Given the rise of telecommuting and work from home arrangements, especially due to the COVID 19 global pandemic, researchers have spent a considerable amount of time focusing on the topic of productivity with remote work. After all, when employees work from home, employers have fewer methods available to monitor progress and there’s the understandable fear that people’s homes have many distractions that could hinder the amount of work they are actually able to do on a day-to-day basis.
Although research shows that productivity is among the potential benefits of working from home, it is important to understand that the people working from home are individuals, and what may be true in general may not automatically be true for you or for someone else.
Learning how to work from home effectively may or may not come naturally – some people find the adjustment difficult, whether due to distractions or a tendency to procrastinate. The good news is there are some strategic steps that can be taken to help you to become more productive.
Optimize Your Work Routine
One of the biggest problems people run into when working from home is a tendency to procrastinate, and disruption to your normal routine can contribute to this. Many people are used to waking up, getting ready, and traveling to work. When you shift to working from home, there is no longer a clear distinction between home life and work life.
However, you can take certain steps to optimize your work routine and create a clear divide. One way to do this is to commit – whenever possible – to starting and finishing work at the same time. You can also make a conscious effort to get ready for work properly, as if you were going into the office, as opposed to staying in your pajamas.
Making an effort to normalize your everyday routine can go some way towards helping you to get into the work mindset and that can be crucial if you are going to stay focused on your work tasks throughout the day.
Optimize Your Work Environment
Your environment can have a significant bearing on how productive you are, which is why businesses invest so heavily in workplace design. Yet, the same basic principles apply at home too, which is why it is so important that you make an effort to optimize your work environment and ensure you are using the best possible location within your home.
Part of this will require you to think carefully about the distractions in your house. For instance, you may be tempted to work in your bedroom or living room – and that may be the best option for you – but you need to consider whether things like the television, games consoles or other entertainment options are going to hinder productivity.
You also need to give some thought to noise. Where in your house are you most likely to find peace and quiet? Where can you work and avoid interruptions? Although flexibility is a plus point of working from home, it has its pitfalls and it may actually be better to pinpoint the ideal place to work and then stick to it as much as possible.
Optimizing Your Work Equipment
Next, you need to think about your work equipment. While you may be able to work from home using a smartphone or tablet, a desktop or laptop will be preferable in most cases and help increase productivity. In some jobs, you may also be able to benefit from a dual-screen setup, and you will need to make sure you have the best software to do your job effectively.
Communication is also absolutely critical for optimizing productivity. In fact, according to a report from Holmes, which surveyed 400 corporations in the United States and United Kingdom, communication barriers alone cost organizations an average of more than $62 million per year in lost productivity, while those with excellent communication thrive.
With this in mind, headphones, a microphone and a webcam are important, and you should ensure you can be reached via phone, messaging apps and video conferencing software. The easier it is for co-workers, business partners, clients and/or customers to contact you, the lower the chances of productivity being affected by communication problems.
Optimizing Your Work Behavior
With your routine, environment and equipment optimized, you also need to consider some of your behaviors and habits, and whether they are compatible with being productive. Do you work better in silence, or when listening to music? You may prefer listening to music, but does it have a positive or negative impact on your work rate?
Are you taking breaks from your work and could these be optimized further? Various studies have shown the value of breaks in enhancing productivity, so try to avoid the temptation to just keep working, even if you feel up against it in terms of your workload. When you are on your breaks, try to avoid work-related stresses, including emails.
You also need to reflect on any distractions you encounter while working. As an example, you might find yourself browsing the internet and being distracted by websites that are not related to work. Consider how you can stop these habits, such as using these habits as a reward system for completing work tasks, or simply saving them for break times.
It is perfectly possible to be as productive when working from home as you would be in an office and some people even find they are more productive when working this way. Yet, achieving excellent productivity with remote work does depend on you taking appropriate action to optimize your routine, environment, equipment and behavior.
Try to avoid unnecessary distractions and give careful thought to the things that help or hinder your progress at work. Everybody has different habits and preferences, but one of the most important things to try to create is a sense that you are still at work. With this in mind, your working day should still feel different from the rest of your home life.
For a deeper dive into telecommuting and strategies for achieving success working from home, check out the How to Work from Home: A 2020 Guide to Remote Work.