Working from home can be convenient, but it may not always be the most productive environment. This has long been a point of contention among proponents and critics of flexible work schedules.
In an attempt to settle the debate, numerous studies have been conducted in the last five years to gauge at-home productivity levels. Most of those studies have shown that with certain jobs and the right mindset (i.e. discipline) working from home can actually boost productivity. Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom conducted one of the most widely sourced studies. He found that employees who began working from home were more productive than they had been in the office.
Mr. Bloom also made another interesting discovery. He found that at-home workers had higher job satisfaction. Happiness on the job has been connected to productivity in other studies, which may be a factor for at-home workers.
In the first of a three-part series on productive work environments, we recognize that working from home is the new norm for many of us. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of tips to help entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers and employees maximize the productivity of their at-home office.
Establish a Dedicated, Distraction-Free Workspace
The ONE Thing that will make the biggest impact on productivity is your workspace. If it’s full of distractions staying productive is going to be an uphill battle. The same holds true at a traditional office. To avoid distractions, pick a spot in your home that’s as far from the everyday action as possible. That means avoiding areas around the kitchen or living room where other people congregate. Preferably, the space will have a door you can close and remove yourself from the day-to-day home-life bustle. Next, remove anything that could be a distractor – TVs, video games, pets, and books all fall into this category. Finally, create a ‘Work in Progress’ sign. It should be clear to others in the house that you are working and should not be bothered.
Distractions are going to happen, but the goal is to minimize them as much as possible by proactively heading them off.
Make Your Workspace a Place You Can Work
Now that the distractions are gone it’s time to work. But do you have what you need to get the job done? Productivity master Casey Neistat knows exactly how to create a workspace that is focused on work. Every inch of his workspace is designed with purpose and puts everything he needs within easy reach.
Not having easy access to what you need is an immediate productivity buster. Time spent looking for supplies, documents and tools is time wasted. Think about every possible thing you could need for your job and keep a running list of supplies handy. Next, organize everything in an intuitive way both on your desk and on your computer.
Eliminate Distractions on Your Devices
Without the possibility of anyone looking over your shoulder or popping by your office it’s much easier to give in to device distractions. Head the problem off by eliminating the distractions before you start working.
Turn off the notifications for all the apps on your phone and tablet. If they continue to beckon you, consider keeping these devices out of the office entirely while you’re working. You can check for calls and messages during breaks.
Eliminating distractions on your computer can be a little more challenging. Fortunately, this is an issue that hasn’t escaped developers. They have created a variety of apps, tools and settings that keep people focused when they’re in front of the screen.
- When using a word processor or program put it in full screen mode if possible. That way all you can see is the document you are working on.
- Download an app that will hide menus and toolbars.
- Apps like Backdrop can also help you hide other applications and your desktop when you need to focus on a task but don’t want to shut everything down.
- Block notifications so you won’t get messages while in the middle of your work.
- Consider using Google Chrome for your browser if you use Windows. Google Chrome will allow you to turn an individual website into a stand-alone app. That way you aren’t tempted to open a new web page when you’re online. Mac users can do something similar using the app Fluid.
Establish Regular Work Hours
We all have our own unique schedules based on our priorities and personal preferences. The biggest benefit of working from home is having a flexible schedule. That said, it is important to establish regular work hours. If you are working for an employer rather than yourself this is often necessary so that you’re available at certain hours.
Having a set schedule will also help you stay on track because you’ll have deadlines for getting things done. Time block exactly when you will work each day of the week, and try your best to make it your regular schedule. It may help to structure your workdays as if you were working at an office.
Once you’re done time blocking, share your schedule with family, clients, employers and co-workers so everyone will know when to expect you at your desk.
Our brains can only do so much work before it needs to recharge. When you’re creating your schedule, factor in time for taking breaks, including a lunch break.
It may help to time block your day in hour increments with short 5-15 minute breaks in between. The makers of the productivity app DeskTop looked at a massive amount of data to determine that the best way to keep productivity levels high was to work for 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break.
Because energy levels can wane in the afternoon, scheduling a short 10-20 minute walk outside a few hours after lunch can provide a much-need productivity boost. Plus, it’s good for your health.
Have a few home office productivity tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page!