The phenomenon of having so many employees working from home has shown the world that remote work is a viable business model. Some estimates put the percentage as high as seven out of every ten people are currently working from home. The flip side of that coin is the toll that being ‘Always On’ at home takes on these employees.
If you’re working at home and driving yourself to grind through mountains of work because you feel that’s the only way to be productive, think again. The mindset of working from morning till bedtime every day can not only damage your mental health, it actually reduces your overall productivity and the quality of your work. Here is the ultimate guide to staying productive (and sane) while working from home.
Take Breaks For Goodness Sakes
“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.” – Doe Zantamata
Think about a normal office schedule. You get to work at 8 AM, take a break at 10, have an hour lunch at noon, another short break at 2, and you leave at 5. The rest of the day after that is yours! Breaks are so important that the US Department of Labor actually mandates that employers have to provide a break schedule for their employees.
Working from home has thrown that to the wind, however. In a remote work environment, you’re able to step away from your computer and return to it as you need to, so breaks are not mandated or structured the way they are in a typical office environment. In most cases, it is up to you as an employee to determine your own schedule.
The big drawback many remote workers are finding is that they are plugging in as soon as they get up and never leaving their computers till they are too exhausted to do anything more. Then they start over again the next day, an endless cycle of shifting between work and sleep.
That kind of drudgery takes the potential benefits of working from home and smashes them to pieces. It also takes on a ‘quantity over quality’ vibe, which can reduce your creativity and lower your productivity, perpetuating the feeling that you need to stay at it to get more done.
Stepping away from your computer a few times throughout your day can actually help you get more done in less time. Small pockets of calm allow your brain to recharge and come back better able to focus and produce excellent work.
Here are some guidelines you can use:
- Every hour and a half or so (no more than two hours) take a 15-minute break. Go get some tea or coffee, maybe a light snack. Check-in with your loved ones, either by text or walking into another room as the case may be.
- Give yourself an actual lunch break. Leave your workspace to eat. Stepping outside if possible can be extremely beneficial.
- Have fun evening activities planned. It helps you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you get a reward at the end of your day. Even if it’s just chilling with Netflix, you need to allow yourself to unwind and have space between work and sleep.
Giving yourself breaks is essential for staying productive without letting work eat away your life. If you want working at home to work for you, avoiding burnout should be your top priority!
Prioritize Your Day
Many people waste their ‘best and brightest’ hours responding to emails and communicating first thing in the morning because they want to get it done and out of the way. You are the most alert, creative, and productive at the beginning of your day, so plan accordingly.
- Respond to only the most urgent communiqués first to get those off your brain.
- Dive into the work that requires the most creativity and focus next.
- Save busy work for the end of the day.
- Set blocks of time for clearing your inbox. Right after lunch is a great time to dedicate to returning non-urgent emails. It lets you ease back into work after your break.
- If possible, schedule Zoom meetings and other virtual events for early afternoon. This lets you get a chunk of work done beforehand so you don’t feel like meetings have sucked away your whole day before you get anything accomplished.
- Be realistic with yourself. If you expect yourself to get more done in a day than is actually feasible, you’ll feel perpetually defeated and behind.
- Be consistent. Obviously, things will arise at home, phones will ring, dogs will bark, people will knock on your door… but it’s important to try and keep to a consistent schedule despite the interruptions.
- Make lists to stay organized so you don’t forget things your coworkers or supervisor have asked you to do.
Optimize Your Workspace(s)
Your home office environment plays a huge part in how productive you are. Having a clean, quiet, organized space in which to work can help you get through your work faster. The fewer distractions you have, the better.
Whatever space you have set up for your home office, whether it’s a separate room or a corner of your bedroom or living room, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Have it as closed off from the rest of your home as possible, either with a door that can be closed, a curtain, room divider, etc.
- Bring in some greenery! A small potted plant or two can help the area have a relaxing feel. Nature elements are very calming.
- If you don’t need it for work, don’t keep it on your desk. It’s difficult to stay focused when you have a pile of mail or that craft project you started last week staring at you while you’re working.
- Despite that last tip, there is such a thing as good clutter. If you have a candle, vase, or other decorative items that make you happy and bring calm to your life, by all means, use them to decorate your office. (Just make sure to keep it to a minimum so it doesn’t make working difficult)
- If possible, place your desk near a window. Natural light is helpful for reducing eye strain and keeping your energy levels up. Having a change of scenery throughout your day can help you stay energized and productive as well.
Depending on the natural ebb and flow of activity in your home, you can take your laptop to the kitchen table for an hour or two, or go sit on your back porch outside to do a little bit of work.
Don’t feel like you’re chained to your desk. Moving around and having different things to look at during the day can help your brain stay alert, which will increase your productivity.
Dress For The Day
When some people think of working from home, they picture sitting on the couch in their PJs with their laptops. While it’s OK every now and then to have a pajama day, in general, you’ll feel better and be more productive if you dress for your day.
This doesn’t mean you need to dress in a suit or other business attire to work in your home like if you were going to an office. Having actual clothes (not pajamas or other loungewear) on while you’re working sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to get to business and focus.
This can give you a huge boost to your productivity! It also helps to be ‘Zoom ready’ so if an emergency meeting gets called, you’re not scrambling to get yourself together. I’m speaking from experience on this one, believe me…
Putting It All Together
Here are a few more things to keep in mind working from home:
- Eye strain is a real problem. Follow the 20/20/20 rule to make things easy on your eyes. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Put your phone on ‘Do not disturb.’ You can customize this so your family can get through, but you want to reduce the number of distractions as much as possible.
- Set up a Gmail that is solely for work purposes, even if you have an email on your company’s system.
- Have a conversation with your household members and friends about respecting your work time. Let them know this is just like if you were working outside of your home. Set boundaries and expectations and hold them accountable.
Being able to work from home was my dream for many years, so I was overjoyed when I found my place here at $99 Social. While figuring all this out hasn’t always been a smooth ride, it works for me, and it can work for you too!
If you’re looking for your own work at home opportunity, we are always looking for fabulous content writers! That’s how I got started, so give it a try and you can experience the freedom that working from home brings! Apply right here if this sounds like what you’ve been looking for.