Working from home has been a difficult adjustment for many of us during the current pandemic. For those struggling to be productive at home, here are some great tips a wide range of professionals have sent us on how they were able to make the most of working at home.
I’ve summarized the main points people have made as follows (for each point, a link is given to the full comment):
- Create a dedicated space to be your office (link), preferably near a window (link)
- Leave the most difficult work for times of the day where you know you work best (link)
- Changing your clothes at the end of your workday can help separate your work and life (link)
- Similarly, working in your normal professional work clothes can do a lot to put yourself in work mode (link)
- Don’t forget to get up and move around every now and then (link), and take walks outside when you can (link)
- Get rid of distractions and multitasking (link)
- Get noise-canceling headphones (link)
- Start working when you’d normally start your commute (link), not when you’d normally get to the office. Then you’ll have extra time for interruptions (link)
- Prepare your tasks the night before (link)
- Take ergonomics and your health seriously (link, link). You can consider a sit/stand desk (link)
- Schedule tasks in your calendar (link) and consider using a KanbanFlow chart (link)
- Dedicate some time for yourself in the morning (link)
- Consider breaking your work into intervals, such as 30 minutes on 5 minutes off (link)
- Set a clear and achievable daily target (link)
- Use a different browser for work (link) (or just a different user in the same browser)
- Get enough sleep (link)
- Prioritize (link)
- Running every day can have tremendous benefits (link)
- Be strict with separating your work from your life, and avoid working overtime unless it’s absolutely necessary (link)
- If you don’t have much natural light coming in your office, a ceiling light directly above your desk area is best (link)
- Set a series of alarms (link)
Create a space dedicated to be your “office”. This way, even though you’re at home, you create an environment that’s made for working. This space should be organized and free of clutter. It would also help if this space is far away from distractions like the TV or stereo.
--Bernie Wong, berniewong.net
Evaluate yourself honestly, and assign the hard stuff to times when you work best. Working from home increases the willpower it takes to get things done because of all the distractions, so the worst thing you can do is schedule tough work when you're least motivated. I've never been a great morning person and it normally takes me about an hour before my brain really starts running on all cylinders, but after that I have about 4 hours of prime thinking time. As such, I try to do basic things like email until I get to my sweet spot. Then I focus on all the things I know require a lot of thought or creativity. Not only does this improve my work product but it makes me enjoy my days much more because the work load correlates to my physical abilities.
--Quinn Osha, Topmarq
Start your day an hour earlier than the rest of your family, and do 1 money task first. Don't look at email or Facebook, or any other distraction that could pull you into a deep rabbit hole. Once you are done with your one money action, make a list of other important things you'd like to accomplish for the day, and assign your tasks a numerical importance. You'll be able to tackle your work a lot easier if you start out organized.
--Adriana Copaceanu, Backyard Garden Lover
My #1 tip for working from home and being productive is to set up your workspace near a window. While that might sound distracting to some (....squirrel!), it can also help get the creative juices flowing when you are stuck in a rut, are experiencing writer's block, or need a reminder that the sun still rises every day – even during a pandemic. Plus, if you have any video conference calls, you'll get that nice natural glow with the window lighting, which doesn't hurt.
--Susanna Kalnes, Take Shape PR
Working from home is all I know in my current position. I mentioned to a few colleagues that once I am done for the day, I immediately wash my face and change my ENTIRE outfit. When I told them this, they said that had never popped into their minds nor occurred to them to use this as a work-life separation tool. This routine helps clearly delineate between work and the rest of my life; I feel like for many, work-life balance has been thrown off due to working from home which can lower productivity and cause burnout.
--Katy Titus, San Diego Model Railroad Museum
The #1 tip I would give for working at home and being productive is to remember to get up and move around. I have noticed I am more sedentary at home than I was in the office. If I don't force myself to take breaks, stretch, and get up to walk around, I find I am not as productive. Making sure to give your body and mind those breaks does wonders to help you refocus on your tasks.
--Krissy Hadick, The Hadicks
Avoid Multitasking. This involves household chores like laundry, cooking, and more. It is not bad to do household chores but it could be the top reason for getting distracted. You may take a break but never let household chores distract you from being productive.
