Working from home is no longer something people only do after hours. More than 43% of Americans work from home occasionally, according to a recent survey from Gallup, and that number is set to increase with each coming year.
While working from home is convenient, I’ve worked from home for the better part of a decade and I know how hard it can be to get and stay productive. I also know that it is possible to get work done when the house is a mess, the kitchen sink is full, and your neighbors’ kids are screaming out front.
If you’re struggling to get work done at home, check out my best tried-and-true tips for being productive when you work from home.
Create morning and evening routines
One of my favorite parts of working at home is the lack of structure. I’m not bound to an office, and I can set my own hours. However, a lack of structure is often the enemy of productivity, and if I’m not careful, I’ll bounce from one room to the next and get very little productive work done.
The same is true for evenings. There’s no ‘leaving the office’ when you work from home. Shutting down the computer and taking a break is often just as challenging.
The only way to combat this is to set boundaries and get moving with routines. For example, decide what your average day looks like. If you don’t like waking up early, perhaps your day starts at 10am and lasts until 6pm. You get to decide, but the key is to set a routine in place and stick with it.
At the end of the day, make dinner time your end time and put your computer in another room. Even if you have nothing else to do, you will burn out if you work 12-hour days every day. I’ve done it, and my work from home friends have done it, but it is avoidable if you set boundaries and give yourself time to decompress as if you’ve left the office.
Rely on your team
When you’re working remotely, checking in with your team or manager is the perfect way to hold yourself accountable for getting work done. For example, check in with your manager or coworker when you sit down with your coffee in the morning — now they know you’re at your computer and will expect you to be replying to messages and chats. You can also use this time to say hi to coworkers, check group messages, and get caught up, which can help motivate you to get started.
If you’re struggling to finish a project, I find a burst of fresh energy always helps. Since you can’t go to your coworker’s desk to get that fresh energy, hop on a video call for brainstorming or to get feedback. Sometimes a little inspiration or outside perspective is all you need to get moving when you’re in a rut or working through a problem. If you don’t have a video tool of choice, check out Prezi Video, which can be used for real-time calls and to record messages that can be sent later.
One of the most important tips for staying productive when working from home is simple: remove distractions. You’re no longer distracted by coworkers and coffee talk, but house chores, the FedEx guy, and your friend asking you for help with something.
That’s why you need to limit distractions as much as possible, and luckily, much of that is within your control when you’re working from home. In 5 Strategies for a More Productive Workday, I shared a few of my best tips for keeping distractions at bay:
- When working on a project, use the “Do not disturb” mode on your company communication platform.
- Use an app to silence your phone for certain hours of the day or lock social media apps.
- Close the email application or browser tab when working on a project so you’re not tempted to answer emails as they come in.
With fewer apps beeping and less notifications popping up on your screen, you can get focused and have a more productive workday.
Just like in an office, you need to move around during the day. Pair this with the Pomodoro Technique to not only keep your body and mind active, but to program productivity right into your workday. The Pomodoro Technique is simple: Work for 25 minutes, take a break. Work for 25 minutes, take a break — and repeat.
But, instead of taking a break to look at your phone, take a movement break. Walk around the house. Stretch in your living room. Do 10 pushups. Whatever it is, the goal is to give your brain a break from work while moving your body to stimulate energy.
Stay productive when working from home
Productivity when you work from home is all about honesty, discipline, and figuring out what works for you. Use these suggestions to buckle down and get focused, whether you leave the house or silence your phone for a few hours. Find what works for you to ensure you’re getting work done every single day.
About Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency for mid-size B2B businesses outsourcing content marketing. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Score.org, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.