How to be productive when you work from home: tips for your success
Home office – maybe you have already toyed with that idea before. It does indeed sound tempting. You could sleep a little longer since you don’t have to commute to work. If the weather is nice, you could spend your lunch break on your balcony or in your garden. You could be sitting at your desk wearing comfortable sweatpants. Or you could work from the sofa.
In our blog post, we explain why some of these ideas are tricky and how to stay productive while working from home.
1. Create a dedicated workspace.
You don’t necessarily need a separate room to be productive when you work from home. However, you should create a dedicated workspace. Choose a room where you can close the door. A quiet working environment without distractions is important. No matter if situated in your living room, kitchen or bedroom, your workspace should get you in the mood to work.
If you work at your dining table, make sure that it’s tidy when you start working in the morning. In addition, you should remember to put your laptop and other working material aside in the evening. Boundaries are important, especially if you work from home. That’s why you shouldn’t work on the couch or in bed. These places are reserved for your regeneration and relaxation.
A little piece of advice from personal experience: if you put your home office in the kitchen, make sure that you don’t face the fridge. Otherwise, the temptation to grab something to eat might be too big.
2. Create an inspiring working environment.
Make sure that you get plenty of daylight at your desk. Natural light really boosts your productivity. Moreover, a green view through a window can improve your concentration. A pleasant room temperature and occasional airing are also beneficial.
Keep a bottle of water on hand or prepare a pot of tea and some healthy snacks. A nice picture or your favorite saying might cheer you up and be a source of inspiration. The new thriller, however, doesn’t belong on your desk. Speaking of which:
3. Focus on your work and keep distractions to a minimum.
You might be tempted to do the laundry or take out the garbage. Don’t do it! Your chores should wait. After all, you wouldn’t spend your time like this at the office. Close the door behind you and signal to those who live with you that you are working.
Be honest with yourself. You know best what affects your concentration. If your dog distracts you, it shouldn’t stay in the room. Make sure that you have all the material you need at home and that the technology is working. For advice how to balance work at home and kids see this article.
4. Don’t forget to take a break.
Whether it’s the coffee you enjoy every morning with your coworkers or the lunch break you spend together in the cafeteria or at a restaurant – breaks are an integral part of the office routine. At home, on the contrary, it can be difficult to take regular breaks throughout the day. Maybe you have already caught yourself thinking “I can finish this quickly” and before you realize it another forty-five minutes have passed.
However, taking breaks is important, both for your productivity and for your health. Give your eyes a break from staring at the screen, get some fresh air and take your time to enjoy your lunch instead of eating hunched over your computer. If you tend to forget taking breaks, it might help to set an alarm or reminder.
5. Structure your workday.
Prioritize your tasks and make to-do-lists for your workday. This strategy allows you to focus on the most important tasks and to track your progress. Regardless of whether you must be available during certain core hours or whether you have the freedom to organize your workday – define when you start and end work.
Stay disciplined and stick to this routine. Create a timesheet in Excel to keep track of your work hours. Structure is good for you. Starting at a different time every morning isn’t a good idea. Nor is working overtime every evening.
If you have to balance home office and childcare, your work schedule might change. In this case, it’s essential that you communicate when you are available to avoid misunderstandings. This brings us to the next point:
6. Communication is key.
Thanks to modern (information) technology there are many options to communicate with each other. What are you waiting for? Talk to your team and coordinate your tasks – by phone, email, chat, video call or online meeting.
Remember that facial expressions, gestures or tone of voice play an important role in communication. We might perceive messages differently if these visual and acoustic cues are missing. In case of doubt, it’s better to ask twice or to choose a communication channel that is less prone to misunderstandings.
Microsoft Teams is a practical tool for coordinating teamwork and communicating with each other. For instance, the app allows you to hold online meetings and record them. This gives colleagues who couldn’t attend the meeting a chance to catch up. Given the current situation, Microsoft offers a six-month free trial to the practical tool. For more information see our article about Microsoft Teams.
7. Stay in touch with your team.
Staying in touch with your coworkers is important, not only from an organizational but also from a social point of view. We humans are social beings and it can feel lonely to work from home. Create virtual opportunities to check in on each other.
At agiles we have a virtual coffee break twice a day since part of our team is working from home. Using Microsoft Teams, we also created an anti-loneliness board where we can share funny photos or encouraging words and cheer each other up. Being there for each other helps to stay positive and productive.
8. Dress for the occasion.
It might be tempting to spend the day wearing pajamas or sweatpants. However, it’s questionable whether this outfit benefits your productivity and concentration. The way we dress does influence the way we think. That’s why you should choose appropriate clothing. That way, you get in a mood to work and avoid embarrassing situations when you are suddenly invited to a video conference.
This mind map summarizes the most important tips:
Bella Diekmann works for the editorial office of agiles. She studied Spanish and French and has a PhD in linguistics. Besides her passion for languages, she is very interested in current IT topics. Blogging for agiles allows her to combine her love of writing with her interest in computer science and informatics.