The same goes for any at-home distractions. A turned on radio or TV as background noise will only lead to getting distracted, this will also result in unfinished tasks due to lack of ideas. If you used to prepare your food ahead of time, you should continue doing it. Always have everything set before you start your day of work.
--Erik Pham, Healthcanal
My number one tip for being productive while working from home is having a good pair of noise-canceling head phones.
With all the distractions going on home, when I need to buckle down and focus, headphones are my go-to. They block everything out and allow me focus undisturbed for as long as I need.
--Kimberly McGraw, lifeworththeliving.com
When you work from home, you don’t have to get ready and commute to the office which saves some time. I have decided to use this time and start working as early as possible. I find that my productivity levels are the highest between 7 and 10am so I always plan to do the most important tasks during this time frame. I like morning because it is still quiet, the phone is not ringing like crazy and I can easily concentrate on my work. To check my theory, I started using time tracking software Hubstaff which also measures my productivity rates. The results were just as I thought - my best performance starts early and by noon it already drops significantly which is okay because I get a lot of work done by then.
--Malte Scholz, Airfocus
Working from home can be extremely difficult as you feel every day can be repetitive and without structure. In order to combat that, I prepare the tasks I need to do that day the night before. Instead of waking up in the morning to see what needs to be done and wasting time thinking about everything I can or should do, I prepare it beforehand. When I wake up for the next day, I already have my day planned and how to approach it so I can be more productive, successful, and not work into the night because of aimless wandering throughout the house or thinking.
--Dylan Howard, 21CentEd
I have to say I learnt it the hard way during the initial days of the pandemic. Not being used to working from home, I would slack and hence miss deadlines. It was getting too much, and then I decided to grab the bull by the horns. I knew being in my PJs was not helping with my productivity, so on trial basis I decided to work at home just the way I was at work. I would actually get dressed, wear make-up, and keep my water bottle on the table, even though my kitchen was only a few yards away. It put me in the work mode instantly, and not to mention the productivity skyrocketed. Your clothing has a huge bearing on your mind and I discovered even at home if you are dressed formally, you do not have to fight with yourself to work efficiently.
--Shipra Batra, Facebook profile
My biggest work from home tip is to take ergonomics seriously. When working at home, it's tempting to snuggle up with your laptop on the couch or in bed. It seems harmless at first, but the dangers of poor posture creep up on your slowly. Before you know it, you'll start feeling aches and pains in your neck, back, and wrists—and they're not fun. And if you're body has accepted your poor posture as the new normal, these nagging pains can also be hard to cure. If you want to stay productive and pain-free, your best bet is to invest in a proper workstation and build healthy ergonomic work habits from day one.
--Mitch Glass, Project Untethered
My lifesaver item is a sit/stand desk. When we were put in stay-at-home orders, I was sitting on my butt way too long at my computer every day, whereas before I would be out having in-person mtgs, going with my clients to media interviews, and spending time at my shared office space. My butt would actually go numb!
In addition, we couldn't go to the beaches, parks, gyms, etc., some of which are now allowed, so that didn't help. I still do 80% of my work from home as cases have risen in Hawai'i, so my sit/stand desk has definitely been the best purchase/change I have made.
--Mona Wood-Sword, @ikaikacomm
I work from home 100% of the time and I find the best way for me to be productive and stay on top of things is to schedule tasks in my calendar. I carve out time for every single task I need to complete, no matter how big or small so it's like a to-do list that holds me accountable. It also helps to create boundaries around when my workday starts and finishes. Because I'm self-employed and work from home, it can be easy to work late into the night if I get carried away.
--Jenny Eastwood, Eastwood Creative
My number one tip for working from home is dedicating time to yourself before jumping into the work day. Waking up an hour earlier in the morning and setting aside time for physical exercise, followed by a 10/15 minute meditation practice has truly been transformative for my productivity levels as well as my mental and physical health. I follow my workout and meditation with a healthy and nutritious breakfast. I like to enjoy the time I have to myself and be present whilst eating, resisting the urge to be on my phone or use any technology. Setting aside that time before jumping into my workday gets rid of any previous anxiety or stress, allowing me to start my day with a clear and focused mind.
