Confession: I like coming into the office. I enjoy collaborating and laughing with my peers throughout the workday. I enjoy working across two screens. I enjoy having everything I need to make things happen all in one place. I enjoy being present when it’s time for my team to work together so that we reach a shared goal with successful results.
Nine times out of ten, I choose to work at the office rather than work from home.
Yet, there are circumstance that command me to work away from the office. There are medical appointments, meetings across town, illnesses, a nationwide epidemic.
Sometimes the choice where you work isn’t a choice.
Some days, you find yourself not on PTO and not in the office on a workday. How do you increase productivity when working from home so that you don’t get behind on your work?
It’s all about retaining old habits, eliminating distractions and committing to the job. Here are seven ways you can increase productivity when working from home.
Get Ready for the Day
The appeal of the WFH life is the fantasy of wearing pajamas all day and playing the TV in the background. Sure, you can swing that on a Saturday, but not during the week when you need to make things happen!
If you want to increase productivity when working from home, maintain the same I’m-going-to-the-office mindset. Sticking to your morning pre-work habits mentally prepares you for your upcoming workday.
In short, you have to approach walking over to your home workspace like you do arriving at the office. Would you go to the office wearing loungewear? Without shoes? Without showering?
Of course not. You’re a professional. You dress for success, no matter who can see your sharp style.
Keep the same morning get-ready-for-work routine as if you were going to leave your home for the office. Wear the same kind of clothes, brew the same amount of coffee, do the same safety checks around your place—then dive into your workday.
Set a Schedule
Work and home quickly blend together when work needs to happen at home. You may find yourself pressing snooze on your alarm and taking longer lunch breaks. Or, you may be the type of person who answers emails during breakfast and takes business calls during dinner.
Your work schedule shouldn’t stray simply because of a change in scenery. You can increase productivity when working from home by setting specific work hours for yourself, including when you’ll start, when you’ll take breaks and when you’ll wrap up for the day. Hold yourself to it by setting up your work calendar to better reflect your work hours. Inform co-workers about your decided work schedule so that you can stick more readily to your plan.
Isn’t it great that you can wash a load of laundry, do the dishes and sweep the floors while answering work emails and finishing up that project?
No. Because you’re not working. It’s physically impossible to do both.
It’s a WFH myth that you can catch up on home responsibilities while attending to workday tasks. You’re either working or doing chores. There’s no such thing as multi-tasking these two activities.
By the time you fold the last load of laundry, dry off the last dish and toss the last cluster of dust bunnies into the waste basket—you’ve lost hours of productive worktime.
It doesn’t take hours to fold a load of laundry, you may say. That’s true. But what about the time you lose to pause your work, go complete the chore, then sit back down resume that task with the same energy and focus as before? That momentum is lost because you chose to fold those towels hot out of the dryer.
To increase productivity when working from home, chores must happen before or after your set work schedule. Any compromising only compromises your workday productivity.
What about all your chores? By working from home, you can catch up on chores during the time you normally spend to commute to and from work. Win-win!
Track Tasks with a To-Do List
When you work at the office, you have tasks that need to be completed by the end of the day. Staying on task while working from your living room can be challenging, especially if you’re reliant on your supervisor for due date reminders or on your colleagues for creative collaboration.
It’s time to take ownership of your to-dos.
There’s more that needs to go into creating your to-do list to increase productivity when working from home:
- First, jot down everything that needs to be completed by the end of the day.
- Next, number each task or project in order of priority.
- As you complete a task, cross it off your to-do list or make a record of it within your project management tool.
- Before the day ends, create a to-do list for tomorrow that includes any task unable to be completed today.
Designate Several Workspaces
The home office isn’t like the actual office. And there’s good reason for that—your home space should have a corporate-less feel from room to room so that you can detach yourself from the day’s work. Even if you have a space in your home that’s set up just like your office at work, you may find yourself restless after sitting in that space for hours.
The solution? Move around your home to increase productivity when working from home. Decide where you should work next based on the next project. Would it be easier to sort papers across the kitchen table or draft up that proposal while curled up on the couch with your computer? Shifting home workspaces can shift your focus so that the task at hand reaches completion.
Work-Life Balance via Browsers
A lunch break, whether at work or at home, may include some internet searches, some social media feeds, some clickbait articles, some viral videos—all from your work laptop.
Opening another tab in the same browser to continue on with your workday is dangerous. Why? Chances are, curiosity will get the best of you. It only takes one click to dive down that rabbit hole of timewasters where nothing productive gets accomplished.
You can increase productivity when working from home by cutting out that distraction before it’s distracting. Designate one browser for work and another browser for lunch break browsing—and no, I don’t mean two windows of the same browser. Your work browser should feature bookmarks related to work activities as well as apps that promote productive behavior—anything else should be closed out during work hours.
Work for Rewards
When I know that I have a challenging workday ahead of me, I make a promise to myself. Self, I think, if you complete A, B and C at work and face your fears on D, then you can watch an episode of [insert awesome show title] tonight after work.
For me, that’s enough. For most people, probably not.
It’s amazing what you can achieve when there’s an enticing reward on the line. You can increase productivity when working from home by granting yourself a reward upon completing a task or a project. The reward can be something as simple as playing your favorite song or eating a snack. You can make being productive a positive decision by following it with a positive experience.