Working from home can be a welcome respite from the chaos of the office, except when new distractions await you there. If you’re struggling to get as much done as you’d like when you work from home, try one or more of the following nine tips to increase your productivity.
1. Make a morning routine.
Lazy mornings are great for weekends, but less so on work-from-home days. Create a little morning routine to help you wake up and jumpstart your body and brain. It probably doesn’t need to include every step of your regular workday morning: Most people don’t put on business formal clothes or makeup to work from home, and you won’t need to pack a lunch. But making coffee, eating breakfast, putting on regular clothes, brushing your teeth, etc. will all help you get ready for the day, even if you don’t plan to leave the house.
2. Set office hours.
Working from home can go one of two ways: Either you get so distracted by chores and the relaxing environment that you hardly get anything done, or you get so in the zone that you work for hours and hours without a break. To prevent this from happening, set work-from-home office hours for yourself—and stick to them.
For example, you might decide to work from home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour to eat lunch or run errands. Or if you have kids to drop off or pick up from school, you might want to shift your schedule earlier or later. Once the time comes to clock out, shut down your computer and return to your life.
3. Create a home office.
Not everyone has the space for a home office but creating a dedicated space rather than sitting on the couch all day will help you concentrate and feel like you’re going to work (at least on some level). A desk and an office chair are a good start, and, ideally, these will be located in a room other than your bedroom. It’s worth investing in a nice office chair to prevent back problems and encourage good posture, and you’ll also want necessary office supplies on hand since you won’t be able to run to the supply closet whenever you run out of something.
4. Get a standing desk.
Sitting all day can contribute to a whole host of health problems, including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. If you work from home a lot, it’s worth considering an investment in a standing desk. You can purchase a standing desk where a motor raises and lowers the top, or you can get a metal-and-plastic platform that sits on top of a regular desk and converts it to a standing desk. A standing desk will help you burn more calories and encourage you to be more active throughout the day.
5. Take walking breaks.
However, both standing and sitting all day can impede your circulation: In either position, gravity still pulls on your blood and other fluids, tugging them down toward your lower legs. Physical activity will help combat these effects. Whether you’re sitting or standing, try to get up every hour and walk for a few minutes. A couple of longer laps around the block if the weather is nice is also a good idea.
If you still struggle with lower leg swelling, elevating your legs at the end of the day for 15-20 minutes (combined with walking breaks) can help manage your symptoms.
6. Minimize distractions.
Many people use their work from home day as a way to get laundry, cooking or other chores done during the time they would normally spend commuting. This is a great way to get that time back, but just make sure these tasks don’t eat up too much of your workday. For example, if you’re doing laundry, sit down to work during the wash and dry cycles and only get up when the clothes are ready to be switched over.
7. Get out of the house.
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. If you’re feeling stuck or distracted, consider a change of environment. Coffee shops are popular choices, and so are bars and pubs if you want a different kind of beverage. Hotels and fancy gyms/sports clubs sometimes offer workspaces. Libraries are also great places to get a lot of work done (plus they’re free and quiet!). If you work remotely full-time, it might be worth it to get a membership at a nearby co-working space so you can be around other people in a similar work situation.
8. Use technology wisely.
Whether it’s email, phone, Slack, Skype for business or some other technology, you’ll need communication software to stay in touch with your coworkers. However, communication can quickly tip over into distraction if you do nothing but Slack each other funny GIFs all day. And, of course, there are plenty of other social media platforms to get lost in: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Log out of all non-essential websites and, if you’re still tempted to check them, set a timer for yourself so you have to get an hour of work done first before checking them.
9. Communicate with housemates.
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’ll be available all day. If you have a roommate, partner, children, babysitter or someone else you share your space with, let them know when you won’t be available, and give them a heads up about any important calls that you absolutely can’t be disturbed during. If you do have a separate office, this will help with setting boundaries because you can always shut the door to get some privacy.
These nine strategies will help you get your work-from-home days back on track. Be intentional about working from home, just like when you go into the office, and you’ll begin to see a difference.
Kaki Zell is the VP and co-owner of Ames Walker. After graduating from Virginia Tech she went on to work for Pepsi Co. for several years before joining the family business. When she’s not working or writing you can find her in the kitchen cooking healthy meals for her family or at the park training for a half marathon.
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