--Ashwin Sokke, Wow Skin Science
When working from home, I find that using the Pomodoro technique works a lot for me. I use the Strict Workflow Chrome extension to break down my work into several intervals. I have it set to 30 minutes' work and 5 minutes break.
Within those 30 minutes, I try to focus only on work. Then do a bit of gaming, reading Webtoons, or just scrolling on Facebook when it's break time. By the time my 5-minute break is up, I'm all ready to go back to work.
I do this until my work is done for the day. I have a bit of a habit of procrastinating and losing focus so giving myself 30 minutes to work then a break helps me finish a lot more. Plus, the chrome extension allows me to block specific sites when on work mode. I usually just block Facebook.
--Johanes Godoy, Wanderera
My tip for being productive when working from home - Set a clear and achievable daily target. This should be based on your average output when you are in the office. Given you now have less travelling and meeting time, this should be not difficult to acheive even if you take breaks at home to do other chores.
I've been working from home for about 3+ years now and one of the more unique methods that have turned my productivity from low to go is a KanBanFlow Chart. Its a free flow chart platform where you can easily drag and drop notes to different column categories.
It's one of the best visual methods I've found to track the different tasks I need to get done during the workday. But you could also use it for tracking leads and follow up. At work, I would get a comment a week about something I had missed or forgotten but after using the KanBan I've been able to stay ahead of any issues.
--Raul Mercado, Camping Helper
My number 1 tip: don't forget there's life outside! It's so easy to get into the zone where you just constantly keep working. Even without realizing you just shut yourself out from life - you simply wake up to start working and work until you fall asleep (and you'll feel guilty about not working whenever you take a tiny break). As weird as it sounds, in order to be productive you need to take a few steps back and spend some time away from work. Once I started regularly going out again, my productivity made a huge leap!
--Viktoria Krusenvald, Zerxza.com
Setting up a different browser account for work!
It may seem obvious but if you're using your private computer (laptop, tablet) you may just start your work by logging into your work email, Slack and Zoom, but then you have all your bookmarks, news sites, Spotify playlists, Pinterest boards, etc.
For me - setting up a new user in my browser (Chrome) changed everything! I can switch back and forth between my work environment and private one that I use for exercise, leisure and Netflix.
--Lola Milenkovic, Intelligent Labs
My number one tip for working from home is to add the time it would take to commute onto your work day. Then - don't get stressed about interruptions.
For example, if you set a 9-5 schedule with an hour for lunch, each time a child or partner interrupts, you'll feel set back. Then, when delivery drivers, DIY enthusiast neighbours and random phone calls come in, you'll lose your mind.
What time would you normally leave home in the morning? 7:30? What time would you be home? 6:30? Set these as your hours, and enjoy the interruptions. It might feel like you're working a longer day, but you're really just giving plenty of opportunity in your schedule for 7-8 hours of quality work. All you lose is the traffic.
--Jason Lavis, Out of the Box Innovations
A big part of staying productive is getting enough sleep.
Most of us view sleep as something that can be powered through and caffeinated over. That's because sleep isn't exactly sexy. The truth is, you can probably get away with a couple of sleep-deprived nights per month. But if you make the norm out of sleep loss, it'll render you physically weak and unable to stay productive.
So if you want to propel your productivity levels, make sure you get 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I recommend using the iPhone's built-in bedtime app that reminds you every night when it's time to sleep. It's a great system that drives the behavior of falling asleep on time and makes you stick to it. As a result of getting 8 hours of sleep on 99.5% of nights, I was able to get more done at work with less time.
--Max Woolf, ResumeLab
What's my tip for working from home? Do less. It can be a surprising productivity tip but for me, it works wonders. We can do less and be incredibly productive when we prioritise and do only the things that give us the most return on time investment. At work, we have to stay a certain amount of time so we find ways to feel productive. However, feeling that you are productive because you are organising your emails into folders does not mean that you are actually productive. At home learn to do less by doing only the most important tasks. By limiting the things that you are doing, you increase your productivity for those things. Just try and see for yourself.
