed, many are forced to work from home these days. This situation inspired me to share my experience working from home and help you be more productive.
In this post, I will discuss the challenges of working from home. I will reveal some work from home productivity myths I found around the internet. Finally, I will share 5 work from home productivity hacks that work.
Since you are reading this post, you might want to read these posts too:
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Working from home is different for everyone
First things first, I would like to acknowledge that working from home is different for everyone. Depending on your job and tasks, some of these work from home tips may apply while others might not.
Some of you might be working for a call center for instance, where working times are fixed. Others might have individual tasks that are project-based, which means your hours are flexible.
Nonetheless, the majority of us would be working with a team. This means that there will be at least some moments during the day that we will have fixed meetings and appointments.
The work from home productivity tips below are written from my own perspective. I worked in large multinational teams, where conference calls are the norm. I have also worked on individual projects without obligations to other team members.
This is what I learned over the last 5 years.
Work from home challenges
Let’s start by looking at what makes working from home challenging in comparison to working at an office. Most of you will probably not have a dedicated office room at home, which makes it more challenging.
But even having an office room doesn’t protect you from all the challenges.
There are many distractions around the house
If you seldom work from home, then you will notice that there are many distractions at home. There are those unfinished chores that will stare at you all day long as you try to focus on your work.
Checking supplies in the fridge will become your escape. There is no supervision of your manager or colleagues at home. Putting on a Netflix movie in the background can seem tempting.
Children and other household members
You might not be living on your own. If you have other household members such as housemates or a partner, it will be a challenge to avoid them.
After all, you are used to seeing each other only in the evenings briefly, and now all of a sudden, you get to spend all your time in the same house.
Children do not necessarily understand that you need to focus to do your work productively. Also, children do not have a good sense of time. If you ask them to let you work quietly for an hour, they’ll ask you every 5 minutes if an hour went by.
Depending on the age of the children, the challenge might be different.
At your office you might be used to have all the equipment to be ultra-productive.
You will miss your comfortable adjustable office chair, the large screen, and the big desk. Everything that your employer set up for you to be productive.
You might have to settle for a small corner on the dining table instead.
Lack of (physical) social interactions
Working from home all the time will make you miss the social interactions with colleagues. There is no chit-chat at the coffee machine. There is no bumping into a colleague you haven’t seen in a while on the way to the bathroom.
Your interactions will be limited to chat and calls with colleagues. While there are plenty of online tools to communicate, let’s be honest, it isn’t the same as physical interactions with others.
No clear boundaries between work and free time
As your home becomes your office, it may lose the feeling of being home or the other way around. You cannot leave work and go home.
This might mean that you keep checking your emails after your workday finishes. Or your workday drags longer.
You might start cooking in the kitchen with one hand and still write some last emails with your other hand. That makes you even more productive! Yeah, right…
Work from home productivity hacks myths
Here are some tips I found online over the last years. I tried them out and I asked others about their experience. These tips don’t make you more productive.
Get dressed as if you are going to work
Wear a suit to sit alone at home. Why would that make anyone more productive? You are at home and you finally get the chance to wear whatever you want. Just wear anything that is comfortable.
I am not saying you should spend all the time working at home not showered in your pajamas. But let’s be real, it doesn’t really matter what you wear.
It is good to get ready in the morning and change out of your pajamas. Then again that totally depends on the person.
There are people that are extremely productive working from bed with their pajamas on. It all depends on your preference.
In general, I wouldn’t say wearing the clothes you wear to work have any direct impact on your productivity.
Ditch your phone
Ditching your phone isn’t going to make you more productive. You have your phone at the office too, and you can get distracted by it just as much.
If you cannot keep from procrastinating on your phone, then you should ditch it also while you are at the office.
While working remotely, you might need your phone more than when you are in the office. Colleagues might need to reach you to discuss something.
Although many organizations have a chat system, people often fall back on Whats App to contact each other.
Ditch your phone if it always distracts you from work. Otherwise, use your phone at home just as you would at the office.
Don’t work in your bedroom
I have read this one in numerous articles. Is being so close to your bed making you sleepy? If you constantly have the urge to jump into bed, then you should get more sleep.
