At a time when working from home is a necessity for many, here are five tips to help you maintain productivity when working from home more effectively.
Make your #onechange
Create a recurring calendar appointment for the first 15 minutes of each working day. Use this time to create a thorough to-do list for the day, and you're already setting yourself up for success.
1. Start each day with a to-do list
Managing your time at home requires a level of self-motivation and organisation, and that's where a well-composed to-do list can help. To increase your likelihood of success, try to limit your list to a number of tasks that you can realistically accomplish during your working day. Overloading your list will just leave you feeling frustrated - and potentially have you spinning your wheels in circles.
Instead, prioritise your goals for the day and be honest with yourself when estimating how long they will take. If your list is populated with smaller jobs that will be quick to complete - say, returning a phone call or replying to an email - get them done first thing in the morning. Ticking items off the list will give you a sense of accomplishment, and removing small chores will free up your mental capacity to tackle bigger tasks.
2. Furnish appropriately
While your couch is undoubtedly comfortable, it's probably not the best place to try and get work done. If you have space, invest in home-office furnishings that you can use exclusively for work. By creating a differentiated workspace, you'll likely find it easier to separate your home life from your professional identity - something that can be a challenge when your bed is within walking distance of your desk.
There are other practical considerations to account for if you're going to be working from home regularly. If you need to dial into your workplace for video calls, you'll want to ensure that your internet connection is up to scratch. It's also worth investing in an office chair that will minimise potential discomfort or injuries to your back.
3. Dress the part
A challenge of being away from the office is maintaining boundaries that separate your work life from your home one. To that end, start your at-home days the same way you would if you were heading into the office. Get changed out of your pyjamas and into work clothes to set the tone for the day. This shift into 'work mode' will allow you to be productive when you do sit down at your desk, but it's a hard mental transition to make if you're not wearing pants.
You might even find it beneficial to leave your home before starting any work - even if it's just to do a lap of the block or to head to the local shops for a coffee. Similarly, make sure that you're taking adequate breaks throughout the day - and try to get out of the house at least a couple of times. Walk to a local park to eat your lunch, visit the library, or just go for a stroll. If possible, try and spend some time each day in nature - as research has indicated that even a short walk in a park can help increase both happiness and attentiveness.
4. Stick to office hours
When you're working from a home office, it can be easy to let your day spill far beyond the borders of a regular 9-5 job. Fight the urge to blow past closing time and keep working, even if you're on a roll.
Try setting an alarm or reminder on your phone an hour before the end of your day, so you're able to start wrapping up whatever you're working on by finishing time. Although it can be tempting to get the jump on tomorrow's project, consistently pushing yourself to work long hours is an easy path to professional burnout.
5. Maintain communication
Unfortunately, there can be a sense of 'out of sight, out of mind' that comes with working from home - especially if it's for an extended period. To avoid being forgotten about - or, even worse, resented - make sure you maintain regular communication with your main office.
Be available online, make sure your phone is close by, and do your best to return emails promptly. Clear communication is especially important when there's the added factor of physical distance, and it will also help you feel more connected to the workplace at large.