--Anna Bartosik, Woofs and Purrs
During the quarantine, I had to transition my entire business to operating remotely. After realizing that working from home reduced my daily physical activity and was starting to affect my overall health, it was time for a change. I then found my own lifehack that forced me to get up and start being more active: running every day.
Running every day, even jogging improves your concentration and gets you focused to handle your daily tasks. Even a brisk daily power-walk can improve your health and help get your blood and endorphins pumping. We are not robots who can work nonstop but often we are too self-demanding. So treat yourself to some time outdoors while getting fit by including something as simple as a daily jog every day.
It will take your mind away momentarily from work and allow you to come back to the house inspired and ready to sit behind the laptop for several hours. So if you are feeling like a couch potato and can't send an email to save your life, try to run outdoors, trust me, it will do wonders for your work productivity. Don't overdo it though start steadily at 10-15 minutes per day which is plenty.
--Stefan Smulders, Expandi.io
Based on experience, the best tip I can give to be more productive when working from home is to separate your personal time from your work time. It is important, especially during these trying times to give yourself a little break from time to time. Avoid extending your workday beyond what you've planned. The last thing you want is to burn yourself out, which usually leads to losing motivation, and eventually unproductiveness.
So if you want to be more productive and keep your creative juices flowing, set a personal time every day where you can relax or do things that you love. It can be anything from baking to reading a book. Doing so can also help reduce any stress that this pandemic is giving you. At the same time, you may want to communicate your availability to your manager. For instance, if you plan to give your evenings to your family, make sure to tell your boss that you'd prefer not to work during those hours. And make sure to commit to that.
--Kate Diaz, Swanky Den
Take frequent walks when needed. I noticed that when I am in an office space, I want to get up and move more often throughout the day, whether it be going into the kitchen to make a coffee or taking a little walk around the block. I don’t seem to do that as much when I’m at home, and I think it’s because we get so comfortable at our desk that we don’t get up and move much, if at all, throughout the day. There are so many health benefits that come from walking, and exercise has been proven to help fuel your brain. If you’re feeling out of it or getting sleepy, try getting up and taking a walk around the block. You’ll end up feeling so much more energized and ready to finish the rest of your workday. I tend to take a walk in the morning before I start work as well as either a lunch or an evening walk. Getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, and absorbing some vitamin D can really make the difference in your work-levels throughout the day.
--Tom Massey, Snowy Pines White Labs
My number #1 tip for working from home and being productive is to prioritize health. This comes in the form of investing in equipment that will help prevent aches and pains.
I’ve been working at home full-time for 4.5 years now. Over the years, I’ve been plagued by neck/shoulder pain, back pain, eye strain, and wrist pain—all the typical office worker problems. Working in an office, you’re most likely provided with adjustable seats, big monitors or monitor stands. But at home, you’re most likely just hunched over your laptop from your couch or bed.
While this may seem okay at first, if you spend hours each day in front of your computer at those bad positions, you’ll find yourself waking up the next day with body pains all over. Those prevent you from working efficiently, ruin your concentration, and also affect your sleep. These will all lead to lower productivity and output. So, invest in yourself and get equipment that can help you stay healthy.
Over the years, I’ve setup my own work station at home to include ergonomic keyboards and mouse, big monitor on a stand, back joy to aid in sitting all day, blue light filter glasses, etc.
--Ariel Lim, ariel-lim.com
Take time to go outside for at least 20 minutes to puts some energy from the sun into your day. I do this each day around 2pm to shift, reenergize and appreciate all the benefits the sun has to offer us.
--Yvette N. Harris, Harris Public Relations
Science tells us that lighting has a tremendous impact on productivity but is often the most overlooked component of designing a home work space. If you are not lucky enough to have natural light flooding into your room then it is really important to get your lighting right. People often think of table lamps for their home office but these can create shadows and dark spots. The best lighting for your home office is actually a ceiling lighting positioned above your desk area. Choose a light with a soft diffused shade which spreads the light naturally over your desk space. If you don’t have a fixture for this, then choose a pair of wall lights which can be positioned above your desk, just above head height.
--Helen White, houseof
The one tip that has really made a difference for me is setting up a series of automated alarms.
My alarm goes off to wake me up, and then again 45 minutes later to tell me I should be at my desk working. Throughout the day, alarms will go off to tell me it’s time to take a short break and to get back to work.
