Working away from the familiarities of an office can definitely be a challenge, especially over longer periods of time. Fortunately, there are some practical steps that can be taken to make the process more productive, comfortable and enjoyable.
Whether you’re a line-manager, small business owner or freelancer we have compiled some tips to help you maintain a productive home-office space and get into the right mind-set for success.
- Take a walk before work
Although rolling out of bed at 8:50am and having breakfast at your desk sounds rather appealing, it is likely to lose its charm quite quickly. Giving yourself less time to mentally and physically prepare for work won’t put you in a great space for productivity. Studies have shown that some form of exercise before work can enhance performance, so why not go for a walk around the block before you start your day? This will also give you a good excuse to put on some real clothes too.
- Ditch the pyjamas
Having a routine of leaving the house before work, having a proper breakfast before settling in at your desk and getting dressed can signal to your brain it’s time to start the day. That’s why staying in the same attire you would wear to sleep in won't do you any favours.
- Separate work area
Although this sounds obvious, working in bed or on the sofa won’t help you complete your to-do list. These spaces should be reserved for relaxation. It’s natural for your brain to associate certain environments with different activities, so if they get reversed it can interfere with your sleep at night and productivity during the working day.
- Make sure your desk space is well lit
Natural light has been proven to lift a mood and encourage productivity, so if you have access to it, take advantage of it. Having a view of the outside world will also help you feel less cut off from it.
- Personalise your desk space
Although this might sound pointless as you are already at home, decorating your desk space with houseplants and photos can make it a more inspiring place to work. This can be especially important if you work in a creative role. Making sure your space is aesthetically pleasing and organised will also help make it somewhere you will want to spend time.
- Create an office 'playlist'
Having music on quietly in the background can bring some energy to long weeks working from home. Understandably, not everyone can work with music playing, so have a look at Spotify’s selection of coffee shop playlists. These have various background soundtracks of people talking, and coffee being made which can make you feel like you’re in an office space. They can also make you feel less lonely if you’re the only one in your home office.
- Take short breaks
Not everyone can focus their brain for a solid 8 hours. Breaking up your working day and having a break from screens can actually boost your productivity. Try not to use these breaks to scroll on your phone though as you will not actually be resting your eyes.
- Separate internet browser for work
Here’s a really simple one to help limit distractions. We’ve all had one of those afternoons where an entertaining twitter rant catches your eye or where we accidentally end up looking at all 2,000 of your old classmate’s wedding photos. This can happen when you automatically have Facebook notifications turned on or when previous searches pop up in your search bar. Having a dedicated browser for working purposes alone can limit these distractions and give you a clutter-free space to get that project done.
- Remove phone distractions
If you do not have a separate work phone, mute notifications on your favourite apps, like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The moment you start multitasking on something which you shouldn’t be, productivity will slowly decline. Plus, we all know how addictive social media can be. One thing can often lead to another and before you know it, you’ve been scrolling for well over an hour.
- Treat yourself to a proper mouse and keyboard
If you are a laptop-user, it’s likely that you’ll end up completely hunched over it before the day is over. Investing in a decent bluetooth mouse and keyboard means you can set up your laptop on your new home desk and position yourself at a sensible distance away from your screen, making it easier to sit up straight. Not having to distort your body to type up emails and set up spreadsheets means you’ll stay more comfortable for longer, and probably be more productive as well.
- Social interaction
If you’re away from the office and your usual team environment for longer stretches of time, chances are you’ll be missing social aspects of office life most. By injecting some social interactions into your working day will give your brain a rest from the more taxing tasks at work, meaning you’ll come back to it feeling more refreshed. Whether this is meeting a friend over lunch or having a video call with a pal who lives far away, you’ll be happy you had a casual chat which didn’t revolve around your work.
- Give a ‘standing desk’ a go
Of course, very few people actually have access to a purpose built standing desk at home, but you can easily fashion one. An ironing board or the kitchen counter can act as a great standing desk replacement, which when used can help prevent tiredness. Breaking the routine of sitting in the same seat for 5 days a week has been proven to help your focus on the task at hand.
- Don’t forget about the trusty pen and paper
Although there are endless great project management and to-list apps out there, sometimes you can’t beat an old-fashioned pen and paper. Studies have shown that physically writing something down can help you remember it better. So instead of letting your notes get lost in email threads and scattered across various apps, just write a traditional to-do list for the day ahead.
- Reward yourself
This one may not work for everyone, but if you are a ‘snacker’ you may find it hard to stop when working from home. If you know you’re likely to be tempted throughout the day, try letting yourself have a snack only when you have finished sending out those emails you’ve been putting off. Or how about making yourself a comforting cup of tea once you have ticked off two more tasks on your to-do list for the day.
- Tidy as you go
Without the social pressure or office rules to encourage you to keep your desk tidy, it can be incredibly easy to build up a stack of plates, mugs and wrappers after a productive morning. You may even be accustomed to an office cleaner, so it may be a surprise to you to see how quickly a desk can get messy. Try and utilise your lunch breaks to clear the decks and catch up on any washing up. A haphazard desk is more distracting than you think.
- To-do list for the following day
You don’t need us to tell you that a to-do list can help focus your energy for the working day. However, when working from home you may find it a lot harder to focus and switch off after a stressful day. One thing we would recommend is jotting down a short list of tasks you want to tackle first thing the following morning. Without colleagues there to physically remind you of the smaller tasks they’re waiting on, this can really help you get some peace of mind for the evening ahead and help you start off your next day.
- Don’t ignore your internal clock
Only you know when you’re most productive, so if you have control over when your meetings are scheduled, book them in for when you can focus best. Science has found that some people concentrate better in the evenings, and others work better as first thing in the morning. Make the most of working more flexibly and make the most of those productivity bursts.
- Try not to forget about your mental health
It’s unrealistic to aim to stare at your screen all day long and expect to be productive for all that time. One of the main advantages of working from home is having all your favourite things around you. So practice some self-care at lunch or for your afternoon break and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good you’ll feel. This can include anything from a quick 15 minute workout or making yourself a fresh and healthy lunch.
- Fake commute home
As you’ve probably already noticed, relaxing in the same room you have been working in all day is not the easiest of tasks. Usually you would have your commute to digest any developments of your day and leave any of your stresses behind at the office. By leaving your desk at the end of the working day and getting some fresh air will help you get some space from that frustrating deadline or a stress-inducing boss. Hopefully after a walk, run or cycle at the end of your day, you’ll feel a bit more at ease.
- Tweak your expectations
It's important to remember that sometimes it’s okay to leave your to-do list incomplete. You can’t do everything all of the time, especially when you are getting used to a new working environment and schedule. Add in the distractions of family or a partner and you’re faced with a slightly different set up than you’re used to. Cut yourself some slack and remember there’s always tomorrow.