Work From Home: Establish a Productive Work Environment From Day One

work from home

According to 2011 statistics, 51.6% of businesses in the U.S. are home-based. Economic shifts in the years since have likely made that number higher.

Plus, many established companies are now allowing employees to work from home. In 2016, 3.7 million employees reported working from home for at least half the week.

To some, the chance to work at home is a dream come true. But there are challenges, including how to stay productive.

How To Be Productive When You Work From Home

The greatest threat to productivity when working at home is distraction. Without the structure of an office, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong kinds of activities.

Here are some tips to help you stay focused:

Know Yourself

Is your attention to detail sharper before or after lunch? Do short breaks refresh you more than an hour-long lunch? Do you love working with numbers and loathe writing emails?

Identify your unique work rhythms, style, and patterns. Armed with those insights, you can make full use of your strengths and reduce distractions.

Create a Schedule

You know the business adage “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”? It applies to time, too. A schedule is a plan for your time.

Without a schedule to guide your day, you risk falling prey to “shiny objects”. You can also end up doing the work you like, which isn’t always the work you need to do.

The key to creating a good schedule is to be realistic.

  • Establish a standard start time that you can commit to daily. Start time means sitting at your desk, ready to work.
  • Establish what “end of day” means to you. Be consistent. This will help friends and family know when they can expect you to be off the clock.
  • Don’t plan to multi-task. There’s mounting evidence that trying to do more than one thing at a time leads to inefficiency and fatigue. Instead of putting 10 items on your To Do list, identify the 1-3 things you must do that day and get them done.
  • Allow for transitions. Even when you focus on one task at a time, your brain needs 5-10 minutes to “change gears” before it can focus on the next task.
  • Keep work and personal tasks as separate as possible. Some personal tasks are unavoidable during the day when you work from home. Like walking the dog. But any that aren’t time sensitive should be saved for after hours, like if you worked at the office.

Like any plan, you’ll need to adjust your schedule as circumstances change. That’s okay. Just make sure to not give up on a schedule altogether.

Set Boundaries

It’s a strange phenomenon. People who would never expect to chit-chat if they called you at the office, think you talk for 30 minutes when you work from home. And if there are other people at home while you’re working, they may want to spend time with you.

The sooner you set boundaries with friends and family, the better. Let them know your regular working hours. Discuss the definition of “emergency”.

It can also be difficult for colleagues to know when to call or instant message to discuss a project. One way to stay in touch without disrupting your day is to establish a regular block of time for conversations. Or, if you’re on a shared network, use technology to show that you can’t be disturbed.

Create Dedicated Space

You wouldn’t expect to work at the lunchroom table at the office. So why would it be okay to use the kitchen table as a desk when you work from home?

Establishing a dedicated space where you work has several benefits:

  • No wasting time to set up your workspace every day.
  • It’s easier to separate work and personal tasks.
  • It tells those around you that your work is serious.
  • It can give you more privacy.

Get Out of Your PJs

No one says you have to wear your finest business attire at home. But you should dress to be able to step out for a coffee meeting on a moment’s notice.

Getting dressed for work each morning helps you get into a productive mindset. It helps your mind recognize it’s a work day and there’s work to do.

Do you have a work-at-home productivity tip to share? Use the comment box below to tell us about it!