12 Tips for Working at Home, Productively
Working at home can be a huge job benefit, but it also can increase your stress level. It does not matter if you are self-employed or if you work for a corporation, people who work from home have some specific challenges. The increase in stress can be caused by several factors relating to your schedule, your family and your environment. These tips can help to reduce the stress factors and help increase your productivity level.
Create one workplace
Designate an area of your home as your office. If you try to work at the kitchen table or on the couch, chances are you will also have papers pile up in those areas. This makes it difficult to relax in any part of your home. It will also lead to misplaced information. It is more productive for you to have one work space. This prevents mixed messages to your family about the space and helps create a barrier to stop interruptions. However, if you are short on space, your work area can be a shared space during non-work hours. For example, in the evenings it might be a place for kids to do homework or for you to pay bills. Many times, the office area of your home is also your work space. If this is the case, be sure to have a place for your work only related papers, files, and supplies.
Prevent interruptions during your work day at all costs
Close your office door to signal to family members you are working. Be sure to let your family know your work hours. Try to limit external interruptions by posting no solicitation signs on your front door. Invite friends to stop by only after working hours.
Multi-tasking between childcare and work causes major stress for you and your kids. Pay a sitter, drop the kids off at camp, trade with a neighbor or use day care to ensure you have time to focus on your work.
It is important for you to have a morning routine for self-care, and to get out of your pajamas. Do all the normal things you would do before going to work. Workout, eat breakfast, shower, get the kids to school, and have a few minutes to yourself before working. Then “commute” to your office by walking to your office. It is important to train yourself not to look at your email before starting your day in the office. When you read your email first thing in the morning, you are inviting others in to reset your schedule and priorities for the day.
Set a schedule
Schedule your work hours vs. your non-work hours. One of the challenges in working at home is your work is always right there. It can be difficult to stop working when there is so much left to do. Sticking to a schedule will make this easier.
Breaks should be at least 15-20 minutes with no online time. It is important to make yourself get up from your desk at least a few times a day. Take a lunch break or better yet, go out to lunch. Walk the dog in the afternoon or just walk around the block. This will clear your head, and increase productivity.
Connect with People
Interacting socially with co-workers, clients, and colleagues is important for you to feel more human. It also helps people to get to know you better. Schedule face to face meetings when possible. Skyping or video conferencing are other ways to interact with other telecommuter employees. Some people swear by working in a coffee shop for a few hours. The background noise and movement of the people around them give them the ability to focus in on projects.
Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy snacks
Make it easy on yourself to make good food choices when working from home. On Sundays, prepare a vegetable tray, a fruit tray and other snacks that are readily available.
Use the Cloud
Organize your work space
A clutter free desk will help you focus on your tasks and conference calls. Set up a workflow and filing system (either paper and/or electronic). Separating your business and your personal files into separate areas of your desk will also help you be more productive. There are more tips on organizing your files for maximum productivity in this article.
Manage your time
Successful at home workers need to be self-starters with strong internal motivation. These qualities are necessary due to the lack of supervision and direction you would receive in an office. Scheduling your tasks, projects and email time along with other strong time management techniques will also help you increase your productivity. There are great tips on getting control of your calendar and managing your time on our blog.
Wrap up at the end of each day
Finish up each day by tidying up your desk, planning your tasks for tomorrow, and reviewing your calendar. This will help your sense of accomplishment and will bring your day to an end. After you wrap up, don’t go back to work until the next day. If you think of something you forgot to do, just add it to your to-do list for the next day.
The bottom line is to handle your workday at home as if you were commuting to corporate. In other words, if you would not do it in the corporate office, don’t do it at home. To reduce your stress and increase your productivity, it is important to remember one of the biggest benefits of working at home is a better work-life balance. Setting some of these limits for your work and family can help you achieve this balance.
The Time Doctor has more ideas ways to boost motivation and increase productivity when you’re working remotely. You can read it here.
Sara Genrich is a member of NAPO and is an Organization and Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant, and the creator of the Organizing @ Work for Success Workshop series.