This strict schedule keeps me focused on my work (while at my desk) but also keeps me from working for too long and risking fatigue. It is the perfect way to make sure I make the most out of my workday without getting burnt out or distracted.
At the end of the day, an alarm goes off and I know it’s time to wrap up and enjoy my personal life.
So far, this has worked really well and has allowed me to be productive in a new work setting (my home). I recommend others try it out to see if it helps them as they transition to working from home!
--Gaurav Dhir, HelpAndWellness.com
Create a starting-work ritual that you can come to associate with getting in the zone with work. It could be a special kind of coffee or tea, a certain piece of music you play, or even a candle you light at your desk. Your brain will start to associate this with work, and it will help you transition from home mode to work mode. You could also think about having a ritual at the end of the day to transition out of work mode, e.g. changing your clothes or changing the lighting in your home.
--Karen Eyre-White, Go Do
First of all, I would like to say work from is not easy, people have the perception that working from home is going to relaxed and smooth, but it is not unless you have everything you need to make it smooth.
Let's see what key things we need to make our work from home smooth.
1. Setting up your work area is a must. Your work area should not be a bed or just a chair with a laptop on our lap. You should have a proper table and chair setup
2. You need a good laptop or desktop with all the software needed for your work
3. You need high-speed internet access because you need to be connected with your colleagues and your boss.
4. Proper Lighting and ventilation is required, you cannot work in a suffocated area with poor lighting.
5. Take 5-10 min break after an hour of work to keep yourself active and have max productivity, or you can easily become lethargic.
6. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with work because your work hours can easily be exceeded.
7. Try to fix your hours and take out time for your family, your health, and also to do things that you love.
8. Doing these will help you boost your overall productivity and help you stay positive and happy.
--Girish Margam, Thereviewstories
These past few months of working from home, it is really a struggle to balance your time between work and home commitments. One of my tip is to set your To Do List first thing in the morning. Set priorities on work while also setting priorities at home. Multi-tasking is the key for this set up. Yes, it might be tiring and draining but we have to face the reality especially if you have responsibilities at home. Set priorities, multi-task but do not forget to take breaks, breathe and relax because at the end of the day, you need yourself mentally and emotionally stable to do all the work.
--Keith Balita, Diversify Offshore Staffing Solutions
Two of the biggest problems between the office environment and working from home are focus issues and decreased productivity. There may be many ways to maintain focus and productivity, but the most effective is to prepare yourself for an ideal working environment. Optimizing your desk, chair, internet speed, and computer hardware will increase your productivity and motivation. You need to maintain your focus on your task to help your productivity. To maintain your focus, schedule 5 minutes breaks every one hour and then get back to working. Try to get out of the house, spend breaks in your backyard or garden to get some fresh air which is essential for our body. I recommend not to spend your breaks in front of computer. Just get away from anything about work during your breaks and help your motivation keep strong and steady during the working hours. Plan your work and list the factors that keep you from focusing and try not to do them.
--Allison Foster, Voucherix
A very important aspect of working from home and be productive is to continue to communicate often with your peers and the team like if you were at the office. Virtual all staff meetings, virtual department meetings, and one on one video calls, on a regular basis, are very important to know what is going on overall or in specifics, to exchange ideas and solutions. Transparency and awareness are crucial for everyone to still feel engaged and motivated. It keeps us all connected even when we don't work together on projects and give us a sense of not being isolated and on our own which can lower our productivity. It also promotes innovation and creativity as well as camaraderie and keeps the spirit up by still feeling entirely part of the company.
--Myriam Gau, levyind.com
Do not forget to stay connected with your team. What I feel, and research agrees, is that loneliness is the biggest drawback in remote working, affecting directing the morale and productivity. Therefore I suggest making an extra effort to embrace the feeling of being a team and take moments to create meaningful connections. A tip is to make al informal approaches to keep this up we used to have at the office, a systematic process. For example, set routines to give recognition and check-ins with your colleagues, set weekly/biweekly 1on1 meetings, or even a weekly meeting to talk about off-work topics. Nailted could help implement these process for free.
--Miguel Bordoy, Nailted