Changing your work location would not fix that.
What if you only have space in your bedroom to install a desk for yourself? I don’t see the problem. If your bedroom is large enough to include a desk in it, why not work from the bedroom?
Not everyone has the luxury of having a separate office room. If you have a separate room, that’s great! Yet, I assume the majority don’t have all that space at home.
If you live with others in the same house, your bedroom is probably your only private spot. It is better to be work in your bedroom than in the common areas where others could distract you.
Don’t do house chores
Well, this one really depends on which chores and how you do them. You should not start redecorating an entire room or building the new Ikea closet. Yet some smaller chores can be done in between your work.
For instance, doing the laundry doesn’t require much time. I like to do the laundry when working from home. I throw in a load of laundry. Once it’s done it takes me 10 minutes to hang it to dry.
This makes me feel even more productive as I score on personal house chores too during my workday.
I see it as a welcomed break from time to time. Taking a break regularly and in between tasks makes you more productive.
If you can do a chore that puts your mind off work for 10 minutes, it could actually make you more productive.
Productivity hacks to work from home
I started working from home more than 5 years ago. In the beginning, I was working on completing my master’s studies. While this is not an actual job, the same productivity hacks apply.
Later on, I went on to work at a multinational corporation where I would work from home 1-2 times a week on average.
I changed from working at home in a student flat with 3 housemates to working in my own apartment where I live my partner.
During our 1.5 years trip around the world, we often rented an Airbnb for a longer period where we would also work from home.
The productivity hacks below are based on my experience working from home on different projects in different environments over the last 5 years.
Get ready to work from home
Just because you don’t have to commute doesn’t mean you should start working 5 minutes after waking up. It is important to get ready to work.
Whether you work from home or at an office, your mind needs a bit of time to wake up and get ready for the day. Take the time to wash up, eat breakfast, read something, etc. See it as a sort of warm-up for the day.
Starting immediately from bed right after you wake up seems a bit hasty. You should rather plan your day and prepare mentally for it in the morning before starting.
Work from home with your energy
You might have heard it before. Rather than pushing yourself through tasks all day long, work with your energy. If you are more creative in the morning, do those creative tasks first.
Not being bound to a specific working time frame allows you to manage your tasks according to your energy levels.
Plan out your day in a way that you can match tasks to your energy level. Also be flexible to change things around if your energy on that day is different than usual.
There might be a certain pattern to how your energy is throughout the day, yet you are not a robot.
Be agile in case you feel differently on a particular day. The goal is to be productive and not to push through tasks against your will.
Keep a schedule
Keep to a working scheme with a limit to working hours. Create a schedule for yourself with some fixed breaks such as a lunch break.
Share your working hours with other members of your household and agree with them on those times. That way it is clear for everyone when you are busy and when you have free time.
This is especially important when you have kids in the house. Plan something nice with them for when you finish work. It will help them respect your working hours and not disturb you.
Create a workspace to work from home
If you have a room you can use, that’s great! Otherwise, find a spot in your house or apartment where you can sit and concentrate. It can be on the dining table or a desk in your room. As long as you are not distracted at that spot.
Having a dedicated workspace also sends a signal to other members of the household. It tells them that you are “at work” and they should not disturb you.
Being at home gives you the flexibility to choose between sitting at the desk, laying in bed, or sitting on the sofa. You can definitely switch between different spots throughout the day and according to different tasks. If you are more creative when laying down in bed, do your creative work there.
Nonetheless, keep one spot at home that is your workspace. A place that you can always go to to complete work.
Get some fresh air
The benefit of commuting to an office space is that you get to go outside the house. Working from home too many days in a row could become overwhelming. Make sure to go outside once in a while for some fresh air.
Whether it is to go to the gym, do shopping, or just take a walk. Leaving your house is essential to change things up a bit. You can take breaks in between your work tasks or at the end of your working day.
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Everyone can be productive working from home
While everyone has different circumstances at home, everyone can be productive working from home. Having children at home versus living alone is a totally different ball game.
It takes some time and experimenting to understand how you work best from home. But as you create a system for yourself to work from home, you might find that you are more productive at home than in the office.