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Life, Work

How to ensure you’re working from home productively

The image shows somebody sat on the sofa with their laptop on their knee. They have their bare feet up in front of them. The image is meant to depict somebody casually working from home.

Working from home isn’t something I’d really given much thought to. I did it occasionally and I enjoyed it, as it gave me extra flexibility. However, when coronavirus hit, I soon realised that it was set to become a more permanent feature. So I had to work out a plan, to ensure I was working from home productively. Here are 4 things that helped me.

1) Nailing my working-from-home strategy

What will your working hours be? What meetings are scheduled? When do you plan to break? These are important things to plan so that you control your day. If you don’t, your day will control you.  

I also find that if I don’t make a list of the things that I will achieve by the end of the day, then my productivity levels drop. By having a list of items I will complete, I find that I’m motivated to get to the end of my list. For me, this is a much more successful tactic than listing everything I have to do. By selecting the things I will complete by the end of the day, I am making a commitment to myself. A commitment that I usually fulfil. 

You should also have set break times. You will need to eat, you’ll need to stretch your legs and you might want to catch up on last night’s episode of Coronation Street. Those things are allowed and by breaking from work, I find that I’m more productive in the afternoon.

2) Making the most of my work space

We are lucky because we have a home office, but up until recently this was my partner’s domain. I didn’t mind though, as I was happy working from the dining-room table. However, when I realised that working from home was going to become a more permanent fixture, I decided to to claim some office space for myself.

I’m very lucky as my partner is a techie and he gave me a large monitor to use alongside my laptop. This made working more comfortable, but I know that’s not an option for everybody. Will your IT department let you take additional equipment home? It’s worth asking.

I’d also recommend that you invest in some stationery and desk items to make yourself more comfortable. I have a wrist rest below my keyboard and a mouse mat. I also have a plant on my desk and a picture of my son; these items make my work space a more pleasant place to frequent. 

If I work in the home office, then I also find that it’s easier to switch off after work, as I shut the office door and forgot about it. This is much better for my mindset than having work infringe on my leisure time, which often happened when I worked in the living room. Having a physical barrier between work and home life really helps me. 

Obviously not everybody has a home office. So is there another area of the house that you could work in? What about the spare room? Or in the conservatory? In my experience, my working-from-home productively increases when I’m in an area of the house that I don’t usually spend a lot of time in.

3) Setting boundaries

If you do work in a shared space like the living room, then you’ll need to let those you live with know when you’re working. You should also politely ask them to keep distractions to a minimum. 

If you don’t, when your other half spots you in the living room with your laptop, they’ll pop their head in for a chat and before you know it, you’re distracted. Of course working from home whilst kids are around is a whole different challenge, which I’m yet to find the magic formula to. But if your little ones are around, it’s probably advisable to avoid their usual haunts within the home. 

You need to set yourself some personal boundaries too. What is acceptable and what isn’t? You might think you can work with This Morning on in the background, but will that really increase your productivity? Maybe working from your bed feels like a perk, but how much will it slow you down? You should also make a decision about social media and personal smartphone time. Will your personal phone distract you throughout your working day? Or will you make a conscious decision to only use it when you’re breaking?

When I was working out how to be productive when working from home, I found that setting boundaries was a key aspect. Without boundaries, everything else fell apart.

4) Utilising technology

I tend to be a bit stuck in my ways and I often need a little push to get to grips with new technology. When I worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic I found that I embraced the technology that was at my fingertips. I did this because I had to, so I could successfully communicate. I didn’t fully utilise Microsoft Teams or Zoom before working from home became my new norm. But both of those tools bring a lot of value and they’re things I’ll continue to use when I go back to office life.

The image shows a woman in a white shirt with polka dots on it sat at a desk on a computer. There is a plant in the background. The text over the image reads: ‘4 ways to stay productive whilst working from home’.

Is it worth it?

When it comes to working from home productively, these are my four key cornerstones to success. In my opinion, if you make the effort to polish your strategy, to improve your workspace, to set boundaries and to utilise the technology you have, then you should really feel the benefits of working from home too.

Of course, there are other tips that you could incorporate to make the most out of working from home and you should always be trying to reduce your stress levels. It is possible to raise the productivity bar in your spare time too.

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